Ever wondered what the most popular apps in China are, as used by the locals?
There’s an unspoken belief in a lot of Western countries that other countries aren’t as developed as we are.
Once you get to China, however, those beliefs will be obliterated.
In a lot of ways, China is a lot more developed than many Western countries, and this is particularly obvious when it comes to how they embrace their apps.
Apps in China do everything, from buying train and plane tickets to displaying menus and acting as a credit card.
So, if you don’t keep up with some of the apps that are in this list, you’ll miss out on some amazing experiences.
This is the big one in China and it comes in English so everyone can use it. It seems like almost everyone in China uses WeChat and not just to talk to their friends.
On this app you can pay for your coffee, hail taxis, play games, as well as buy train, plane, and movie tickets. It’s the perfect way to avoid language difficulties too because you can get these types of things done on the app and not have to struggle to communicate with ticket sellers or store merchants.
This isn’t a benefit if you’re learning how to speak Mandarin in China – the only way your language difficulties will diminish is if you struggle through those early encounters. But when you need things done quickly, WeChat is your best option.
2. Sina Weibo
Sina Weibo is the biggest social media site in China and it comes in English as well. It’s a microblogging website with over 445 million active monthly users in 2018. The app is available in English or in Chinese and allows users to upload pictures and videos or reply to other people’s uploads. There’s also a multimedia instant messaging service attached. This app is China’s Twitter and allows people to stay connected and to share their lives with others.
3. Jinri Toutiao 今日头条
If you want to stay up to date with the news while you’re in China, this is the most popular news app in China at the moment. The name of this app translates as ‘Today’s Headlines’, and it’s an incredibly sophisticated app that can tailor your news feed to what you’re most interested in using a machine learning algorithm. There are two versions of this app, the normal and the ‘speed’ version. There are a few important differences between these versions. The normal version has extended features and is larger, so you’ll need more space on your phone if you want to download it. Unfortunately, this app doesn’t come in English yet, but it’s the perfect place to practice reading in Mandarin!
4. Keep 自由运动场
People in China are just as concerned about their physical fitness as people in western countries, which is why they have a variety of apps to help. Keep is the most popular health and fitness app in the Chinese Apple store at the moment and it’s an incredibly sophisticated piece of programming.
Established in 2015, the app gives you work out categories based on answers to questions about your fitness level, age, preferences, motivation and overall health. When you choose a category, you’ll find lots of exercises as well as videos and detailed workout plans. The app increases the difficulty of your workouts as you get fitter and offers fitness challenges as well. There’s also a food page with diet plans and recipes and a shop selling workout clothes, supplements, and workout supplies. You can also share your fitness journey through the social pages. This app does have an English language version if you want to try it.
5. Ping An Good Doctor 平安好医生
Around 265 people use this app in China as of 2018, with 54.7 million monthly active users. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t come in English at the moment, though there are similar English version apps. And when you experience the sophistication of the app, you’ll understand why. The app provides access to good quality medical care and a medical consultation online. In China, medical assistance isn’t always easily available to everyone, so having this kind of expert help available anytime is an incredible bonus.
There are four different services available: the family doctor, a medical bibliography, a health community, and a consultation hall. The family doctor in particular is popular because it provides a paid, online, private medical consultation. You can also consult with a doctor in the ‘consultation hall’, but these sessions aren’t private. You can make doctors’ appointments using the app, read curated health articles, and look through a catalog of the top doctors in China. Apparently, more than 1196 medical staff work for this company and it’s partnered with over 3000 hospitals and 15,000 pharmacies.
Taobao is China’s Amazon and it’s the biggest online marketplace in the world. You can buy anything you need or want from this site, which is simple to use and actually functions a lot like eBay and Amazon. Basically, you can buy or sell items through the site and each seller has a rating set by previous customers. So, if you’re living in China and need something delivered fast, this is probably the place to find it. This app is in Chinese, but with a little practice and know-how you can learn how to use it if you can only read English.
Netflix is blocked in China, but IQIYI may actually be a better option. It’s a fast-growing video streaming platform that offers a huge number of movies and television shows for free! Unlike Netflix, IQIYI makes most of its money from advertisements and content license purchases. That’s why most of their audience can watch for free. Not all of the content on this site is free however, which is why paid subscriptions are slowly increasing. But if you’re bored one evening while you’re in China and just want something familiar to watch then you’ll find a range of western movies and TV shows available. And as an added bonus, this app also offers online gaming services and live streaming.
This app is not available in English but it’s fairly simple to use even if you can’t read Mandarin. The names of the movies may be in Chinese, but the images aren’t and you can choose what to watch by the pictures.
China is moving away from cash incredibly fast. In fact, lots of shops and restaurants in China don’t accept cash at all, which is why this app is essential when you travel there. Alipay is an alternative to WeChat and it’s also more reliable. WeChat has the bad habit of failing to connect with your bankcard, probably because of problems with English names. You can get an English version of this app and it’s simple to use, accepted everywhere, and can even be used on other apps like Taobao.
9. Baidu Maps
Until recently, Google Map was blocked in China and Baidu Maps was the alternative. Most Chinese people have this app and use it when travelling or going somewhere new. And even though Google Maps now works in China, Baidu is still more popular because it’s more detailed and quicker to use. Just to prove how superior it is, most foreigners usually find themselves choosing to use Baidu, even though it’s in Chinese. As long as you’re careful, Baidu is just easier to use and navigate.
CTrip is the most popular online travel agency in China if you want to book trains, flights, accommodation, and everything else you need while you’re in China. This is how all the locals book their trips and it’s how you’ll book your travels once you see how easy to use, reliable, and convenient this app is. When you book flights or trains on the app, you’ll get a booking code on your phone and you just take the code to the station or airport to get your ticket. Easy!
CTrip also has an English language version, which makes it even easier to use!
Meituan is an app that allows you to scan the largest database of restaurant reviews in China. It’s basically a Chinese version of Yelp that contains more than 60 million restaurant reviews and gets 12 billion views a month. But you can use this app for more than just finding a great place to eat. Apps in China tend to have lots of different features, which is why you can also use this app to buy movie tickets, book hotel rooms, and order food. This app isn’t in English at this stage.
Momo has become the most popular app in China for finding dates and matches based on interests and location. It’s basically Tinder, but because it’s from China it includes a lot of additional features that make dating easier. So, not only can you find a date on Momo, the app will also show you advertisements for date locations and special offers so you can get a discounted meal or coffee during your date.
This app did have an English version for a time, but it was shut down.
Gaming is huge in China, which is why Huya has more than 200 million registered users. It allows users to watch popular games live, e-game competitions and Game star broadcasts. It also encourages users to interact via texting and to socialize with their gaming idols.
Huya is only in Mandarin at the moment, but you can still watch games and events as long as you don’t mind the Chinese script.
How to Get the Most From Popular Apps in China
When you move to China or spend time there, you’ll be surprised at how completely technology permeates every aspect of life there. And if you don’t take advantage of the technology and apps, you’ll find yourself missing out on some great features. You’ll also struggle to keep up with the pace of life and the latest trends! So, if you want to travel, shop, explore, eat in great restaurants, or socialize, then think about downloading some of these apps.