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Upside Potential for Mobile App Localization in China

Did you know that there's a mobile applications (apps) ecosystem in China? Were you aware that the total mobile application downloads for both smartphones and feature phones in China will reach 5.5 billion next year. This is an emerging market opportunity with immense potential.

"As the app market in the West gets crowded, content providers and developers are eyeing new markets, such as China, which has the world's largest subscriber base," says Dan Shey, practice director at ABI Research.

The ongoing expansion of China's 3G mobile service subscriptions -- which are expected to jump from 102 million in 2011 to 540 million in 2016 -- are driving app download growth.

"Feature phones are an important market for app developers, maintaining a large share of the app store user base over the next few years," says ABI research analyst Fei-Feng Seet. "Regardless of device type, successful apps in the Chinese market are those with a local look and feel and incorporate local content."

Examples are game apps like "Plants vs. Zombies" from PopCap and "Need for Speed" from Electronic Arts, both of which include instructions in Chinese so users could easily understand the game.

Halfbrick Studios launched a tailored version of "Fruit Ninja for China" that includes peaches as a new fruit and has a background image with the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The localized app was updated five times ahead of the main English app, which was pirated.

Achieving app localization can also mean working with local partners -- such as Renren and Weibo, two Chinese social networking sites. Besides, localized apps have become the norm. Today, more than 90 percent of apps offered by China-based app stores are in Chinese and include local content.

Pricing and payment options are critical to success in the Chinese app market. Chinese consumers are very price sensitive and less willing to pay the same fees as U.S. consumers for the same content.

To help alleviate such issues, local app stores Mobile Market, WoStore, and eStore allow developers to price apps much lower than other stores, such as Apple. They also offer mobile carrier billing or support for local online payment accounts.

The upside potential for mobile device apps in China is huge, and it's a market that isn't already saturated.

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