The internationalization of China's apps has always been a hot topic in the Chinese mobile internet scene. How can a Chinese app succeed outside of China? What kinds of apps are popular abroad? And how much unexplored potential remains for Chinese companies in the global app market? Cheetah Global Lab (Facebook: CheetahGlobalLab) has partnered with APP INSIGHT to identify the mainland Chinese Android apps that have made it into the global top 1,000. They have conducted analysis of hundreds of millions of data points from leading tool app Clean Master across 50 of the world's major countries and regions, researching factors such as countries of distribution, categories of activity, and number of active users, to produce a comprehensive strategic map of Chinese app development abroad.
Note: For the purposes of this report, “abroad” refers to the 50 designated countries and regions outside of mainland China from which data was collected. This report utilizes data from Cheetah Mobile's Clean Master. Therefore, Clean Master does not appear in these rankings. We have also adjusted our algorithm to negate any statistical increase for other apps by Cheetah Mobile on phones with Clean Master installed in order to give a more accurate representation of the mobile market. (It's important to note that data privacy is Cheetah Mobile's main concern, which is why no personal or private data is ever passed back to us. The data that is collected as part of junk file cleaning is always completely anonymous.) If you have more questions about the data source, please read the explanation of the data and calculation methods footnoted at the end of this article.
The current state and breakdown by category of Chinese apps abroad
1. Industry Distribution: Chinese app publishers have made their mark across all categories
As can be seen from the map, Chinese apps abroad generally have coverage exceeding 40% in 50 major countries and regions, with penetration in Malaysia as high as 63%.
In recent years, Chinese apps abroad have increased promotion in emerging markets, so market penetration shows promise of further increasing in countries such as Russia, India, and Brazil.
Note: On this map, the deeper the color, the higher the market penetration by Chinese apps in the country or region in question. Gray areas on the map indicate areas where this report did not collect samples. Cheetah Global Lab (http://lab.cmcm.com/en/) Facebook: CheetahGlobalLab
Among Chinese apps abroad, 24 categories are represented, operating on 86 different mobile phone brands. Although at present, tools and photography apps make up the majority of these, other outstanding apps such as the mobile social media app musical.ly, the music video recording app Viva Video, and the casual gaming app Family Barn for Tango have also earned good reputations among users.
2. What kinds of Chinese apps are best suited to the international market?
51.7% of overseas Android users had Chinese-produced tool apps installed, in addition to Clean Master. Productivity and photography apps also have over 30% of market reach in their sectors, while gaming market reach remains relatively lower, with much more room to expand. Gaming apps, specifically arcade, music, and action, also have a good outlook.
Note: The percentage indicates the proportion of users utilizing Chinese apps of the specified category among users abroad (Facebook: CheetahGlobalLab)
As can be seen from the graph above, tools, productivity and photography apps from China have made notable achievements abroad, while the gaming app market has unlimited prospects.
II. Rankings of Chinese Apps Abroad
Including both apps and games
Note: This report utilizes data from Cheetah Mobile's Clean Master. It was therefore unavoidable that the results of these rankings may be impacted by product user scale and distribution.
1. The most mature apps abroad
Judging by activity levels, Cheetah Mobile takes the first two spots; CM Security Antivirus App Lock and Battery Doctor, with the highest active market share, are the most influential Chinese apps abroad. Alibaba's UC Browser, Baidu's DU Battery Saver & Phone Charger, and Lenovo's SHAREit all achieved rather high market penetration as well.
2. Rankings of apps abroad with the greatest potential
Based on their performance as of the end of 2015, we selected Chinese apps abroad with the greatest potential.Mico is a next-generation mobile social media platform currently growing by leaps and bounds abroad, and it has already become the fastest-growing mobile social media app worldwide; as of the end of last year, it had generated $30 million USD in Series A round funding. Tencent's free online music service app "JOOX Music" has begun to draw attention as well.
After the release of Cheetah Mobile’s Don't Tap The White Tile sequel, “Piano Tiles 2 (Don’t Tap The White Tile 2)” in July of 2015, the game saw even more explosive growth, breaking into the Google Play rankings in most countries; its release in August for iOS resulted in similarly impressive achievements.
Sniper Shoot War 3D is appealing to the people of countries that often see combat, and has taken off in places like Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Tunisia.
3. Rankings of Chinese apps abroad with the highest user stickiness
In terms of usage, tools and communications apps remain must-haves for people using mobile phones.
Clash of Kings and Castle Clash: Age of Legends can be said to be last year's best performing Chinese-made hardcore game.
Clash of Kings succeeded in further inspiring Chinese companies to dream big in the European and American markets, while different versions of Castle Clash: Age of Legends were released in different countries in multiple languages, all of them doing well.
1. Rankings of app publishers:
In the rankings of publishers, as in the corresponding rankings by category discussed earlier in the article, it can be seen that the top few coveted spots are taken by publishers of in-demand tool, photography, and productivity apps.
China is dominated by Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent, known colloquially as BAT, but abroad, Cheetah Mobile more or less serves as a microcosm of the globalized Chinese app market. Chinese apps abroad are already used by 47% of Android users, while Cheetah Mobile apps are already used by 42% of Android users abroad.
Cheetah Mobile mainly undertakes the research and development of tool software for uses such as security and cleaning. Over the past year, however, due to a rise in the number of imitators, competition has increased, and Cheetah Mobile is currently branching outside of the tools for which it is known. The success of Piano Tiles 2 (Don’t Tap The White Tile 2), musical.ly, and other products has given Cheetah Mobile a firm foothold in the gaming and social media markets, and who knows where the company may go next?
After Baidu initially expanded into Japan, where it did not achieve the results it expected, it adopted Cheetah Mobile's strategy for going abroad and replicated its methods. Most of Baidu's international apps are tools, and they make up a range of products. In 2013, after Baidu formally established its international division, it opened branch offices in Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Egypt, and Indonesia, making serious moves in the international market and online-to-offline business through acquisitions and other means.
Certain traditional companies have become known for their "family meal" of software products – a derisive play on KFC's family meal offering that describes a method of bundling products and thus forcing users to download them all - but Alibaba has developed its own unique development philosophy. In China, its lineup of Taobao, Tmall and Alipay have won Jack Ma his throne, and the company has remained true to the same philosophy abroad, where the AliExpress Shopping App is its most important product.
Last year, AliExpress Shopping App broke into most countries' rankings and performed well across the board. Although it is not included in these rankings, the product's momentum, along with current global trends in e-commerce, bode very well for its success in the future.
Additionally, UC Browser, which Alibaba added to its lineup when it acquired UCWeb Inc. in 2014, performed very well both in China and abroad.
In terms of internationalization, Tencent is the most low-key among the big three - Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. In China, WeChat and QQ have made it dominant, while abroad, it faces fierce competitors such as Facebook and WhatsApp, and in non-English-speaking countries it competes with local apps. Given these challenges, it is remarkable that Tencent has still been able to do as well as it has. With JOOX Music, the company has tried its hand at music apps, and has done quite well. It seems Tencent may make its push outside of communications and social media.
PIP Camera and Photo Collage are two of Fotoable's products. The success of these two products abroad has shown that demand is very high in the international market for camera and picture editing apps. Although competition in photography products is ever increasing, good products can always carve out a space for themselves.
Although Lenovo has not broken into the top ten app publishers, it has still achieved remarkable performance thanks to its SHAREit app. SHAREit has the advantage of coming preinstalled, but its success is by no means coincidental; it has done well in large part because it has responded to unanswered demand in the online environment, shining out from India to the rest of the world. It bears watching whether Lenovo will continue to make moves in the app market.
2. Rankings of gaming app publishers:
Compared to apps, China's international mobile games are more diverse in terms of the companies' releases.
Cheetah Mobile is one of the few companies whose apps and games have both performed well. Its casual games, Jelly Blast, Kitty Home, and Piano Tiles 2 (Don’t Tap The White Tile 2), have all achieved considerable success.
ELEX was one of the first social gaming companies to achieve success abroad, performing particularly well on Facebook. In 2014, Chinese Universe Publishing and Media Co., Ltd. acquired 100% of the shares of ELEX in a transaction worth 2.66 billion yuan, with a premium of 28:1. Apart from social games, it has also published a number of strategy games, of which Clash of Kings has done very well abroad, achieving noteworthy success on both the iOS and Android platforms. Even more so from an income perspective, Clash of Kings is a world-class mobile game. ELEX's future development is definitely worth watching.
IGG mainly competes in strategy games. Its flagship game, Castle Clash: Age of Legends, has been on the market for some time and continues to perform impressively, forming an important source of income for IGG. The company has also begun to expand into card games and simulation games in order to gain a bigger piece of the pie.
Crossy Roadis a classic casual game, and its social nature has helped it go viral worldwide, generating considerable profits. Yodo1 Games, which represents Crossy Road, has also drawn widespread acclamation for its operating capabilities. League of Stickman is another of its important games.
Boyaa, although it did not appear in these rankings, has achieved considerable influence in Southeast Asia. The main games it operates are Boyaa Texas Poker and Boyaa Dou Dizhu (Supports Laizi Play - Chinese Version). Although it has generated some controversy, this has not at all impacted the company's IPO.
Unlike apps, games' successes and failures are due in greater part to their profit levels, and this article's evaluation has not taken into account revenue, which is worthy of further exploration.
Rankings of the Top 30 Publishers
Rankings of the Top 100 Apps
Explanation of data and calculations:
"Apps abroad" refer to Chinese-made apps promoted in areas outside of the mainland China market;
In accordance with the distribution of active users abroad, this report mainly researched 86 mobile phone brands and data on the behavior of users from 50 countries and regions;
This report is based on Android users and data as of the end of 2015. The top 1,000 apps were selected in accordance with their respective market penetration in the designated area. Of these, 113 were Chinese apps abroad, distributed for the most part across 24 Google Play categories;
Clean Master (Boost & AppLock), Cheetah Mobile's pioneer app abroad, was not included along with other Cheetah Mobile products in this analysis since its data was used to compile the report. It was therefore unavoidable that the results of these rankings may be impacted by product user scale and distribution.
Q: Is it possible that the data may not reflect reality with total accuracy?
A: Because the data comes from Clean Master, the rankings derived from them will be impacted by product user scale and distribution. At the same time, as the source of the data, Clean Master was unable to appear in the Top 100 rankings.
Q: How great was the impact of the product on the data?
A: In reality, big data is always a matter of statistics and probability, so no data can be considered 100% accurate. There are only varying degrees of deviation.
Data collected in different ways have different strengths and advantages. We believe that because Clean Master is a tool app, is relatively objective, and using it to collect data results in smaller deviation, thus enabling it to reflect reality.
However, it is impossible to completely eliminate all inaccuracies. Going forward we will continue to make corrections and improvements at the data level.
Q: How does this report handle user privacy?
A: The data was collected during the execution of the everyday functions of Clean Master (such as the deleting of junk files). We do not monitor user activity and personal information, and user privacy has not been affected.
Publisher Evaluation Standards:
Activity-market penetration: an international Chinese-produced app's active market penetration abroad AU, weighting coefficient: 1
Growth potential: an international Chinese-produced app's active market penetration growth abroad AR, weighting coefficient: 0.7
User stickiness: an international Chinese-produced app's average per capita number of uses abroad AA, weighting coefficient: 0.5
Activity-national coverage breadth: an international Chinese-produced app's active market penetration ≥ 2% in its category in a particular country AT, weighting coefficient: 0.5
Activity-equipment coverage breadth: an international Chinese-produced app's active market penetration ≥ 2% in its category on a particular mobile phone brand AB, weighting coefficient: 0.5
Installation-penetration: an international Chinese-produced app's installation market penetration abroad IU, weighting coefficient: 0.8
Installation-national coverage breadth: an international Chinese-produced app's installation market penetration ≥2% in its category in a particular country IT, weighting coefficient: 0.5
Installation-equipment coverage breadth: an international Chinese-produced app's installation market penetration ≥2% in its category on a particular mobile phone brand IB, weighting coefficient: 0.5
After evaluation of 113 international Chinese-produced apps was conducted, the 73 apps with overall scores above 5 were selected for the rankings.
For the calculation of all indices after standardization:
Overall score = AU+0.7×AR+0.5×AA+0.5×AT+0.5×AB+0.8×IU+0.5×IT+0.5×IB