a group of people using their phones in public

Mobile internet users in smaller cities of China spend more time on their phones than their peers in bigger cities. Source: Shutterstock

Netizens in China’s small cities addicted to their phones

INTERNET users in smaller cities in China are happy spending most of their leisure time glued to their mobile phones.

Accounting for over half of the country’s netizens, over 90 percent of users in cities categorized as tier three to tier five are attached to their devices. They also have an affinity towards watching short videos and reading web novels online.

The findings were published in a recent report by Penguin Intelligence, the research arm of Chinese tech giant Tencent.

According to the report, more than one in five users in smaller cities said they spend all night on mobile web without sleep.

This is a very different consumption pattern compared to their bigger city counterparts. Users in tier one cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen tend to spend on average less time accessing their phones and tend to use it more for TV series, films, and social media.

The report also highlighted that users in tier one cities are more likely to access the web using computers compared to their peers in smaller cities.

According to the China Internet Report by the South China Morning Post, China’s netizens are spending more time watching short videos. In fact, the amount of time spent last year has more than tripled compared to the year before.

In addition, the number of monthly active users for short video apps in China doubled last year, from 203 million at the beginning to 414 million at year-end.

The trend isn’t just reflected in China; mobile users outside of the country also welcome the format, with apps like TikTok (DouYin in China) amassing a following of 150 million daily users as of June 2018.

TikTok is hailed as the world’s most downloaded app. (At last check by Tech Wire Asia, TikTok is the top downloaded app on Google Play Store and ranked 25 most popular in Apple’s AppStore)

Besides short videos, the live-streaming market is also going through a booming phase in China. Deloitte estimated that China will rake in US$4.4 billion in revenue this year, with viewer numbers reaching 456 million.

At the same time, Beijing regulators have also been cracking down on content deemed inappropriate.

Additional insights from the Tencent report showed that netizens in lower-tier Chinese cities spend more money on online content, such as games and video memberships.

Online shopping is also recorded to be popular among netizens across the country. However, only less than half in smaller cities purchase products, compared to 51 percent in first-tier cities.

Interesting to note, 70 percent of netizens in lower-tier cities are bored with currently available mobile content and want more interesting and entertaining online products.

With such a significant proliferation of active mobile internet users across the country, companies looking to cater to users in China would have to tailor their products to suit the varying needs and behaviors of users in different cities.