China’s growing app market – where Android is king!

Posted 2018-06-02

By Abigail Henry*


Imagine a world where Apple isn’t the be-all and end-all. Imagine switching from an iPhone to an Android device without losing files or having to re-download apps. That place does exist: China!
Unlike the West, the Chinese app ecosystem is very fragmented – you won’t see Google and Apple battling it out here.

Whilst the Google Play store wasn’t hugely popular before Google pulled out of China in 2010, its exit did pave the way for the rise of the domestic market. Today there are currently over 200 Chinese Android app stores, owned by a combination of third parties and smartphone manufacturers.

Android is overwhelmingly the dominating force with claiming 86.4% of the smartphone market share.


According to research firm App Annie, mainland China now has the world’s biggest iOS app store measured by revenue. However, China’s homegrown Android alternatives are also on track to reach $20 billion in revenue this year, and potentially overtake their rival.

It comes as no surprise, then, that China is predicted to drive the largest app revenue growth of any country in 2020.


• Tencent Myapp – Owned by China’s social media powerhouse, it attracts users through its other services i.e. WeChat, QQ and games.

• 360 Mobile Assistant – Belongs to China’s second largest search engine. Recently launched its own smartphone with built-in app store.

• Xiaomi App Store – Fastest growing Chinese smartphone manufacturer, moved up to 3rd since 2015. Also available as a web app and can be installed on any Android device.

• Baidu Mobile Assistant – Owned by China’s largest search engine, it has dropped by 4.3% since 2015 and claims to be moving away from mobile technology.

• Huawei – Smartphone manufacturer with largest market share in China, built-in app store.


Apart from the vast number of app stores, the unique position of WeChat also makes China’s digital landscape a lot more challenging for Apple.

If Chinese consumers want to switch to Android, it simply requires re-downloading WeChat where typically all the user’s mobile payment records and files are stored. As such, China’s iPhone retention figures are around 50% compared to 80% in the UK and US markets.

Earlier in 2017, we also saw the launch of WeChat’s mini programs – essentially stripped back versions of iOS and Android apps which don’t need to be installed, instead they’re stored and run from within WeChat.


A few points to consider…

1) Be visible

For an app to be visible on Android devices in China, you’ll need to go through an approval process (usually around 2 weeks) with each Android app store individually. This must be done by a local Chinese entity with a developer account for each store.

2) Don’t rule out the Apple App Store

If your target market is willing to pay for premium accounts, consider having a presence on the Apple App Store as users in China tend to spend more on apps than Android users.

3) Host your app on a local server

There’s nothing worse than an app that’s slow to load or even disconnects. Hosting on a local Chinese server will ensure the user experience isn’t compromised. If your company doesn’t have a base in China, find a local partner or agency.

4) Apply for an ICP license

You’ll need permission from the ‘Chinese Internet Authority’ to run/host your app within the Great Firewall. To use a local server, you’ll need a few things:

  • Local business license
  • Domain name
  • ICP License

Abi is a digital marketer currently living in Chengdu. Originally from the UK, she’s still trying to train her taste buds to cope with Sichuan spice!


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