Do People Use iPhones in China?

More people in China have a smart phone than a computer and 95% of Internet traffic is from a mobile device. Mobile phones are also how people pay for everything, from taxis and buses to utility bills and groceries. Your phone is your life in China. So which phones are most popular? 8 out of the top 10 phone brands are made by domestic Chinese manufacturers. The two foreign phone brands that are popular in China are the same as the rest of the world: iPhone and Samsung.

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When purchasing a mobile phone, people consider performance, compatibility with other devices and, of courses, price. In China, color is also an important consideration. The red iPhone is most popular in China because red is the color of good luck and happiness. The gold iPhone is also very popular in China because it is associated with wealth. The iPhone itself, being an expensive American brand, is also a status symbol. Owning one shows a person is sophisticated, appreciates western ideals, and is wealthy enough to buy the phone. The iPhone is regularly in the top 5 mobile phones purchased in China but it has not been number one.

The most popular brands are Chinese and cheaper than the iPhone. Although even the cheaper phone options can cost more than 1 month salary for many Chinese people. Brands like Vivo, Oppo, and Huawei are the top sellers in China. They use Chinese and foreign celebrities to advertise throughout the country, mainly targeting digital natives, people born in the 90s or later (九零后 jiǔlíng hòu).

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Besides the iPhone, every mobile phone in China runs on the Android platform but cannot use the Google Play app store, due to national Internet restrictions. Instead, each manufacturer has their own app store that comes preinstalled on the phone. Many foreign apps aren't listed on these Chinese-only app stores, and so, people download apps using the APK file directly from an app's website or a 3rd party source. Even the iPhone app store has a Chinese version with different app offerings than the iPhone app store in other countries (a setting based on which region the phone is set to). So buying a phone in China will give you a completely different mobile phone experience than buying one outside of China. It's another level of cultural immersion!


This article is part of our new online Chinese course. An efficient way to learn Chinese language for working and living in China.