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App testing in China’s mobile market

1500px-Flag_of_the_Peoples_Republic_of_China.svg_png_800x600_q85Like any business entering into a new market for the first time, it is of vital importance for mobile app testers to understand the temperament of that market. As Silicon Indiarecently discussed, the China mobile market represents an intriguing landscape with a high ceiling, but it is not without its own set of challenges and nuances.

The People’s Republic of China has a population estimated at roughly 1.36 billion people. That’s more than 19% of the population of the entire planet. There are also currently about 390 million mobile internet users. That number is only going to grow.

According to the 2012 Q3 results presented by Umeng, a Beijing-based mobile analytics company, Chinese users had purchased 200 million iPhone and Android smartphones. This large userbase represents a land of opportunity for Western developers, but mobile app testers should be prepared for a new, different set of trials.

There are about 20-25 local mobile ad networks, although many of these networks use illegal means to boost app store downloads and increase rankings. Attempting to combat this problem, Apple has begun penalizing mobile app developers for taking such an approach. However, local ad networks still advertise their abilities to deliver mobile app conversion rates as high as 50%, signaling that the problem still remains prevalent.

China’s smartphone subscribers tend to be heavy app users, with 55% spending more than an hour a day engulfed in their mobile applications. In the past year, global users have generally increased their time spent using apps by anywhere from 300-500%, depending on the country, yet Chinese use-time has grown by roughly 870%.

Chinese users also tend to be huge proponents of the “freemium” model—downloading the app for free, initially, and then investing in those they enjoy through in-app purchases. According to Distimo, a smartphone analyst, 72% of purchases in Apple’s marketplace come from in-app transactions. In China, users have spent millions of dollars on in-app purchases through free-to-download apps.

Whether they come free or for a small fee, the majority of the Top Apps in Apple’s iTunes marketplace are from Western developers. With Fruit Ninja occupying the top spot and Google Maps sitting second, six of the apps ranked in the top ten are Western world-produced. In the Paid Apps section, eight of the top ten come from the west.

There may not be one singular formula for taking the top spot in the China market, but mobile app testers can certainly get things pointed in the right direction through quality gaming apps. At last check, seven of the top ten Free Apps would also fall in the Games category. By the end of the year, China is expected to reach 192 million mobile gamers.

Due, in large part, to its heavy app usage, China has become the world’s second largest app economy (behind only the United States). Yet, China is just eighth in revenue generated from apps. Mobile app developers need to be wary of app piracy, app replication, and jail-broken smartphones in this market, where weak intellectual property laws provide very little safeguard against innovative ideas. Though the Chinese government is now stepping in to help with regulating their mobile marketplace, developers may be wise to partner with larger, domestic companies to help secure distribution in the market.

Despite the revenue potential of the China mobile app market, the country has been plagued by slow 3G speeds, especially when compared to those in the United States. Mobile app testers would be wise to keep this in mind and keep design simple when finding ways to maximize the speed of the app.

Finally, the Chinese mobile marketplace represents quite the competitive landscape. The number of mobile app developers in China is doubling each year.

For a market where users are said to move quickly from one product to another, forever pursuing the latest and greatest, mobile app testers need to ensure that their applications are both engaging and addictive.

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