China: Smart-phones contribute to the increased number of Internet users

Last Updated: 29 April 2013
Article by Cristiano Rizzi

Today this entry is dedicated to the Internet not only because this theme is growing of importance , but also because the modality in which users are accessing to the "Net" is changing, and it is worth to have a close look at this phenomenon. More Chinese citizens than ever have access to the Internet thanks to mobile technology driving Internet penetration.

China's Internet dealt with 564 million users during 2012, an estimated 51 million new Chinese users in respect of the previous year (according a governmental report released by the China Internet Network Information Center - CNNIC, increasing its user base by 10 percent. Despite continued efforts to monitor residents and restrict access to subversive content, these substantial gains were apparently driven by mobile internet access, with the number of Chinese users tapping into the web from phones and tablets rising by 18.1 percent, now totaling 420 million. According to these figures from the CNNIC, that's 75 percent of all internet users. The increase in users, which is larger than the population of Spain, has been laid at the feet of mobile technology as underlined. The mobile tech boom, which includes the increased use of tablets and smart-phones, has made connecting to online networks easier for Chinese citizens. First reported by Techweb, the report also states that while Internet cafes have begun to slide in popularity, desktop computer use also fell by nearly three percentage points in 2012, and laptop use dropped to 45.9 percent of users. Mobile technology use has leapt from 69.3 percent to 74.5 percent.

These impressive figures show a couple of interesting points: first, the market for wireless devices is growing rapidly, and in particular smart-phones, which allow to access to the Internet from anywhere the user is, these devices are substituting traditional mobile phones. This in a country with more than 1.3 billion people, which means that the opportunities for producers are enormous. Second, this situation is ideal for reaching millions of new consumers, considering that mobile users are also shopping on-line through their smart-phones. In fact e-commerce is expanding rapidly thank to the widespread of these new devices.

For a hundred years the fantasy of global marketers was, " if only everyone in China would buy one..." That day is final here. The numbers of mobile subscribers are staggering - 1.18 billon, 260 million are 3G (according to the data of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People's Republic of China). Chinese Internet companies live in a large closed, self-contained ecosystem with 564 million web users with 420 million having mobile web access. 309 million use microblogs and 242 million shop online.

Other interesting data: Microblogging increased six percentage points, growing to a population of 309 million Chinese Internet users. Online shopper rates ramped up to 242 million people. Using mobile technology to buy items online has increased by 6.6 percentage points compared to 2011.

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology estimated that China's Internet population will reach roughly 800 million users by 2015. Mobile Internet access, enjoying a prominent place worldwide, is expected to drive Internet penetration in order to reach this goal, especially as there are over 1 billion mobile phone users in the country. Mobile use may grow even more if reports that the iPhone is coming to China Mobile are true. According to a China Mobile spokesman, Apple CEO Tim Cook and China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua met to discuss "matters of cooperation" recently, but no further details were revealed (this a couple of months ago).

As both these themes, the Internet and e-commerce are attracting the attention of foreign investors, in the future I will post more entries about this topic. The use of these means are literally changing our habits and life style, it is worth to understand how they function and the also to have a clearer idea of the framework in which they are developing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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