In Q1 2015, Chinese users downloaded iOS apps 30% more than they did in the same period last year. This was enough to put China over the top, surpassing the United States to become the #1 market for iOS app downloads, as reported by App Annie in China Surges Ahead of the United States in iOS App Store Downloads. So if you don’t want to miss out on over 1.4 billion potential customers, you need to be ready to localize your app into Mandarin ASAP!


Uber in Beijing. Photo by Julien Gong Min[/caption] So what was the cause of this growth in downloads: were existing users buying more apps, or were there simply more users of iDevices? In this case, the second explanation holds true. According to IDC, the iPhone+iPad installed base grew by a whopping 40% in China in 2014, compared to just 13% in the United States. This massive influx of users was enough for China to outpace the United States in iOS downloads.

Looking deeper at some of the reasons for Apple’s growth in China, App Annie names:

  • iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which feature larger screens than previous models. Such “phablets” are particularly popular with Chinese buyers.
  • Other local factors: broader carrier support and a larger retail presence (new Apple Store locations).

The foremost beneficiaries of the boom in App Store downloads are apps in the Entertainment, Photo & Video, and Lifestyle categories. One of the hottest apps is iMovie, developed by Apple itself, which has been available for free since last September.

In addition to offering attractive free apps, Apple has helped at the OS level. In-app sharing functionality for WeChat, China’s largest social network, was a significant new feature in iOS 8 (released in September 2014). This feature has particularly helped developers of camera and photo editing apps. By incorporating support for WeChat at the operating system level, Apple has improved the social experience – and “shareability” helps apps to go viral.


Another group of App Store winners? M-­commerce apps, which offer online shopping, shopping guides, service ordering, daily deals, local business reviews, and classifieds to mobile users. These apps really caught on in 2014 among Chinese users! Of the top 20 most downloaded Lifestyle apps in China, according to the App Annie report, 17 are M-commerce apps.

Chinese customers are flocking to mobile payments – consider the statistics for Alipay, which is China’s largest online payment platform and the backbone of e-­commerce in the country. 54% of all Alipay transactions in the first 10 months of 2014 were made via mobile, up from 22% for all of 2013.

So there you have it: China has an enormous and active market of mobile users who are increasingly comfortable with making on-the-go payments. Still curious? Go straight to the source: access the China Surges Ahead of the United States in iOS App Store Downloads report here.