China is rapidly becoming a key player in the mobile technology market, from the country’s predicted smartphone adoption rates to Apple’s increased attention on China, with CEO Tim Cook referring to it as its “second largest market.” However, some new data suggests that China’s slow transition to mobile computing may have a negative impact on the country’s overall competitive advantage in the global marketplace.
China Internet Watch cites new data from DCCI, which shows that while Chinese mobile users are spending a longer period of time online, the number of times they are accessing the Internet has dropped. In addition, the number of apps users have installed on their phones is low, with 59 percent of users having only 3 to 10 apps installed, compared to the U.S, where users launch an average of eight apps per day. Worse, Chinese mobile users report that 10 minutes is an acceptable download time for apps.
Chinese users prefer cheaper-priced smartphones, fueling further rumors that Apple will release a less expensive iPhone model to help the company increase its share in the Chinese market.
At an event in Silicon Valley this week, a group of technology economy luminaries suggested that China’s reliance on manufacturing may “slow its shift to a knowledge economy.” The combination of slow download times, low app rate installs, and inexpensive, lower-tech smartphones may be a result of the manufacturing-centric culture in one of two ways: Lower incomes of factory workers may make users less likely to spend money on mobile hardware as well as mobile apps, or the focus on manufacturing makes mobile Internet access less of a priority for Chinese users.
Data from iResearch shows, however, that China is working quickly to remove barriers to adoption of mobile technology, citing growth in mobile payment systems and the willingness of the Chinese government to introduce “policies on payment [that] built a favorable competition environment for the industry and guaranteed the healthy development of the industry.”
Mobile gaming may also drive more technology developments. China Daily notes that while the country lags in development of online computer games, the relative youth of the mobile gaming industry gives China a chance to catch up to the U.S., Europe and Japan. Different views of copyright in China also allow rapid development of copy-cat games, which may spur an even faster development of online games.
The combination of the Chinese government to accommodate rapid changes in technology, as well as the willingness of big mobile players like Apple to focus on the unique needs of the Chinese market may overcome the country’s entrenchment in a manufacturing culture and help the transition to a more knowledge-based — and mobile-oriented — culture.