Like the rest of the world, China is getting more glued to smartphones that can perform an endless list of tasks, from talking to workmates, shopping for groceries, all the way to getting a dose of dopamine through games. Chinese internet users now spend an average of 4.7 hours on their handsets a day just for entertainment purposes, according to new data (in Chinese) collected by research firm QuestMobile.
The number is up from the 4.1-hour average from a year ago. By ‘entertainment’, QuestMobile is counting services like e-reading, music streaming, online karaoke, video streaming, mobile gaming, live streaming, and of course, short videos that are taking the world by storm. The total screen time could be much higher given the country now prefers taking QR code payments instead of cash, not to mention eyeball time contributed by children using smartphones to do their homework and housewives searching for the best deals on ecommerce platforms.
All told, China’s entertainment apps grew 3.7% year-over-year to 1.09 billion users in April, though the number likely includes duplicates as China reached an 800 million internet population in August.
China’s leisure apps are rising in tandem with the spread of cheap smartphones, affordable data plans and internet coverage. Driving the boom are bite-size, fun-to-watch videos pioneered by Douyin (aka TikTok for overseas users) and Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed rival. In April, 216 million users were on China’s short video services, representing a 36.6% increase from a year ago. That’s tripled the user size of e-reading, music streaming and video streaming apps.
Entertainment apps aren’t just for young people. Take the video streaming sector, which includes both short (e.g. Douyin) and long-form video services (e.g. Netflix-like iQiyi): 40% of the users were born after 1980, 35.2% after 1990, 15.2% after 1970 and only 9.7% after 2000, a composition that’s in line with the age demographic breakdown of China’s internet user base.
In terms of gender breakdown, the gap is small across all app categories except for two areas. 70.5% of all live streaming users are male. The hosts, who are often female, stream everything from singing to video gaming while male users send them virtual gifts, in part to show affection, in part to attract the hosts’ attention. Females, on the other hand, dominate apps that belong to the ‘two-dimensional space’ of anime, comic and games, making up 66% of the total user base.
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