Chinese people love their smartphones, and they love their apps too!

Apps in China do everything, from buying food and train tickets to displaying menus and monitoring your fitness.

On a social level, Chinese apps have changed the way people interact with each other, play games and even find love.

So what are the top apps in China, as used by the locals?

In this blog, I’ll share the most popular ones. Some you’ll be able to download and play around with, while others are in Mandarin only.

If you’re about to visit China, I recommend you look at China travel apps instead – they’re all in English and therefore ideal for travelers.

But if you want to find out which apps in China are used and loved by the locals, then read on.

Chinese everyday apps

These are the ones Chinese people can’t live without!

1. WeChat

WeChat Pay payment station

A WeChat payment station. Image by WangXuefei on Pixabay. 

  • Chinese name: 微信 (Wēixìn)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: Facebook

This is the big one. Virtually everyone with a phone in China has WeChat.

In fact, there are now more than one billion people who use WeChat on a daily basis.

WeChat, or Wēixìn in Chinese, is a messaging app owned by tech giant Tencent. It’s the main way people communicate digitally in China.

But WeChat isn’t just a messaging app. You can use it for a whole bunch of things such as paying for dinner, buying train tickets, playing games, and even donating money to homeless people.

And, you can do all this with WeChat Pay, the most convenient way to pay for things in China.

This makes WeChat by far the most useful and popular app in China. It’s very much ingrained in the Chinese way of life.

2. Alipay

Alipay and WeChat Pay QR codes

Even fishmongers accept digital payment apps like Alipay. Image by Freer on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 支付宝 (Zhīfùbǎo)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: PayPal

China is moving away from cash incredibly fast. In fact, lots of shops don’t like accepting cash at all (even Starbucks), which is why Alipay is essential.

This Chinese app allows you to pay for practically anything in the country.

From paying for airline tickets and transferring money to your landlord to buying street food in China with a quick scan of your phone, you can do it all with Alipay.

Fortunately, you can get an English version of Alipay. This means foreigners traveling in China can use it to pay for everyday stuff with the Tour Pass option (see more about that in our travel apps for China article).

3. Baidu

baidu

Baidu is China’s leading search engine. Image by Koshiro K on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 百度 (Bǎidù)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Google

Baidu is one of the top apps in China. It’s China’s version of Google, and has almost every Google alternative, including Maps, Translate and Adwords.

A staggering 90% of online search queries in China are done through Baidu. This amounts to billions of searches per month.

Baidu isn’t just a search engine. It’s also in the AI space and is even testing self-driving cars. Look out, Tesla!

4. Sogou Pinyin

Sogou Pinyin Input Method makes texting easy

This clever app makes texting in Chinese a breeze. Image by Sweeann on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 搜狗拼音输入法 (Sōugǒu Pīnyīn Shūrùfǎ)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: None

Ever tried to type Chinese characters into a phone? It’s impossible without an app like Sogou Pinyin Input.

This software app makes it easy to convert Roman characters, called pinyin, into characters. You can also do handwriting on the screen, and there’s voice input too if your fingers are feeling lazy.

Sogou Pinyin is free, but you can also pay for premium features. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people use this app everyday.

Chinese entertainment apps

These apps keep the Chinese glued to their phones!

5. Douyin

Chinese men looking at their phones

A common sight in China. Image by StreetVJ on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 抖音 (Dǒuyīn)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: TikTok

This one probably doesn’t need much of an introduction. Douyin is the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, the hugely popular short-looping video service.

Both apps are made by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet company. But they’re are not exactly the same.

With a few taps on Douyin, you can do all sorts of things like buy a product featured in a video and book a hotel stay after watching a video shot there.

This is why it’s one of the most used Chinese apps.

6. iQIYI

iQIYI app

iQIYI is for streaming Chinese shows and movies. Image by Faizal Ramli on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 爱奇艺 (Ài qí yì)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: Netflix

I love iQIYI! It’s a video streaming platform that offers a huge number of movies and television shows.

Unlike Netflix, this Chinese app makes most of its money from advertisements and content license purchases. That’s why you can watch heaps of content without paying a cent.

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 and want to watch some Chinese TV, iQIYI is a good option because English (and other foreign language) subtitles are available.

apps banned in chinaapps banned in china

The downside? Like all Chinese media, it’s censored. So don’t expect to find anything sexy, controversial or thought-provoking on iQIYI.

Tip: If you’re heading to China soon and want to watch Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime on your hotel’s Wi-Fi, you’ll need a VPN like this one. Make sure you download it before you arrive, otherwise you won’t have access.

7. Tencent Video

Tencent corporate offices Shenzhen China

Tencent is based in Shenzhen. Image by Katjen on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 腾讯视频 (Téngxùn Shìpín)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: YouTube

Tencent Video is one of the top apps in China. It’s China’s equivalent of YouTube so you can imagine how popular it is (close to a billion users!).

Many of the videos are unavailable outside mainland China due to licensing issues. But that’s easy to overcome with a VPN or you could use iQIYI instead.

Tencent Video is in the same family as WeChat, making it a powerful player in the Chinese tech space.

8. KuGou

Chinese guy listening to music app and dancing

Let’s boogie, Cool Dog! Image by TimeImage Production on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 酷狗音乐 (Kùgǒu Yīnyuè)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Spotify

Over 300 million people listen to music on KuGou every month.

With an English translation of “Cool Dog”, it’s no wonder young people love this Chinese music app! They also love the KTV streaming section that helps them earn digital coins that can later be transferred into real currency.

And just like Spotify, you can do things like create playlists, follow your fave artists, and watch videos.

9. Douyu

Chinese guy looking at phone on subway train

China is home to millions of gamers. Image by wonderlustpicstravel on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 斗鱼 (Dòuyú)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Twitch

This popular Chinese app is a video game and e-sports streaming service. Viewers watch professional gamers go head-to-head with each other (Douyu means ‘fighting fish’ in English).

You can also interact and socialize with your gaming idols, and send virtual gifts to your favorites.

ZTE, one of the leading Chinese phone brands, has a range of gaming phones made especially for lovers of apps like Douyu. The phones come with built-in cooling systems and super-high screen refresh rates.

Gaming is so big in China right now that Douyu is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

The app is only in Mandarin at the moment, but you can still watch games as long as you don’t mind seeing the Chinese characters.

(Oh, and the Chinese are also into ‘real’ sports – you can see the 10 most popular sports in China here.)

Chinese social apps

These are lifestyle apps for communicating, interacting, and shopping (of course).

10. QQ

QQ Chinese app

QQ is still popular in China, especially with young people. Image by Faizal Ramli on Shutterstock.

QQ is an instant messaging app developed by Tencent over 20 years ago. It became famous for the little penguin that made a cute sound whenever you received a message.

QQ was the coolest app in China until WeChat came along. But QQ has managed to hang on, appealing to a younger fan base than WeChat. And it still has close to one billion users!

Over the years, it has introduced features like QQ Wallet for in-app purchases as well as ordering things like food. But QQ Wallet isn’t as popular as WeChat Pay when it comes to mobile payments at physical stores.

11. Little Red Book

Xiaohongshu Red

Xiaohongshu (known as Red) is becoming super popular. Image by Tada Images on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 小红书 (Xiǎohóngshū)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Instagram

Little Red Book, or Red for short, is one of the fastest-growing apps in China. There are now more than 300 million active users.

Billed as a lifestyle platform, Red is like a Chinese Instagram.

One of the key differences, however, is it’s much more focused on influencers peddling beauty products to their followers. And the bulk of Red’s subscribers are young females.

Chinese people living in Western countries also have a presence on Xiaohongshu, making it even more attractive for e-commerce brands to get involved.

12. Douban

douban chinese social networking app

Douban is like a combination of IMDb, Blogger, Facebook and Reddit. Image by Rafapress on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 豆瓣 (Dòubàn)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: None

Over 200 million educated, middle-class Chinese people regularly use Douban. It’s a social networking app for movie and book reviews, curated music playlists, shopping, and events.

There’s also Douban Groups (or 豆瓣小组 in Mandarin), a censored forum that allows people to share views on a range of topics. You can also add sub-topics within a theme, so this section is kind of like Reddit.

Interestingly, a sizeable lesbian community use this app to discreetly find like-minded friends and build relationships.

Compared to many Chinese social media platforms, most information on Douban can be accessed without registration.

Chinese shopping apps

Shop til you drop with these amazing Chinese shopping apps.

13. Taobao

taobao app

Taobao is the biggest shopping app in China. Image by Nopparat Khokthong on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 淘宝 (Táobǎo)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Amazon or eBay

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, and it’s simple to use. You can also sell stuff, and each seller has a rating set by previous customers.

apps banned in chinaapps banned in china

If you’re living in China and need something delivered fast, Taobao is the place to find it.

The app is in Chinese, but with a little practice and know-how you can learn how to use it knowing only English.

14. JD

  • Chinese name: 京东 (Jīngdōng)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Amazon or Best Buy

This is another super-popular shopping app in China. It’s great if you’re shopping for electronics, or if you’re looking for bargains on Singles Day (China’s version of Black Friday).

Compared to Taobao, JD only has verified sellers. So, people have a lot of trust in this one.

JD is only available in Mandarin, but there are ways you can still use it. Check out the video above for a quick tutorial.

15. Pinduoduo

pinduoduo app

Pinduoduo is a Chinese e-commerce platform. Image by Tada Images on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 拼多多 (Pīn Duōduō)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: None

Pinduoduo is the newest e-commerce giant in China.

It sets itself apart from Taobao and JD by offering discounts when you buy as part of a group with family and friends. The app makes it easy to do this by linking to your social media accounts.

Prices are really cheap so Pinduoduo has attracted people in smaller, developing cities across China.

Chinese news and information apps

This is how the locals get their news and find their way around.

16. Weibo

weibo app

Weibo is a censored microblogging app. Image by A9 Studio on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 微博 (Wēibó)
  • Available in English: Yes but limited
  • Foreign equivalent: Twitter

Sina Weibo, or Weibo for short, is the biggest social media site in China. It has almost 600 million active monthly users.

Weibo is often referred to as “China’s Twitter” because of the character limit. But the similarities end there.

Weibo is a highly censored app, so its users often create new words or languages to discuss sensitive issues.

Although you can access the app in English, it’s a stripped-down version and not very popular. Plus, all the posts are in Chinese.

If you want to find out the latest social trends in China and can’t read Mandarin, check out a website called What’s On Weibo.

17. Toutiao

Chinese news app Jinri Toutiao

Toutiao is an addictive Chinese news app. Image by Ascannio on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 今日头条 (Jīnrì Toutiáo)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: BuzzFeed or Google News

Meaning “Today’s Headlines”, Jinri Toutiao is the most popular news app in China at the moment.

It uses artificial intelligence to source and curate daily news from thousands of sites. Using things like your location, click and browser history, Toutiao recommends articles and videos that you’re probably going to be interested in.

But Toutiao isn’t just a news aggregator. It lets you interact with content creators via chat rooms and play games with other users.

Young people are particularly addicted to this app (it’s from TikTok creator ByteDance).

18. Amap

Women using map app in China

The locals don’t get lost when they use Gāodé. Image by Radiokafka on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 高德地图 (Gāodé Dìtú)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Google Maps

Amap is the leading Chinese navigation app, alongside Baidu Maps and Tencent Maps.

Amap provides mapping data to both Google and Apple, so you know it’s going to be big on accuracy.

If you can read Chinese characters, you’ll appreciate using this app for the user-friendly interface. I find it’s a bit less overwhelming than Baidu.

Chinese dating apps

Wanna get with a honey? Then download a Chinese dating app.

19. Momo

Chinese girls looking at their phones

People use Momo to hook up in China. Image by Pexels.

  • Chinese name: 陌陌 (Mòmò)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Tinder

If you’re looking for love in China, then try Momo.

It includes lots of features that make Chinese dating easier. So, not only can you find a date on Momo, it will show you advertisements for date locations and special offers so you can get a discounted coffee during your date.

It’s the largest dating app in China with over 110 million active users. WeChat is probably more popular with young adults though, even though it’s not officially a dating app.

Momo has recently spent a lot of money to clean up its image as a one-night stand app and to regain the confidence of the Chinese government.

20. Tantan

Chinese woman using dating app

Tantan is perfect for lonely hearts. Image by TheVisualsYouNeed on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 探探 (Tàntàn)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: Tinder

An equally popular Chinese dating app is Tantan.

Like Tinder, you simply swipe left or right on a profile, depending on whether you like what you see. Ironically though, many Chinese people use it for relationships rather than hook-ups.

apps banned in chinaapps banned in china

To stop fake profiles and bolster security, Tantan can identify authentic photos and verifies users with a powerful moderation system.

Other in-demand Chinese dating apps include Yidui, which has real matchmakers, and Blued for gay dudes.

Chinese food delivery apps

Need something quickly? China is the home of super-fast delivery.

21. Meituan

Meituan driver

Meituan drivers stand out in their yellow attire. Image by StreetVJ on Shutterstock.

  • Chinese name: 美团 (Měituán)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Uber Eats

Meituan is one of the top apps in China for a reason. It’s for ordering food!

With a few simple taps (in Mandarin), you can get delicious restaurant food delivered to your door in thousands of areas across China. Just pay using WeChat Pay or Alipay.

Meituan’s slogan is “We help people eat better, live better”. So, it’s no surprise that the company is branching out into other areas like supermarket and pharmacy deliveries, car hailing, bike sharing, and hotel and travel bookings.

In China, Meituan is downloaded more often on iOS than all other apps in the food and drink category.

22. Ele.me

food delivered via app in china

Even individual hot pot ingredients can be delivered via this app. Image supplied by Olivia Seaton-Hill.

  • Chinese name: 饿了么 (Èle me)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Uber Eats

Are you hungry? Well, that’s exactly what “Èle me” means in English.

The app specializes in food delivery, but you can buy practically anything you need including flowers, electronics, makeup, and even adult toys!

In terms of popularity, this delivery app is a close second to Meituan but there’s not much between them. You can read more about both of them in the article on ordering food in China using delivery apps.

Chinese health apps

Every year, people are spending more and more on health and fitness.

23. Ping An Good Doctor

Doctor's coat with stethoscope and pens

Ping An Good Doctor is the leading healthcare app in China. Image from Pexels.

  • Chinese name: 平安好医生 (Píng’ān Hǎo Yīshēng)
  • Available in English: No
  • Foreign equivalent: Doctor On Demand

This sophisticated Chinese app is the country’s largest healthcare platform. It provides access to high quality online medical consultations.

In China, medical assistance isn’t always easily accessible to everyone, so using this app can be incredibly helpful.

You can pay to see a doctor privately, or consult with a doctor openly in the consultation hall (but the session isn’t private).

More than 400 million Chinese people are registered users of Ping An Good Doctor. And in the last year alone, there’s been over 1.2 billion consultations!

This Chinese app has also been a handy tool during the coronavirus pandemic, with free consultations to help stop the spread of the virus.

24. Keep

Chinese woman stretching

If you care about fitness in China, Keep is your must-have app. Image from Pexels.

  • Chinese name: 自由运动场 (Zìyóu Yùndòngchǎng)
  • Available in English: Yes
  • Foreign equivalent: Fitbit

Chinese people are just as concerned about their physical fitness as people in Western countries. And that’s why Keep is the top fitness app in China.

Created in 2015, the app gives you workout 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. And, you can share your fitness journey with your friends.

Other popular Chinese apps

Gaming apps are insanely popular and often top the app rankings in China. But their popularity can quickly wane, which is why only Douyu (the Chinese version of Twitch) is included above.

Other top apps in China include:

  • Youku – the original YouTube equivalent
  • Bilibili – an interactive video sharing site
  • 12306 – the leading travel app in China
  • Dianping – the Yelp-like food review app.

Are there any others that you think I should add to the list?

How to find Chinese apps

Can’t find one of these apps in your app store? That’s because it may only be available in Chinese app stores.

For Android users, the leading app store in China is Huawei. But there are plenty of others, as listed on this website.

And for iPhone users, there’s a different version of the Apple App Store in China.

Psst! A quick travel tip

If you plan on visiting China, don’t forget the internet is censored when using Wi-Fi in your hotel.

So, to access all your favorite websites and apps (like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Gmail, WhatsApp, etc), you’ll need to get a VPN before you arrive. Otherwise, the signup page will be blocked in China.

Check out the review of the best China VPN before you fly over.

Apps, glorious apps

In a lot of ways, China is more developed than many Western countries, and this is particularly obvious when it comes to how they embrace their apps.

If you ever get over to China, you’ll be surprised at how technology completely permeates every aspect of life there.

What’s really interesting is the speed at which new apps become popular, and how once-popular ones can quickly fade away.

There are many more awesome Chinese apps, and I haven’t been able to include them all here. But hopefully you’ve now got a glimpse of the most popular ones.

I hope you liked my article on the top apps in China. I’ve also written about why Chinese people drink warm water and do other weird things. It’s a fun read!

Main photo credit: Humphery on Shutterstock.

FAQ about top China apps

What are the top chatting apps in China?

WeChat and QQ are the most popular apps for chatting in China. But there are discussions and forums on many other apps too, such as Weibo, Douban, and livestreaming apps.

What are the top music apps in China?

KuGou and QQ are the most popular music apps in China. They’re both owned by Tencent.

What are the top shopping apps in China?

Taobao, JD and Pinduoduo are insanely popular in China.

Where can I download China apps?

Many of the leading Chinese apps are available in the App Store and Google Play Store. However, if the app is only in Mandarin then you may have trouble using it. Some apps may only be available in Chinese app stores due to licensing or other issues.

What are the most popular app stores in China?

Huawei App Market, Tencent My App, and Oppo Software Store are the biggest Android app stores in China. Apple’s App Store is also very popular.