Caixin
BUSINESS & TECH

Popular Phone Games Contribute to Growing App Store

By Coco Feng

(Beijing) — Mobile app sales surged on Apple’s online App Store in 2016, with China experiencing record annual growth of 90%, largely due to gaming.

The 14 highest-grossing apps in China were all smartphone games, eight of which are developed by tech giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, according to App Annie, which provides app data and research.

Tencent’s revenue from gaming went up by 27% in the third quarter from a year earlier to 18 billion yuan ($2.6 billion), contributing 45% to overall earnings. Most of the gains were the result of the popularity of smartphone games, the company said in a statement.

Worldwide, smartphone games sales also stood out last year on the App Store, especially the phenomenal successful Pokémon Go, which topped the number of downloads, according to Apple, which did not provide specifics. However, users in the world’s most populous country have not been able to download it.

Chinese users also have not been able to install The New York Times’ news apps, neither the English- and Chinese-language ones, since late December. The ban was likely due to controversial stories the Times publishing about China, though Apple spokesman Fred Sainz was quoted in the Times as saying it was due to a “violation of local regulations.”

Other mainstream media such as The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and The Financial Times are still searchable and installable on the App Store in China.

In 2017, two other app categories — transportation and internet finance — will demonstrate the most innovative products and draw the most attention, according to App Annie.

While ride-hailing services are at a relatively mature stage, with downloads surging 110% during the past two years, the nascent bicycle-sharing industry has started to surge in the second half of 2016.

Leading players like Beijing Mobike Technology Co. Ltd. and Ofo rose to the top 10 of all transportation apps in the third quarter in terms of active users, according to App Annie. Mobike even secured $215 million in the latest round of fund-raising, becoming a new Chinese “unicorn” — a tech startup with at least a $1 billion market capitalization.

The promising future of internet finance in the year ahead is a result of expanding online payment tools that have inspired almost all retail banks to launch their own smartphone apps, according to a report by App Annie.

Contact reporter Coco Feng (renkefeng@caixin.com)

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