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China leaves its mark on the iOS App Store

New report shows Chinese apps are shooting up the rankings

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

What’s the most popular app on Apple’s App Store in 2018?

Many might list a go to Silicon Valley name like WhatsApp, Instagram or YouTube.

But that title actually goes to Tik Tok -- a little known short-form video app that lets users create short lip-synching music videos that’s owned by Chinese firm Bytedance.

The world’s hottest iOS app is from China (and it’s not WeChat)

Until a few years ago, a story like this would have been unthinkable: From 2010 until last year, the most downloaded app has been from the US, with mostly Western apps clearly dominating the iOS App Store.

But according to a new report from App Annie -- that dominance is shrinking.
Number of iOS apps from major China-based companies making the top 10, according to downloads. (Data: App Annie)

While big American firms initially led the App Store in downloads, major Chinese companies are climbing the charts -- now closing in on their US competitors.

Last year, four of the most downloaded apps on the App Store were from China: WeChat, Taobao, QQ and Tencent Video. ​

Part of the explanation is pure numbers, thanks to China’s large population.

China’s tech players have also gained ground in terms of how much consumers are willing to spend on those apps. In 2016, it overtook the US to become the largest App Store market by consumer spend.

In 2017, four of the 10 most downloaded iOS apps were from China. (Picture: App Annie)

Case in point is Tencent, which generated the most consumer spend of all time on the App Store in both games and non-game apps. It was also the second biggest company in terms of total downloads of games and third in non-game apps.

But while apps like WeChat and Taobao attract mainly users in China, Tik Tok has found global success. Launched in 2016, it’s now hugely popular among teenagers in Japan, Thailand, and other parts of Asia.

The takeout from all this is China’s undeniable weight in the iOS App Store: Revenue from China’s App Store is now more than the US and Japan’s combined.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.