The Chinese App Market Project



If you follow me on twitter, read the few posts on this blog, or if you know me in real life then you know that I am quite interested in the Chinese app market. You can read the reasons for this interest in my Some thoughts on Mobile post. In short the main reasons for my interest are the numbers of people using Android in China (largest smart phone market in the world) and the way in which the ecosystem developed, mainly without Google Play as the central and de facto app store.

I decided to try to learn more about the Chinese app market in the same way that I had taught myself different programming languages and techniques in the past: pick a project and try to build it. I’ve always found that I learnt the most when I actually had a goal in mind and then worked towards it. In this case it is a bit different, in order to learn about the Chinese market I will try to introduce one of my apps into the market and try to reach a certain level of success.

The Goal

In Short:

Make $30.00 in a one month period via AdMob in China. Or (if it is possible to track) get more than 1000 downloads within China

Both goals are not that crazy, but wanted to set something that was attainable given that I am trying to do this in my spare time and I’m not really sure what is possible given legal and cultural differences. I chose to go for a money target as my first goal since I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to track the installs properly within China, and I will need to learn more about which analytics APIs work within the great firewall of china.

Please keep in mind that I do not speak Chinese in any way shape or form. I only speak English and a wee little bit of Canadian French, so I will be relying on Google Translate for much of this project.

The App

To try to achieve this goal, I chose my latest app illuminate. This was the my latest app, and because of my interest in localized markets (including China) I was careful to put all of my strings in string resource files for easy localization.

illuminate is monetized with AdMob ads (banners and interstitials) and was first released on January 25th, 2014. Up until the initial writing of this post on May 4th, 2014 it has only made $1.47 within China. This low number wasn’t that surprising given that it was not translated into Chinese and was only available within Google Play and the Samsung App store.

The First Steps

The first step was obvious: translation, so I bit the bullet and got the strings translated into simplified Chinese via the Google App Translation Service. The translation cost less than $15.00 for both the store listing and the in-app strings and was ready in a couple of days. I was really impressed with the service and if this works I will use it again.

I then uploaded the app to Google Play, Samsung’s app store, Amazon app store, and the 1mobile app store may 4th, 2014. I chose to add 1Mobile because I heard that it did well in China. I also used a localized direct download on this blog (美图饰-把文字加到图像上/) because I had heard that direct app downloads are also popular in China. Illuminate is also listed on Xiaomi’s app store: but this was version 1.0.7 taken from Google Play and I’m not sure if it will be updated with the latest translated version.

FYI: 美图饰-把文字加到图像上 is the translated name of the app: 美图饰 comes from “illuminate” and means “Mito Ornaments” or “Beauties Ornaments”, I honestly don’t really know what mito means or why it was translated like that but I put blind faith in the translation company and have assumed that it makes sense locally. 把文字加到图像上 comes from “text on phones” and means “The text added to the image”. I added that last bit (Text on photos) to my store listing to give people an idea of what an app titles illuminate would be for.

I also setup a weibo (often known as the Chinese twitter) account and tweeted or weibo’d out the link to my app a few times.

The next Steps

Now that I have the app translated my next step will to try to get the app listed on some popular Chinese app stores. I have heard that some Chinese app stores will take apps from Google Play and automatically listen them, but I can’t say for certain that this will happen. As I succeed or fail at this project I will track my progress on this blog.

Until next time!

I find myself alone on a Saturday morning programming

As the title says, I find myself with a precious few hours alone on a Saturday morning and I spend them eating in front of my old PC adding text alignment options to two of my Android apps: MemeToad and illuminate.

The good news is that it works:


The bad news is that I seem to have a programming problem.

Thoughts on the week of march 30th 2014

This last week as was a busy one, both professionally and personally. Lots of stuff going on.

Android in China

Lots of my brain power was spent thinking about Android in China again. I started off the week reading a blog post from December 2013 on the Intel Developer Zone site: Android in China: An Undiscovered App Market?

The blog cites some interesting numbers:

There are now over 270 million active daily Android users in China

It is the largest smartphone market on the planet.

  • Most Android device sales (52%) come from users upgrading to new Android phones; 48% are users purchasing a smartphone for the very first time
  • A large part of Android growth (45%) is focused in rural areas and small cities

Seems like a lot of the growth coming from first time users is coming from rural areas of China. The theory would be that many of these first time Android purchasers are actually buying their first computer every and going online for the first time using that Android device. This means Android is their primary (as in the the one that they learn on) platform.

The post also links to an article on ReadWriteWeb: 7 Things App Developers Don’t Know About the China Mobile Market (But Should) which has some interesting information especially in the income and payment department.

Xiaomi continues to do well

This comes from a post on Tech in Asia: Two Xiaomi phones crack top 10 rankings for global smartphone sales in February: report. This surprised me, I knew that Xiaomi was doing well, had expanded into Singapore and was looking to expand into India, but I didn’t think that any of it’s phones would crack the top ten.

Given that they seem to like flash sales and selling out all of their inventory I didn’t expect them to rank that high. I thought you’d see other Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE up there instead, and maybe those manufactures sell more in terms of overall numbers, but those sales are spread out across many different devices, whereas Xiaomi sells fewer models. Xiaomi also tends to sell their devices at a low cost and make their money back with their services.

Note that there are only three companies in the top ten: Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi.

Microsoft’s Build Conference

Microsoft held their developer conference build last week and there were a few interesting things that came up during the keynotes. One was Microsoft’s desire to appeal to it’s .Net developer base, a base that has felt ignored by Microsoft over the last couple of years.

As a former MFC programmer I know what it’s like to feel left out in the cold as another newer technology (in my case .Net) is pushed forward. Since most of the .Net developers didn’t jump into Metro development (written in HTML5 I believe), keeping them happy makes sense. The thing about developers is that once they leave you behind, it takes a heck of a lot to win them back. Again I speak from experience here, we left MFC and have basically left Microsoft technologies behind.

There was also the demonstration of Windows 8.1 Update (Microsoft really has the worst names) and the next release code named Threshold. They showed an upcoming version of the once-dead Start Menu and the ability to run metro apps on the desktop in these weird floaty things called..umm….windows.

Paul Thurrott has some interesting thoughts on these changes: Updates to Windows 8.1 are a Step Forward, Not a Retreat but I remain puzzled by Windows 8 and the changes they are making. As I hinted at above aren’t these changes just the things that we have been using since Windows 3.1 or Windows 95? Why should we be impressed that there is Start Menu or that we have the ability to run certain apps as Windows? Especially windows…I get those in all desktop operating systems that I use. Strange.

It’s important to note that I have only used Windows 8 a handful of times on a desktop without a touchscreen so I’m just basing this on what I’ve read. It’s also important to note that I have almost no desire to use Windows 8, nothing there makes me want to upgrade anything.

Some thoughts on Mobile

If you are reading this then you probably know me, in which case you probably know that I am a computer programmer and that I spend my days doing android stuff for Andromo. Most of my job has been writing code that ends up in the apps that people build using Andromo, I’ve also written large parts of the builder code, and recently learnt some Ruby and helped out with the website redesign.

Another part of my job that I have really started focusing on since late last year was trying to help promote Andromo to a wider audience. The theory being that a larger audience for the product means more subscribers, which means higher revenue for us. A simple equation but I’ve found getting attention for Andromo to be more difficult then I originally thought.

I thought that this post was about mobile?

I’m getting there. One of the areas I targeted to help grown Andromo’s business was the non-English speaking world, specifically China to start and broadening my targets over time. Because of the population of China, and the dynamics (Google Play and many of Google’s services are not allowed in China) I thought that the Chinese market would be very interested in the apps that could be created with Andromo.

I was also interested by charts like these:

Photo by: charlesarthur
Photo by: charlesarthur

What I found, exploring the Chinese market, really surprised me. I found a mature ecosystem that had developed independently of Google Play and Google’s influence. Instead of one app store I found hundreds of app stores and companies like XiaomiWandoujia, and Tencent doing things in very western-startup sort of a way (especially Xiaomi <Looking to future growth, Xiaomi will build its own campus> and Wandoujia<Wandoujia, One Of China’s Leading App Stores, Lands $120M In New Funding Led By SoftBank>). Of course I had heard of these companies before having put a concerted effort into following the mobile tech world since we launched Andromo in 2011, but this was the first time I really looked at Huawei and ZTE and the rest.

Of course my interest and focus is late, people have been talking about China and smartphones for years. I’m focusing on it as the growth is actually going to be slowing down, only a 30% (I cannot remember when I read that) growth projected for 2014. But still look at the above graph and compare the yellow bar for China (or India) with that of my home country of Canada, we’re still taking about massive growth and massive potential. But how can we tap into that potential with a product like Andromo? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Working on this at work has taught me a lot about the different markets around the world, but I still haven’t been very successful at getting things to happen. I’m not sure why exactly, it could be a language issue (our website is not translated into languages other than English neither are portions of the resulting app), it could be my approach, our product, or some combination of all three. I have managed to have some interesting email conversations with some of these companies, as well as the odd Skype meeting (which has been very interesting) but nothing concrete as of yet.

I close with a tweet that I think is great and sums up much of my feelings on the matter:

The astute among you will recognize both the chart and the tweet from a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago at work.


Back to Blogging

I’ve decided to restart the old blog. Took me all day with a sick kid to get wordpress installed, setup, and themed. Not done but it’s a start.