An array of apps for a mobile generation


BROWSING for the latest and funniest mobile applications has become a passion for Li Xiang, 24, an editor at an English-language newspaper in Shanghai.

The first thing he does in the morning after he opens his eyes is to flick on his iPhone4.

"I always check out app review websites," he said. "When I find something interesting, I download an app to my phone."

Li has 50 new apps on his phone. He downloads them once or twice a week, two to three at a time. His favorites are news, games and communications.

The mobile Internet has become a daily necessity for millions of young people like Li.

According to the latest research by mobile app marketing firm Flurry last month, China ranks second in the world mobile application market after the United States.

Flurry calls China "the new mobile app dragon" because it's the fastest-growing app market in the world.

The firm predicts China could overtake the US by the end of 2013 if both countries stay on their current growth tracks.

Instant messaging

Yan Xiaojia, an analyst with Analysys International, said 560 million people in China were using social networking apps on their mobile phone in the third quarter, including instant messaging, such as QQ, Facebook copycats such as Kaixin and Renren, and Chinese microblog Weibo.

It's not uncommon for users to employ more than one social networking app at the same time.

Despite the huge popularity of social networking apps in China, which account for the majority of downloads at the Apple store, future mobile apps will not be confined only to communications, Yan said.

"Instead of an open communication environment like Weibo, the grouping of mobile apps in the future will be more precise, such as apps that focus on white-collar workers or university students," he said.

Mobile apps are also expected to take on more local characteristics, he said. For example, apps for users in Shanghai may emphasize fine dining and fashion, whereas apps in Beijing may lean more toward cultural news and events.

Chen Tao, a company owner whose firm provides games and ticket-booking apps, predicts that mobile apps soon will provide platforms allowing users a number of functions, like blogging, playing games, making friends and information searches, all at the same time.

An early starter in the industry, Chen has been developing mobile apps for China Mobile, China's largest mobile operator, since 2003.

"I believe big Internet companies, like Tencent and Sina, may introduce such platforms in the future," he said.

Australia-based PlayUp, a newly launched mobile iPhone app that combines live sports, social media and entertainment, has already brought such an integrated social platform to China.

Users can access free real-time messaging during more than 20,000 live sport games, including basketball, hockey and baseball. Users also can interact with their friends on any social media network.

"You can have interactivity with your friends about rankings, statistics and predictions that would be ideal in this mobile environment," George Tomeski, founder and executive director of PlayUp told Shanghai Daily.

Only in English

For the time being, mostly expats in China use the app because it's available only in English.

The company will launch a Chinese version in January. It will also add local sports, including Chinese Super League football.

"We are coming here knowing that China is the mobile generation," said Tomeski. "There's no country that's adopted mobile products the way China has."

Leon Sun, PlayUp's representative in China, said his company is in talks with major telecommunications companies, smart phone manufacturers and companies that hold broadcasting rights to live sports events in China.

The mobile iOS will be expanded to Android in December, to the iPad in February and to Windows 7 by March.

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