App Discovery & Download behavior: Why developers can no longer ignore China

This blog entry has been reproduced with kind permission from InMobi and first appeared on the InMobi blog on May 21, 2013.  The author is Arun Pattabhiraman,  Global Marketing Lead- Performance Advertising & App Developers at InMobi.

AppDiscovery_DownloadsIt is evident that the competition for the world’s most lucrative mobile app market is getting fiercer by the day.  While the US had long established itself as the de-facto market developers look to for superior monetization opportunities, it is becoming clear now that its burgeoning alter ego from the Far East – China, can no longer be ignored. Last year, China was declared as the world leader in iOS and Android device activations and more recently, it broke a new world record in smartphone penetration by surpassing the total number of 321 million mobile phones active in the US. By the end of 2013, China’s smartphone market is expected to be twice the size of the US market with over 500 million smartphones.

For a very long time, cultural barriers, piracy concerns, fragmented app distribution ecosystems and the need for localization prevented most app developers from testing this market.  The common perception that Chinese app users may not be willing to pay for content and that app usage levels may not be high enough to warrant investments in heavy marketing kept most developers at bay in China.

InMobi’s recently concluded developer research reveals that app usage and download behavior in China is now comparable to that in the US and in fact, on several counts, fares better.

Willingness to pay for content

Contrary to the popular belief that Chinese users are unwilling to pay for content,46% of users surveyed in China confessed to have made in-app purchases, higher than the same statistic observed in the US (37%)


Another insight that corroborates the argument that Chinese app developers are not as price sensitive as perceived to be, is that only 37% of users surveyed in China claimed to be influenced by price while making a download decision. On the other hand, 61% of users in the US quoted price as a key influencer in driving their decision to download apps.


App download and usage behavior:

The research also shows that the appetite for exploring new apps is high amongst the Chinese. A whopping 97% of smartphone users in China revealed that they proactively search for new apps to download, with 37% of them searching on a daily basis. While these numbers are comparable in the US, they are actually a tad lower- 91% and 24% respectively.

App download and usage patterns revealed by this survey suggest that in both the US and in China, users not only download a lot of apps but also use them heavily. While 86% of all users in the US said that they have downloaded at least one app in the last one month, 93% of users in China downloaded an app during the same period. App usage statistics for china are also a tad higher than in the US, as is evident from the data below.



 Influence of Mobile ads

The increasing propensity for users globally to react positively to context sensitive content promotion is evident amongst Chinese users as well. In both China and the US, users preferred ads that were context- aware and those that recommended specific apps based on their current content consumption and preferences.  Also, rich media ads were by far preferred more to simple banner ads, suggesting that users like to engage with ads that have richer content.


To conclude, developers can no longer afford to ignore the limitless potential of the Chinese app market. Sure, there are several challenges to succeed in this country. However, given the huge smartphone user base, grabbing even a small share of the available pie can help developers boost their app business significantly.   Watch this space for more as we share insights and strategies to succeed in this unique market.

This post originally appeared on the InMobi blog on May 21, 2013. Arun Pattabhiraman is Global Marketing Lead- Performance Advertising & App Developers, at InMobi.


  1. There are now more smartphones in use in China than the US, with smartphone penetration alone recently surpassing the total number of all mobile phones active in the US*. Chinese users are also more likely to download a higher volume of apps, with 36% of Smartphone users there expected to download over 20 apps in the next month, compared to just 16% Stateside.

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