Mobile Internet usage has overtaken desktop for the first time in the world’s largest internet market. A report from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) confirms that there are now 538 million Chinese users accessing the web, with over 70% of those users doing so via mobile devices.
Many of the new internet users come from rural communities where internet access via computers just doesn’t exist and the introduction of more low cost handsets is having a positive effect on web penetration. With many models available for less than £100/ $160, from manufacturers including HTC and Lenovo, smartphones have become accessible to a wider audience in China.
A recent entrant to the market is non other than Chinese search engine Baidu, which launched its Changhong H5018 handset in May 2012. The phone is powered by Baidu’s own operating system Cloud and gives users access to 100GB of storage on its cloud storage service. Baidu had a boost in May, when Apple integrated Baidu into iOS, making it the default search engine on all iPads and iPhones in China, so the launch of a low end handset gives it coverage at both ends of the market, and will help it to maintain its dominance of the Chinese search market, where it currently has around 80% share.
Whilst China can boast an impressive 25 million new users joining the online world since the end of 2011, the latest figures show that internet growth in the country is actually slowing slightly and despite having the most users globally, China’s internet penetration still sits at just under 40% of the population. However, any decrease in growth rate does not diminish the huge importance of this market and the opportunities that exist, especially for savvy mobile marketers.