China is the world’s largest smartphone market, but data about app downloads is difficult to get because Google Play is inaccessible there. The Chinese app ecosystem, which will be worth $1.2 billion this year according to one estimate, is very fragmented, with more than 200 app stores competing for consumers. As a result, it’s difficult for developers to gauge what makes an app successful.
With over 170 million users, Wandoujia is one of China’s largest third-party app stores. Its China App Index, which Wandoujia releases in an effort to attract foreign developers, sheds light on what’s capturing the interest of Chinese smartphone users.
One notable trend is the importance of WeChat, one of China’s most popular messaging apps with 450 million users, for spurring an app’s viral growth. The developers of Crazy Pic Puzzle, in which users guess the corresponding Chinese characters for an image, made it easy for players to share winning pictures and scores to WeChat Moments, a Path-like SNS feed. The app scored two million downloads at a growth rate of 80,000% in June, according to Wandoujia data. Baidu PhotoWonder, another app that leverages WeChat Moments, had 1.6 million downloads in June at a growth rate of 4,300%.
Other trends spotted by Wandoujia include the growth of money-saving apps. Of Wandoujia’s top five fastest-growing apps, three help users score deals, including group-buying app Discount 800, which grew 2,000% to 163,000 downloads in June. This is not surprising considering how fast China’s 1.3 trillion RMB ($190 billion USD) e-commerce market is growing and how many shoppers use their mobile devices to browse online stores.
Another trend highlighting the growth of mobile use in China is the increasing popularity of role-playing game apps. While massive multiplayer online roleplaying games (MMORPG), one of the largest Internet sectors in China, are usually played on PCs, app versions have started taking off. Sefirah, a Korean-made MMORPG, was number two on Wandoujia’s list of top new games in June, with 69,000 downloads. The success of foreign MMORPGs, which have short life cycles but high in-app purchases, show that “foreign developers can reach a big audience in China,” says Wandoujia. “Games don’t require a Chinese Wu Shu story to succeed.”
Other foreign-made apps that landed a position on Wandoujia’s list of bestsellers in June include Blendoku, Plants vs. Zombies and Line.