Mobile web gains ground in China

10 August 2010

BEIJING: The mobile internet is more popular among Chinese consumers than their counterparts in the US, figures from Nielsen, the research firm, have shown.

According to the company, there are currently 755m active wireless web subscriptions in China, meaning it is the sector's largest market in the world.

This is the case even though the penetration rate is the Asian nation is relatively modest, at slightly over 50%

Having conducted a survey of 4,946 people, Nielsen argued men comprise 51% of the user base, with women on 49%.

Participants in the 15-24 year old age group made up 19% of the total audience, a proportion which rises to 23% for both 25-34 year olds and 35-44 year olds, and to 20% for 45-54 year olds.

However, uptake remains rather limited in the 55-64 year old bracket, reaching 14% at present.

Elsewhere, 54% of the sample utilised their phone to access "advanced data" services, including 87% that regularly employed SMS.

A further 37% logged on to the mobile internet - falling to 27% in the US - while 26% downloaded ringtones and 23% signed in to instant messaging platforms.

Some 18% downloaded apps, a figure that stood at and 15% when it came to wallpapers and screensavers, 12% with regard to sourcing pictures, 12% for streaming music and 11% for locating new games.

"For many people in China, the mobile web is the only one they need," said Shan Phillips, vice president of Greater China, telecom practice, at Nielsen.

"When they think of the web, they don't think of tethering themselves to a desktop PC and the accessories of mice, keyboards, mouse pads, printers and monitors."

Just 8% of those polled sent and received email via a wireless handset, with the same proportion reading a newspaper in this way, and 4% watching video or TV.

Nokia is currently the top handset maker in China, ahead of Samsung and Motorola, although low-cost alternatives manufactured by indigenous telcos appear to be gaining ground.

The unique 3G standards in place in China, and customers' preferences for "extra loud volume settings, funky shapes and designs and extra long battery life" are also posing obstacles to foreign firms, Nielsen's report added.

"While price was the most important factor for consumers when considering buying a device, we see increasing interest in device style and device features as well as considerable brand loyalty," said Phillips.

The typical respondent spent $10 (€8; £6) a month on their service – with 87% on pre-paid plans – and there is still substantial opportunity for growth as the number of legitimate smartphones in circulation rises.

"China's growth over the last decade has been extraordinary and shows few signs of abating any time soon," Phillips concluded.

"As such, it's only natural that Chinese consumers would wholeheartedly adopt technology and products that enable them to be productive – and stay connected – on the move."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff