In China, there are over 800 million people on the internet. With many connecting through their smartphones, apps are an indispensable part of everyday life that offer a wide variety of services including search, shopping, education, and entertainment.
Here are the 10 most downloaded free apps of 2019 (from January 1 to September 30) on China’s iOS store, according to mobile data and analytics company App Annie.
Jinri Toutiao is a news and information aggregator developed by ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok.
It’s known for using AI algorithms to personalize news feeds, resulting in a highly engaging experience for its users. The average user spends 76 minutes on the app every day and content creators on the platform include professional media outlets as well as social influencers.
Toutiao even created bots to pull information from online sources and write articles.
Founded in 2015, Pinduoduo is a serious rival to e-commerce giant Taobao.
Users of Pinduoduo are able to unlock heavily marked down prices by forming groups with friends. For example, a brand new iPhone 11 only costs $700 on Pinduoduo, which is $70 less than the original price.
Pinduoduo quickly cornered the market and reached customers living in rural areas and lower-tiered cities. By the second quarter, it already had 366 million monthly active users.
TikTok, also known as Douyin in China (Douyin and TikTok users are kept separate with different content ecosystems), has taken the social media world by storm.
This app allows users to create short videos with a wide variety of background music choices. Users can also add filters and stickers to customize videos.
In 2019, Douyin extended the time limits of its video posts from 15 seconds to 1 minute, amidst the rising popularity of vlogs in China.
Xuexi Qiangguo, which means “study to make the nation great” in Chinese, stands out on this list. Developed for the Chinese Communist Party by Alibaba, it’s a combination of instant messenger, news aggregator, and social network.
Party members are encouraged to use the app, as it can help them study President Xi Jingping’s political philosophy. Through reading articles and taking quizzes within the app, users are able to earn “study points” and compete with their friends.
Who’s going to be the Chinese Netflix? It’s the battle between iQiyi, Youku, and Tencent Video. Backed by Baidu, iQiyi is one of the largest streaming service platforms in China, with over six billion hours of content streamed each month.
In 2017, iQiyi produced the blockbuster reality show Rap of China, putting hip-hop, a previously underground culture in China, into the mainstream spotlight.
Though it has been the dominant search engine in China for decades, Baidu has been confronted by newcomers in the mobile age.
To take back the market, Baidu released its “all-in-one” app, which in addition to search, allows users to consume a variety of services such as reading the news and purchasing products using mini-programs.
Tencent Video plays an important role in Tencent’s entertainment ecosystem. Besides buying rights to imported content, Tencent Video also focuses on developing original series.
In 2018, Tencent Video produced the talent show Produce 101, which marked the growth of China’s idol industry. Fans have spent over $5.7 million to vote for their idols during the first season.
Launched in 1999, QQ was Tencent’s flagship messaging product until it was overshadowed by WeChat. However, QQ has recently seen a resurgence due to its adoption by Generation Z.
According to Tencent, monthly active users aged 21 and under increased by 13% in the fourth quarter of 2018. In order to further attract the young generation, QQ now seeks to transform from a simple messaging app into a content ecosystem.
Youku used to be referred to the Chinese YouTube, as the company initially focused on user-generated content.
It later shifted its focus to professionally generated videos and became the biggest streaming site in China after merging with Tudou in 2012. In 2015, Youku Tudou was acquired by Alibaba.
NetEase Cloud Music
NetEase Cloud Music is one of the top three apps in the Chinese music streaming business, rivaling Tencent’s QQ Music and Alibaba’s Xiami Music.
Unlike its competitors, NetEase Cloud Music made user-generated content a key focal point. Users are encouraged to share music critiques, original songs, and personalized recommendations on the platform, which makes it a more interactive community.
Top apps are the most downloaded apps from China’s iOS App Store from January 1 to September 30. These do not take into account in-app purchases, and apps in the games category have also been excluded from this list.
App Annie refers to Douyin as TikTok even though the app is known as TikTok outside of the Chinese market.
James Chan contributed to this article.