And according to Umeng, the fastest-growing areas of applications (excluding games) are news, which grew 275%, health care, with a growth rate of 220%, and social networking, which grew by 212%.
While social networking apps, as a category, continue to grow in popularity, social sharing is another way Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their mobile Internet use, according to Umeng. Of the top 1,000 apps in China, 46% allow for social sharing, and 55% of the top 100 do.
Social sharing promotes these apps on social networks, and apps often reward users for sharing their experiences with friends. Both games and photography applications are popular for sharing. Umeng reported that, between March and November 2013, it observed 8,600% growth in social sharing of mobile apps on social site WeChat and a 2,900% increase on QQZone.
But even as Chinese users expand their mobile activities, availability of wireless data service remains a problem. Umeng reported that 4G service only became available in China in 2013 and, as of December 2013, only 1% of app launches happened over 4G. The end of 2013 saw the first push of 4G from mobile carriers in China, and Forrester went into more depth on how these challenges are impacting the ways Chinese consumers interact with their mobile devices and mobile Internet.
This issue is mitigated somewhat by Wi-Fi use, which accounts for 44% of Chinese mobile Internet time, according to Forrester, with 31% on 2G connections and 23% on 3G. Plus, only 24% of consumers said they use public Wi-Fi and hotspots with their phones. Marketers and app developers must remember this in creating lighter applications that can be used on slower speeds, like mobile messaging applications.
Mobile Internet use in China is, like mobile use in general, a fast-growing and unique space. More consumers are joining in and their use is becoming more mature. But consumers – and app developers and marketers – must navigate the challenges associated with lack of mobile data in order to thrive. The introduction of 4G in 2013 should push this industry forward, and as it moves ahead, marketing and advertising in the space will grow.