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Top 10 of Chinese Apps by What’s on Weibo

A top 10 of the most useful and funny Chinese apps.

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What’s on Weibo brings you a short introduction to China’s fast-growing app market, oversight of alternative Android app stores and a top 10 of the most useful and funny Chinese apps.

 
Update 2019: We’ve noticed many people like this article. It’s from 2015, so it’s time to get yourself up to date in our Chinese app section that lists new popular apps. Follow us on @whatsonweibo to get the latest.

China is the world’s largest smartphone market. With approximately   520 million smartphone users in Mainland China, mobile app business is booming.

In 2014, Chinese mobile phone users collectively downloaded close to 185 billion apps – 59% of all app downloads worldwide. In comparison: mobile phone users in the United States only transferred 8% of all global app downloads.

China does not only have a flourishing mobile app market, it is also a unique one. Popular Western app services like Twitter or Facebook have been blocked in Mainland China for over five years. Since the end of 2014, all Google services, including Gmail, Google Search, Google Maps or Google Play, have been cut off. The absence of these major Western app services has created a distinctive Chinese app environment, where alternative brands such as Baidu, Weibo or Weixin dominate the market.

Since April 2015, China has officially surpassed the US as Apple’s biggest iPhone market. Although Apple has the number one spot in urban China smartphone sales (27.6% market share), it is Android that takes the crown in terms of application sales revenue.

Popular smartphone brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus, Oppo or Samsung are all based on the Android operating system. In China, the ‘iOs versus Android‘ battle is not an ‘iTunes versus Google Play’ duopoly, as seen elsewhere in the world. Because of the blockage of Google Play and China’s flourishing domestic app market, Chinese Android users download their apps through a variety of app stores.

NewZoo and TalkingData publish a monthly oversight of the top 10 Android App Stores in China. Alternative Android app stores like 360 (360手机助手), MyApp by Tencent (腾讯应用宝), Baidu app store (百度手机助手), the Xiaomi phone store (小米应用商店) or Wandoujia (豌豆荚) are amongst the most popular ones.

Some of these, like 360 or Baidu, are more than just an app store; they are tools to manage your phone by clearing the cache, deleting apps, saving on battery life, etc. Apart from the Baidu app store, Baidu browser and Baidu maps are convenient for anyone visiting or living in China, since Chrome or Google Maps will not work through normal Mainland Internet connections.

With such a giant mobile market and great variety of app stores, the world of China’s apps is like a mobile jungle if you are not familiar with it. What’s on Weibo has therefore selected a top 10 of useful and funny Chinese apps for you:

 

1. Weixin: the essential app for everyday life

weixin5.0

Weixin (微信), also known as WeChat, is China’s most popular smartphone application. It was launched in 2011 by Tencent. The power of this app lies in its multifunctionality; Weixin is Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Paypal, Shazam, Viber and Uber, all combined into one app. It therefore is the essential app for everyday life.

Through Weixin’s chat functions, you can have individual conversations with your friend or make a group chat. There is a large variety of emoji’s to choose from to express your mood. The ‘moments’ function is comparable to Facebook’s timeline, where you can follow what your friends are doing and comment on their pictures.

Through ‘subscription accounts’ it is possible to follow your favorite companies or media sources, from CCTV to McDonalds. Except for a great social media platform, Weixin is also an important way for (Chinese) media and businesses to stay in touch with their audiences. For more information about Weixin, read our Short Guide to China’s Super App or China’s Weixin Revolution.

Weixin is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from iTunes to Google Play or any other app store, both in Chinese and English versions.

 

2. Sina Weibo: not dead yet

Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site

Sina Weibo (新浪微博) is China’s biggest social media platform, comparable to Twitter, launched in August 2009. Recently, many different media have stated that Weibo is dying as a consequence to new rules that required users to register with their real names. More people allegedly switched from Weibo to Weixin, media argued, and Weibo would soon be on the way out as online free speech becomes more and more limited.

Although Weibo is not the platform it used to be, it is still very much alive. The private dimension of Weibo (talking amongst friends) has made room for Weixin, where P2P is the most important form of interaction. Sina Weibo is now a public social media platform and China’s most dominant source of news content, where netizens discuss trending topics of the day. Weibo has 600 million users; around 175 million of them are monthly active users. 70% of Weibo daily traffic comes through its mobile app.

Weibo is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from iTunes to Google Play or any other app store.

 

3. Taobao: the ultimate mobile shop and more

taobao

Taobao Marketplace is one of China’s largest online shopping platforms, comparable to Ebay or Amazon. It was launched in 2003 by China’s Alibaba Group. Taobao is a place where small businesses and individuals can sell products to consumers – anything from clothes to medicine. For the most funny things for sale, check out our top list of unusual things for sale on Taobao. Taobao has 8.4 million annual active merchants, many of whom mainly run their stores through the Taobao app.

Taobao will have more functions in the future besides serving as a shopping platform. Alipay and Sina Weibo launched a new service last week where mobile users can log in through Taobao, Alipay or Weibo to arrange their public service issues, like scheduling marriage registration or paying a traffic fine.

Taobao is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from iTunes to Google Play or any other app store.

 

4. Pitu: drag queen for a day

pitu

Photoapp Pitu (天天P图) is all the rage this year. Never before did a free photo app come with so many possibilities. Like the Meitu app (美图), which is also pretty good, Pitu is a camera and retouch app that offers a myriad of different filters to make you look your prettiest.

But there is much more: Pitu also allows you to play dress up with different make-up styles that look so real that is easy to trick your friends into thinking you actually did your make-up like Lady Gaga or a Peking Opera star. Besides the pre-made make-up sets (under “cosplay”), you can also apply your own make-up and decide on colors of eye-shadow, hair and lips. The app has many different templates to create collages. The ‘cut-out’ section lets you use your face in different backgrounds. Trust us, this is the most entertaining photo app of 2015. You can also take a normal picture of your friends and later turn them into proper dragqueens (sorry!).

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天天P图 is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from iTunes to Google Play or any other app store.

 

5. MyIdol: you’ve never been this fabulous

MyIdol (小偶) is arguably one of the most fun apps around at this moment. The app allows users to take a picture of their face and then create their own 3D figure with a wide selection of different eye-colors, hairstyles, clothing and skin tones. You can then let your figure do several things, such as singing a popular song, wishing everybody a happy new year, playing the drums or falling asleep.

Although the app has been around for some time, it has been a rage lately – especially because the effects of the app are so well done. If you choose the right colors for skin, hair and eyes, combined with the right hair and outfit, it is almost as if you are standing there singing yourself.

myidol

MyIdol is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from iTunes to Google Play or any other app store.

 

6. DragonFly FM: discover China’s radio

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Dragonfly or Qingting FM (蜻蜓FM) is a top-ranking radio app that offers hundreds of channels from across China, from national to local levels. The app lets users choose from its most popular channels or by category: music, news, audiobooks, comedy, entertainment, opera, etc. A perfect app for anyone who wants to discover China’s most popular music or for those who want to practice their Chinese.

Qingting is free and is available for iOs and Android users, link to app here

 

7. DouPai: featured in a Chinese news broadcast

DouPai is an original video app where personal images can be placed in pre-made scenes. Always wanted to be featured on the Chinese news? This is your chance. The app, a product of 360 Mobile, has a wide range of different scenes. Different from the MyIdol app, this app also allows two users to be in the same scene together; like two tigers holding hands in the woods, for example. It’s the app you know you always wanted.

Doupai is free and is available for Android users, app link here.

 

8. Blued: the ultimate gay app

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Blued is a social network app for gays. It is a product of China’s gay website Danlan, that was launched eight years ago. Blued was added as a mobile app in 2012. It can be compared to gay dating app Grindr; users can look for other users based on their location and scan their profiles or hang out in a chatroom. Users can privately connect through chat and arrange a date if there is mutual interest.

The app has over 15 million users. In December 2014, the company received 30 million US dollars from American investors. 3 million of Blued’s users are located outside of China.

Blued is free and is available for iOs and Android users, from Google Play or any other app store.

 

9. Chef’s Table: play restaurant at home

image

The luxury of restaurant food in the comfort of one’s own home – this is what the new Chinese app ‘Good Chef’ (好厨师) offers. ‘Good Chef’ allows users to search for specialized cooks based on their location and food preference, and hire them to come and cook in their own home kitchen. As online services like Uber are rapidly gaining popularity all over China, the app’s home cooking service has become a hot business.

‘Good Chef’ was launched in September 2014 and operates in Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. Its formula is simple; users can indicate what kind of food they like (Hunan cuisine, Sichuan style, Shandong food, etc.) and browse the different chefs that can be hired to cook for them in their area. Afterwards, users can rate the chefs with one to five stars and leave a comment about their experience. The system generates a list of top-rated chefs.

As Chinese website Wabei reports, over 20,000 people ordered a chef to cook in their home during the Chinese New Year period. The company currently employs 320 chefs on full-time basis. Founder Xu Zhiyan (徐志岩) has revealed that the start-up company recently raised 5 million USD from investors. The money will be used to expand to more cities in China and invest in product development.

The app is available for both iPhone and Android: www.chushi007.com.

 

10. Expression Factory: be your own emoticon

PicMonkey Collage

The expression factory (表情工厂) has been on the market for quite some time but has remained relatively unknown. The app lets users take a picture of their face, and then use it to create hundreds of different emoticons – from Japanese sumo wrestlers to naughty nurse. The emoticons can be exported to QQ, Weibo or Weixin, where they will be saved to use every time you feel like sending someone your personalised kisses or farts.

表情工厂 is free and is available for iPhone and Android users. If you cannot directly download on iPhone it might be because you’re outside of China, you can try to download online and then transfer via iTunes. 

Enjoyed this article? Check out our Top 10 apps for studying Chinese!

– by Manya Koetse

 

– Appreciate this article and want to help us pay for the upkeep costs of What’s on Weibo? You can do so here! Every penny helps.

©2015 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

The Curious Case of the Henan Bank Depositors and the Changing Health QR Codes

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote in light of the miraculously changing Health Codes.

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Where can people turn to once their money seems to have gone up in flames? How could Health Codes randomly turn from green to red? And who will stand up for justice? These are the questions asked by Chinese netizens in the Henan bank depositors case that is making headlines this week.

This week, the story of a Henan banking scandal and depositors’ Health Codes suddenly turning red triggered online discussions in China and even made international headlines.

In between online deposit products, financial platforms, regional banks, and Health Code systems, the story is a bit messy. Here, we’ll explain the story and its latest developments.

 

DUPED DEPOSITORS

 

The story starts in April of this year when people discovered that they were unable to withdraw money they had invested in online deposit products offered by various smaller regional banks.

Some people had deposited money via the Baidu money app (Du Xiaoman Financial 度小满), others had used another third-party platform, intermediaries, or one of the mini-programs run by the banks themselves.

By early May, it had become clear that dozens of depositors who once thought they had invested their money wisely had actually been duped. Four of the banks involved are located in Henan province, namely: the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank (禹州新民生村镇银行), Shangcai Huimin County Bank (上蔡惠民村镇银行), Zhecheng Huanghuai Community Bank (柘城黄淮村镇银行), and the Kaifeng New Oriental Country Bank (开封新东方村镇银行).

But there are also other smaller banks involved, including Guzhen Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (固镇新淮河村镇银行) and Yixian Xinhuaihe Rural Bank (黟县新淮河村镇银行) in Anhui.

As reported by South China Morning Post by late May, multiple customers had confirmed that they had not been able to withdraw funds either online or in person.

The sudden apparent closure of their withdrawal channels set off a wave of panic among depositors, who then protested in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on May 23rd, demanding the return of their money.

Yang Huajun (杨华军), deputy director of the Henan branch of China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC), arrived at the scene of the protests and – speaking through a megaphone – promised the demonstrators that as long as their funds were “legally” deposited, they would be protected by law.

Many depositers, however, were unsure of whether or not their deposits were actually made in a “legal” way and what the definition of “legal” entailed in this case.

Over the past years, Chinese smaller rural banks have partnered with online platforms, often offering relatively high returns, in order to boost their deposit-reliant funding base.

In December of 2020, platforms Alipay, Du Xiaoman Financial, JD.com and Tencent Wealth Management all suspended the sale of online deposit products via their financial apps in light of heightened scrutiny from regulators concerning funds raised by unstable smaller lenders.

The smaller banks that are now at the center of the recent financial scandal then (illegally) reached out to their existing customers directly after December 2020 and convinced them to download the banks’ apps in order to deposit even more money.

One of the persons duped is Mr. Sun from Shenzhen. As reported by Sina Finance, it was in 2020 when Sun came across a seemingly attractive online saving product via the Du Xiaoman Financial app. Although Sun was not familiar with the banks in question, namely the Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank and Shangcai Huimin County Bank, he could not resist the deposit interest rate of 4.6%, which was much better than what the big banks were offering at the time.

In early 2021, Mr. Sun received a text message from Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank saying that although the financial products had been taken offline, users would still be able to deposit through the bank’s own online application. Mr. Sun ended up depositing his entire savings into the Henan-based rural bank, thousands of miles away from his own home.

And then, earlier this year, Sun came across the news that Henan New Wealth Group, the primary shareholder of all banks involved, was under investigation for fraudulous practices. When he opened up his online financial application, there was nothing to see but a notice that the system was under maintenance. Sun could no longer access his funds. Hundreds of other customers were seeing the same empty screens.

According to media reports, the current suspected scam case affects some 400,000 customers of seven local banks and involves a money sum of 40 billion yuan ($5,6 billion).

 

IN THE RED

 

As thousands of depositors have been fighting to recover their savings over the past two months, they were duped a second time earlier this week. Dozens of affected depositors claimed they had seen their Health Codes turn red without any logical reason on June 13 or June 14 – the day of a planned protest.

In China’s Covid era, the Health Code system has become a pivotal tool in the country’s battle to contain the spread of the virus. The Health Code system is embedded in various apps, most importantly in Wechat and Alipay, and uses various data to assess an individual’s exposure risk. There is not one unified national Health Code application; they are developed by different actors and their management is different across Chinese provinces and cities.

If there is no detected risk, an individual is assigned a Green QR Code and is allowed access into any venue or location where a QR code scan is mandatory. With a Yellow Code, you should stay home for a week, and Red Code means you are high risk and need to quarantine for 14 days – this severely limits your freedom to move around and travel.

On June 13th, many affected investors saw their Health Code turn red when arriving in Zhengzhou, where they were allegedly coming to retrieve their savings and protest the injustice they suffered. The QR code color change was unexpected and strange, considering that there were no new reported Covid cases in their vicinity and also considering the fact that accompanying family members who made the exact same journey did not see their Health Codes change.

This raised suspicions that the duped depositors were specifically targeted, and that their Health Codes were being manipulated by authorities.

CNN reported that many distributors who had come to Zhengzhou were taken to a guarded quarantine hotel before being sent back to their hometowns via train the next day. According to a Chinese media report by Nanfang Daily, the depositors were not even asked to do nucleic acid testing and were told by local staff that they would get their Green Code back as soon as they left Henan.

Various media report that minimally 200 depositors saw their Health Code change from Green to Red earlier this week.

 

“OPERATION CODE RED”

 

The curious case of the Henan depositors scandal and the changing Health Code colors has become a trending topic on Chinese social media this week.

The topic of the duped depositors was also discussed online before this week, and it brought back memories of earlier financial scandals, such as the P2P chaos that occurred back in 2018.

But the topic of depositors’ Health Codes changing to Red is something that attracted much wider discussions on the apparent abuse of a system that has now become a part of everyday life for people in China’s Covid era.

The main proof for people that the Henan depositors were targeted in this apparent “Operation Code Red” is that, as mentioned before, the family members that were traveling together with the duped depositors never saw a change in their Health Code: those people who were listed on the affected regional banks’ depositors list were seemingly singled out and purposely targeted.

“Who is in charge of changing the Health Code colors?” became a much-asked question on Weibo, with many blaming local Henan authorities for abusing their powers to try and stop protesters from raising their voices in Zhengzhou. One Weibo post on this issue received over 1,6 million views. Meanwhile, Henan authorities still said they did “not understand” what had happened.

“It must be American hackers who did this, right?”, some Weibo commenters wrote, putting in a sarcastically smiling emoji, with others adding: “No, the aliens did this – it must have been the aliens!”

Others wrote that the situation at hand should be simple to figure out: “There is no way that this is an oversight or a data error. If you want to know who did this, look at who or which department has the authority to manage both epidemic prevention measures as well as finance affairs.”

Many comments also showed a sense of disillusionment with how China’s Covid management affects the people: “After seeing the chaos during the Shanghai lockdown, this does not even surprise me anymore,” one person wrote on Weibo: “All we can do is pray that it won’t happen to us.”

“Why is Henan’s “messy Red Code” incident so extremely vile and scary? Because once a person or institution holding public power looks at you in a bad light, they can give you a Red Code and take you away, in the name of legality. This is the evil that comes from unmonitored power,” one blogger from Anhui wrote.

Other people also worried about foreign media reporting on this issue, saying this incident is being used to cast China in a bad light while local authorities are to blame: “We should unify the Health Code system into a national system in order to avoid this from happening again.”

According to Chinese state media reports, the case has now been forwarded to the Health Commission of Henan Province for further investigation.

We will keep tracking upcoming developments. Meanwhile, check out our other reports on trending topics relating to China’s banking and finance here. For more about Covid-related trending topics, check here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

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References (all other sources included in hyperlinks)

Lee, Amanda. 2022. “Rural Banks Freeze Customers’ Accounts.” South China Morning Post, May 31.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

From Teacher to Livestreamer: Ecommerce Move is Game Changer for China’s New Oriental Education

New Oriental is going from classroom to e-commerce. Online shopping has never been more educational.

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After laying off 60,000 staff last year, Chinese private education company New Oriental is now offering unexpected new employment opportunities for teachers in the livestream market. Changing e-commerce channels into virtual classrooms, New Oriental has hit the sweet spot with Chinese netizens.

Last year, an unprecedented crackdown on China’s private education sector left many teachers unemployed and worried about their future.

China’s so-called ‘double reduction’ (双减) policy was announced in August of 2021 and targeted “excessive homework” and off-campus tutoring for students in the mandatory nine-year education system. The new regulations imposed strict sanctions on existing private education institutions, forcing them to register as non-profit organizations. Foreign investment in the private tutoring sector was also banned.

One of the companies that was hit particularly hard by this policy is New Oriental (新东方), the largest provider of private educational services in China. Following the crackdown, the company suffered huge losses and dismissed 60,000 employees.

Facing the new regulations, including the ban on for-profit tutoring in subjects on the school curriculum, New Oriental tried to keep its head above water by exploring new markets and ideas within the private education sector. For example, the company launched a special program to train parents on how to tutor their K-12 children themselves. New Oriental called it their “excellent parenting” (优质父母) training class.

Now, nearly a year later, another initiative by New Oriental has become an online hit. Inspired by the success of livestream e-commerce in China, the tutoring company started its own livestream channels. Although New Oriental already introduced its e-commerce business in late 2021, with founder Yu Minhong (俞敏洪) sometimes hosting the sessions himself, it had not been as much of an online success until it recently introduced bilingual livestream e-commerce sessions.

Now, tutors-turned-sellers are teaching viewers English – or sometimes other subjects – while selling (agricultural) products via the Douyin app. Whether they are selling fruit, rice, or even shrimp, New Oriental’s livestream hosts are grabbing every opportunity to teach their viewers a new word or concept, often using a whiteboard to introduce new vocabulary.

Whatever they’re selling, New Oriental’s livestream hosts make sure it’s educational.

One reason for New Oriental becoming a viral hit is because of Dong Yuhui (董宇辉), who is one of the experienced teachers now selling products online. Dong’s bilingual livestreams are particularly successful among viewers because of his enthusiasm, fluency in English, witty jokes, personal stories, and talent for singing.

Teacher Dong recently had a breakthrough moment with his June 10th livestream, during which he sold bags of rice using English. He has since attracted over nine million viewers. While thanking all viewers for their support in a recent Weibo post, Dong described himself as a “ordinary peasant boy.”

Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) is one of the livestreamers that have turned New Oriental’s e-commerce into a viral hit.

Besides Dong, there are also other popular hosts. English teachers Ming Ming, Yoyo, and Dun Dun are all loved by viewers for their charm and wit.

Although various kinds of social e-commerce categories are particularly popular in China, this new phenomenon of combining education + e-commerce + livestream is appreciated by many netizens who like to learn something while being entertained and perhaps also buying something. “I don’t know whether to place an order or to make notes,” has become a popular comment. Another commenter said: “As a kid I took your class, and now I buy your goods.”

Others say that they like the calm way in which the livestreams are presented, posing a stark contrast to other livestreams where the hosts are hyping up products and urging people to buy fast and buy more.

On June 15th, news came out that New Oriental’s stocks had surged by more than 25% following its livestreaming success.

Although some Weibo users predict that this is just a temporary trend, others think that the educational livestream model is here to stay: “New Oriental really started a new business venture, and I’m learning a lot through their livestream sessions.”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

Read related article: China’s Crackdown on Tutoring Schools: Concerned Parents and Teachers on Weibo

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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