China continues to show rapid growth in terms of app usage. They surpassed the United States as the top country by revenue for the Games category in the iOS app store. Unfortunately, Android app developers cannot take advantage of this because Google Play (and Google) is not available in China.
Why? Well, there are two sides of the story.
The Great Firewall of China blocked Google Play
The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) in China developed a system to control access to websites that they consider dangerous for Chinese citizens. Blocked sites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WordPress.com, Google+, Google Hangouts, Blogspot, Tumblr, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, some pages of Wikipedia and a lot more. There are too many to mention.
That’s why if you travel in China and you have Google Play and some of the apps mentioned above already installed on your phone, you cannot access them.
Google Play bans all in-app purchases from Chinese app users
Any app using Google payment system will not be shown to app users in China because Google Play banned all in-app purchases from Chinese citizens. When Google was still available in China, they tried to comply with Chinese laws on filtering content but Google finally decided to pull its services out of China after refusing to continue self-censoring its search results and finally exited China after fending off a cyberattack from the Chinese government in 2010.
How do Chinese citizens get access to Android apps?
You can use Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access Google Play from China, but there are alternative Android app stores available.
Here are the top 3:
China’s top search engine.
China’s social media giant with almost 700 million monthly active users using its WeChat messaging app.
It supports paid apps and in-app purchases for games and available as a web app and an Android app.
There are hundreds of local app stores in China, but reports say that Google is planning to relaunch Google Play and gradually other Google services in China, considering the revenue that iOS app store got from the overwhelming Chinese app users. But what does it mean for Android app developers? It will not be easy considering the following points:
- In China, aside from translating texts in Chinese, you must also localise your product with the country’s native social network platforms because Twitter and Facebook are not available.
- Cloud technology in China is still at a basic level so it could be an issue.
- The Chinese government also takes about 20%+ of revenue from the app developer in taxes and regulation fees.
- China is still a cash-based society, and it will be difficult for developers to make money through app store purchases using credit cards and other western payment methods.
So, my fellow app developer. ..now you know why your Android apps cannot be downloaded in China. But let’s see how it goes. Nothing is constant, and there will be changes. The Chinese market can be your next target when Google Play finally resumes its operation in China, and you should be ready.
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