Why China Beats the U.S. in Mobile Usage (and Other Data Points Revealed at GMIC Beijing)

 In Industry News

Today, I spoke at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, China. During my panel discussion – with Rebecca Fannin (Silicon Dragon), Iram Mirza (Google), Bob Cao (iResearch), and Ye Guofu (Guangdong Baoyan) – we compared U.S. and Chinese Internet usage. To put the Chinese data into context, there are today almost twice as many Internet users in China as there are people living in the U.S. And the patterns and growth drivers are very different.

Mobile is driving Chinese Internet usage. People in China spend more time on smartphones each month than their U.S. counterparts. Chinese smartphone usage averages at 49 hours per month per user versus 45 hours in the U.S. Further, 19% of the total Chinese online user base is mobile-only – they simply do not use Internet at all on laptops or desktop computers. In the U.S., the mobile-only population hovers around five percent.


There’s quite a bit of research that shows that Chinese social media usage is on par with the U.S. and Europe, and far ahead of many other Asian countries. The companies that dominate the social media sector (like Baidu) are quite different from U.S.-based Facebook and Twitter. In fact, many of the innovative features in Chinese messaging apps, like being able to order food or hail a cab within the social/messaging app, were first developed by the Chinese. Facebook has simply followed their lead.

Here are some the key points from our presentation.

  • Today, 50% of Chinese population is online vs. 95% of the U.S.
  • Chinese online users are very mobile-heavy. As many as 94% of all Chinese online users use smartphones vs. 70% in the U.S. (Feature phones and the legacy telecom ecosystem in the U.S. are still reflected in this study.) Also, the mobile-only audience in China (not using PCs) is 19% vs. only five percent  in the U.S.
  • U.S. online users also have more gaming consoles, portable dedicated media streaming devices and e-book readers, while smart TVs and wearables have a higher penetration in China.
  • Chinese online users spend less time on PCs vs. Americans. But on smartphones, the Chinese spend as many as 49 hours a month vs. 45 hours for Americans.
  • Mobile usage ramps up earlier in the day in the U.S. vs. China, but the Chinese continue to use their mobile devices later into the night. The late evenings is peak time for mobile usage in China.
  • It may be that U.S. consumers watch more traditional TV while Chinese consumers’ entertainment is more mobile-centric.
  • There are 15 publishers in the U.S. that reach more than 50% of the total online user base, versus just three in China. Accordingly, the Chinese Internet giants have more heft than their U.S. counterparts.
  • WeChat and QQ are the top mobile apps in China. The market is more oriented around messaging and social networking apps than in the U.S., where YouTube is the second ranking app (outside of the top social networking apps).

Interested in seeing the presentation? Please contact us to get a copy or ask for more details about our audience measurement data (in China, the U.S. or elsewhere) in the cross-device universe.

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