A Breakdown of China's Android Market

2022/03/31 | 6 mins

The Chinese consumer market is on pace to overtake America by 2034. Offering your app to the people of China is not only lucrative but a necessity to stay competitive. While the opportunity is tremendous, launching an app in China is more complicated than in other markets because of the government’s Great Firewall of China (GFoC).

Offering any digital product to the Chinese market has challenges; all apps must be reviewed by the government and certified with an activity license to be published. The process is further complicated for Android apps because the Google services are banned by the Chinese government and the Google Play Store.

Android is open-source software free to be utilized by any smartphone company. As of March 2021, nearly 77% of Chinese smartphones ran the operating system; however, apps must be offered through a 3rd party rather than Google. There are currently over 400 Android app stores, with only 10 taking 90% of the market share.

Market share of mobile operating systems in China from January 2013 to March 2021

In this post, we discuss the available app stores in China for IOS and Android, the requirements set by the Chinese government, best practices to follow when publishing your app.

App stores available in China

Mobile apps are available for IOS and Android in China, but launching is a much different process than in the West. Before developing an app for the Chinese market, you need to understand the barriers to entry from the government and cultural nuance to be successful.

The Apple Store

Less than 20% of smartphones in China use IOS. Apple products aren’t as accessible as in the US, but adoption has steadily grown over time. The market share is large enough to be worthwhile, and the process is less complex, making the Apple App Store a logical choice to enter the Chinese market.

Apple has made agreements with the Chinese government regarding data access, allowing the tech giant to offer its products to the growing consumer base.

Every country has a different version of the Apple app store with subtle differences. However, the disparities between China’s process and Western countries are significant, especially in-app purchases. In 2020, thousands of games were removed from the Chinese Apple App Store due to a policy stating, “all paid games or games with in-app purchases to be licensed by Chinese regulators,” according to Bloomberg.

The Chinese Android app store market

A quick look at China Android ecosystem

Google is banned in China because the company doesn’t align with the government’s ideology and refuses to make changes. While the GFoC blocks Google services like Google search, Gmail, and images, most smartphones use android-based software. When you are launching an Android app in China, you must list it on an independent store.

Below are the top ten Android app stores in China:

Huawei AppGallery

Huawei is a massive smartphone manufacturer in China and the leading Android apps store. The company’s app store is the choice of over 400 million active users.

Advantages:

  • Huawei is China’s largest smartphone manufacturer
  • Popular among mid and high-end mobile phone users
  • Massive penetration
  • Attentive to user data security

Challenges:

  • Difficult to adhere to compliance requirements
  • Game Registration Number (GRN / ISBN) is required

Tencent MyApp

Tencent is another major tech company from China. The app store has grown significantly in the past five years; Tencent barely cracked the top 15 back in 2016.

Advantages:

  • High user penetration
  • Strict policies regarding fake apps
  • After installation, Android packages are removed

Challenges:

  • Stringent compliance requirements for features and games

Oppo Software Store

The devices manufacturer OPPO is one of the leading smartphone producers in China, with a growing market share of 22% in 2021.

Advantages:

  • Relies on OPPO devices
  • Developer friendly
  • Diverse category selection
  • Advanced recommendation algorithm
  • Reaches Gen Z users

Challenges:

  • Oversaturated in many categories
  • Targets low-end users

Vivo App Store

Vivo’s app store contains over 10 million free applications. The smartphones are popular with a young, low-income demographic.

Advantages:

  • Relies on Vivo devices
  • Reaches Gen Z users

Challenges:

  • Oversaturated in many categories
  • Targets low-end users

Xiamomi App Store

Xiamomi manufactures over 17% of Chinese smartphones. Users are passionate about the devices, and the app store has an excellent reputation among the core brand audience.

Advantages:

  • Relies on Xiaomi devices
  • Loyal consumer base

Challenges:

  • Targets mid to low-end users

360 Mobile Assistant

The app store’s developer, Qihoo, is widely regarded as a leader in online security in the Chinese market.

Advantages:

  • Developed by Qihoo 360, known for their ISP and mobile security products
  • Developer-friendly

Challenges:

  • Limited user base

Baidu Mobile Assistant

Baidu is regarded as the Chinese Google. While the company is the largest search engine in China, the app store doesn’t have nearly the reach of Google Play.

Advantages:

  • Developed and owned by China’s largest search engine, Baidu

Challenges:

  • Limited user base

Requirements for publishing an app in China

While China doesn’t offer the Google Play Store, there are plenty of independent alternatives to choose from. Any of the top app stores will help your app reach an incredibly diverse group of potential new users. Regardless of your app store choice, the real challenge is adhering to the strict requirements from the Chinese government.

Offering an app in China means you are doing business with the government. You must comply with the company, content, and specific app requirements before successfully launching in China.

Regardless of the type of app you want to launch, you need to follow these guidelines:

  • Understand the types of foreign business relationships in China. You will have to choose the correct structure; the most common options are “Wholly-owned foreign enterprise,” Contractual or Cooperative Joint Venture,” and “Equity Joint Venture.”
  • Choose a business location in China and define the scope and nature of your business.
  • Prepare the minimum registered capital requirements.
  • Chinese domain name and web host
  • Register the website with the National Internet Security Management Service Platform
  • Obtain a Software Copyright Certificate (SCC) and Internet Content Publishing (ICP) license.

For more information on obtaining an ICP license, check out our post covering everything you need to know.

The Chinese government is especially strict on mobile games. Along with all the requirements for all applications, you will have additional steps if your app is a game, including:

  • Obtain a Chinese gaming license.
  • Find a Chinese partner. The government prohibits foreigners from publishing games in China.
  • Acquire a Game Registration Number.
  • Security assessment form.
  • Anti-addiction plan. Your game must show measures to control excessive use and monitor the duration of play.

Types of games currently banned in China:

Mahjong or poker
Games with corpses, skeletons, zombies, vampires, pools of blood
Collecting of concubines or wives
Intolerance toward Chinese core social values

Best Practices for Publishing Apps

A successful launch doesn’t end with becoming compliant. You also need to appeal to the Chinese user and app store search engines. Below are a few cultural differences that will help you generate interest with a Chinese consumer base.

  • Utilize QR codes when possible
  • Translate to Chinese
  • Use a Chinese payment option such as Alipay
  • Integrate with WeChat
  • Include an extensive amount of detail
  • Consider gamifying your app

App search optimization

Your app will never climb to the top of search results if you don’t optimize. Keyword research and text optimization are critical to appeasing search engine bots.

Speed is another major factor; make sure your app is running as fast as possible. You will also want to update your app frequently to improve the user experience and combat security concerns.

Mobile app promotions

Finally, you must promote your application to the Chinese audience. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, so you will have to research what apps your target demo spends the most time on. China’s social media landscape is much more diverse than the countries in the West. The top five platforms include:

  • WeChat
  • Sina Weibo
  • Douyin (TikTok)
  • Tencent QQ
  • Douban

Launch your app with GoClick China

Offering your app to the Chinese market presents a tremendous opportunity with severe regulatory and cultural challenges.

Navigating the legal requirements is nearly impossible if you aren’t familiar with Chinese technology or have direct experience launching apps in China. At GoClick China, our team has decades of experience working in the Mainland China tech ecosystem. From startups and SMEs to publicly listed companies, we’ve helped dozens of businesses prepare their technology products for the market. Whether you are looking for consulting or hands-on assistance delivering your app to the Chinese Market, GoClick China is your one-stop technical partner. Contact us today to learn more about our application testing and performance monitoring services.

To learn more about China's mobile app market, please visit our article on how to distribute mobile apps in China.
To learn more about succeeding in China, check out our other articles.
If you want to learn more about testing in China, check out our solutions.