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China Daily Website

Chinese Apple users favor free programs

Updated: 2012-07-11 11:04
By Zheng Xin ( China Daily)

Chinese Internet users favor "free lunches", a recent report has shown.

The habit, coupled with piracy problems, has forced application developers to find better returns in overseas markets, experts and developers said.

In May, Chinese users downloaded the second-highest number of Apple's iOS apps in the world, after the United States, but the revenue generated from the downloads by Chinese users only ranked eighth, according to a report by App Annie, a Beijing-based iOS analytics and market intelligence company.

The iOS is a mobile operating system developed by Apple Inc and used in the company's hugely popular iPhone and iPad devices.

The report, released during the 2012 China Mobile Internet Innovation Carnival held in Beijing last week, tracked the downloads of apps developed for the operating system.

In China, each iOS app download generates on average about 3 US cents. The US saw the most revenue from each download, at 28 cents, followed by Japan, the UK, Australia and Germany.

"Apparently, Chinese iOS users are price-sensitive and fans of free apps," said Chen Haozhi, CEO of Beijing Touch Technology Co and the developer of Fishing Joy, a popular iPhone game.

"Many Chinese users of the iPhone or the iPad are students or people with modest incomes. They are reluctant to pay several bucks for an app," he said.

Chen is also the founder of, a social networking website for iOS developers, with more than 112,000 registered users.

Wang Jingjing, 25, a tour guide in Beijing, who bought her iPhone last year, said she has never downloaded any paid apps.

"The free apps can very well meet my demands for work and entertainment," she said.

In addition, she mentioned that the difficulty of paying for the apps has also stopped her from footing the bill.

"You have to go through a lot of procedures just to pay for one app," she said. "The process is just too complicated for me, as well as for some of my friends."

Chen also attributed the Chinese users' habit of not paying for apps to piracy.

"China is currently the biggest market for 'jailbreak', a process which allows people to install paid apps for free, and which makes the paid apps more difficult to sell," he said.

You Yunting, a partner at the DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, who specializes in intellectual property rights, said piracy has made many Chinese consumers take for granted that software and programs should be free.

Developers have a hard time in China because of that.

"When a good game is developed and put into the market, hundreds of copycats mushroom within a month," he said.

Developers of iOS apps are turning to overseas markets, said Yu Junde, director of business development at App Annie.

"Compared to developed countries, it's difficult for iOS developers to make a profit in the Chinese market," he said.

According to Yu, many of China's app developers have already been targeting overseas markets, as the country's top 10 publishers on Apple's App Store, the platform for Apple applications, get on average 90 percent of their revenue from outside China.