App Language Localization: Chinese Market is the Most Sensitive

As China unseats the US as the largest smartphone market in the world, the proportion of app revenues and free downloads originating from non-English language apps has increased significantly. Of course, other high-growth non-English countries have had an impact on this trend, but Chinese smartphone users remain the most sensitive to app language.

In a Distimo report from September 2012, 73% of free downloads in the top 200 most downloaded free applications in China were those supported by the Chinese language, far outstripping the other language-sensitive markets of Korea and Japan. In fact, China is the only country where local language apps generate more downloads than English apps.

Chinese App Downloads

73% of free downloads in the top 200 most downloaded free applications in China were those supported by the Chinese language

The true case to be made for app localization, however, rests on the fact that revenues from Chinese-language apps far outstrip those from English-language apps in China. Developers can grow their revenues and realize positive returns on investing in translating their app into Chinese language, and optimizing the product feature set for Chinese consumers. China is not the only country where the proportion of app revenues generated from local-language apps are higher than those from English apps; the Korean and Japanese are similar in this respect—though to a lesser degree than China.

china app monetization

The Chinese market is the most sensitive to app language localization

The Distimo report only accounts for iOS apps running on relatively expensive devices; the iPhone and iPad.  The data reflects a market segment of Chinese consumers characterized by a high level of discretionary spending on consumer goods. This segment is also more likely to have some knowledge of English language, more likely to have exposure to foreign products, and thus less likely to have a strong preference for Chinese-language apps.

In contrast, Android users in China generally represent a market segment which is less likely to have a working knowledge of English or exposure to foreign products, and so more likely to have a strong preference for Chinese language apps. For these reasons, we can expect that the proportion of downloads and revenues generated from Chinese language Android apps in China to be even greater than for iOS apps.

5 Chinese App Stores You Cannot Afford to Ignore

Think of the Android app market in China as similar to the Roman Empire after the death of Julius Caesar: a vicious power struggle where the winner will (eventually) take all. But until the Augustus of the China Android Empire comes into clearer focus, app developers seeking to boost downloads and installs from Chinese smartphoners will need to consider the full range of platforms. Let’s look at some stats, here’s a query I ran today on Alexa:

China App Stores Traffic

3-Month Trailing Traffic for China’s 5 Most Popular Android App Markets ( emerges as the highest-ranking of the top 5 for traffic (3 months trailing). Closely following GFan are and follows after that, with game specialist ranking lowest of the top five. The five all share similar audience demographics—single, young adult Chinese males with a college education browsing from school or work—and are all driving traffic primarily from Baidu, Google, QQ and Weibo. More importantly, all five have very active discussion groups and app user communities, serving as invaluable marketing channels to launch word-of-mouth campaigns and drive installs.

#1 – claims more than 90,000 apps and 15 million registered users. In 2012, the platform entered into a partnership with US-based Tapjoy, an app cross-promotion platform that was previously slammed by Apple for degrading the usability of apps running on iOS. The path to monetization offered by the GFan/Tapjoy “incentivized freemium zone” is a strong example of a product feature that might irk US smartphone users to the point of abandonment, but that Chinese users will tolerate in exchange for not having to register a credit card number. Look out for more GFan partnerships with developers and monetization platforms in the future.

#2 – although there have been rumors of unorthodox user acquisition methods, namely through paying grey-market hardware vendors to pre-install their software onto devices imported into China, the platform has impressive traffic that cannot be overlooked. Although the URL is pretty cryptic to the layman, the the platform is branded as 安卓网, best translated as AndroidNet, so it does pretty well targeting new users looking to get some info and app suggestions for their Android device, namely through Baidu and Google’s Chinese search engine results.

#3 – is up there with GFan and HiAPK in terms of absolute traffic. What makes this platform a bit of a hidden gem is its’ level of user engagement. Drilling down a bit deeper into the Alexa report, we can see that Mumayi is a leader for key user engagement metrics like average time spent on site, pageviews per user and bounce rate:

China App Stores Time on Site

Mumayi is a long-shot leader among China app stores for user engagement metrics like time on site. (

China App Stores Pageviews per User

Mumayi also leads China app stores in pageviews per user. (

China App Stores Bounce Rate

Mumayi’s bounce rate is the lowest among China app stores. (

Mumayi’s ability to engage visitor’s for longer and to view more pages is in large part due to a superior UX: the portal has an excellent layout for app reviews and solid app suggestion tools which are based on the app review a visitor is currently viewing. App marketers seeking to get the most downloads out of Mumayi’s traffic would be wise to research Mumayi’s app categories and relationships so that their app appears more frequently in front of targeted users.

#4 – (formerly is one of the oldest Android markets, launched in 2008 with backing from Chinese gaming giant Shanda. Interestingly, it seems as though AnZhi is losing market share, which probably explains the new URL and site design. Six month trailing traffic stats show a downward trend:

Anzhi China App Store Traffic Trend

Shanda-backed Anzhi has seen a downward trend in traffic over the past 6 months.

Nevertheless, as the 4th most trafficked China app market for Android, Anzhi cannot be overlooked.

#5 – offers a range of apps, but mostly focuses on games. In 2011, they won the right as China’s exclusive distributor for Rovio’s Angry Birds. After a quick scan over some search query data, my rough estimate is that DangLe generates about 25% of it’s search engine traffic from game-related keywords like ‘temple run’, ‘android games’, ‘angry birds’ and their Chinese-language equivalents. To sum up DangLe, it’s a must for game-focused app developers, and a worthy consideration for ‘foreign-branded’ apps that offer game-like content.

Up-and-Comer – has financial and operational support from Google’s former China Chief Lee Kai-Fu’s Innovation Works and the kind of volatile traffic trend that suggests a potential to explode:

AppChina Android App Store Traffic Trend

AppChina’s traffic is relatively volatile, can it break through the ceiling? (

Most importantly, AppChina has an advantage in the emerging mobile ecosystem by way of close relationships with Innovation Work’s other ventures such as WanDouJia, an app portal that offers a very popular (claims of 10 million registered users) cloud-to-desktop syncing app. Together, AppChina and WanDouJia have managed to secure first-mover rights for the new Chinese version of Flipboard.