With over 35 million active iOS and Android devices in China, there is no denying that the mobile app in the mainland is huge, the kind of scale that makes small and big investors alike eager to make their mark. However, such a market comes with its own set of potential as well as challenges.
Consider the top downloaded social applications by users in China:
(Source: China Internet Watch)
If your business is suitable for the apps market, entering China seems like a no brainer. However, there are challenges.
As Google has yet to formally support the Android Market in the country due to censorship concerns and ongoing discussion with the China government, the app market is fragmented with dozens of alternative stores operated by small studios. These independent outfits engage in fierce battle for app market dominance. Just to name a few, there is AppChina, Tencent’s app store, Gfan, HiAPK, etc. and many, many more.
(Source: Tech in Asia)
With such a free app market, it can be as a boom to businesses who can swoop in with useful apps and market it on multiple stores. However, this scenario is also riddled with ongoing problems such as piracy, malware risks, and lack of an app payment gateway.
Yet another consideration for businesses considering entering the China app market would be a unique industry dynamic quite unseen in other countries. Unlike “the long tail” theory, in China, a very small percentage of the applications (estimated at around 4%) accounts for more than 80% of active installations. Highly popular apps are getting the lion’s share of app users attention, while many others remain totally unheard of.
It does seem that until Google launches an Android Marketplace for China, the marketplace may not be as comfortable as it can be for businesses to get into. The future, of course, remains uncharted and as volatile as ever.
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