2016 China App Ranking: 10 Industries, 25 Sectors and Trends for 2017

2017-02-13 11:45:03 | 作者:Cheetah Global Lab

 Jointly published by Cheetah Global Lab, Cheetah’s big data platform libra, and leading technology media 36kr

By: Rong Rong and Yu Ran, Cheetah Global Lab


In the history of the internet, the year 2016 is destined to be remembered.

2016 represent a return to rationality for China’s internet industry following a nationwide entrepreneurship frenzy. As the tide fades, naked swimmers are revealed, and those who can’t cut it are driven from the battlefield without mercy.

The internet companies that are still battling in the market represent the cream of the crop. However, the market is no longer as prosperous as it once was. The user dividend is fading and the cost of gaining users keeps rising. More and more sectors are entering this second phase of the internet, and consequently, the era of acquiring users at a low price is coming to an end. The right thing to do in this new era is to maintain product quantities while improving quality, meaning digging further into the value of existing users. It requires painstaking efforts to stand out in such a fierce market.

Early in 2016, it seemed that all the dust had already settled in the internet market, but in fact, some new battles were just emerging. The saying, “the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself” was once again proven accurate.

At the beginning of 2016, live streaming emerged and ramped up to be a nationwide live streaming frenzy, with more than 200 platforms heading into the “battle of a hundred Live platforms” at its peak. Despite this success, live streaming platforms have been continuously plagued by the appearance of inappropriate content, such as pornography, money laundering, terrorism and violence. What goes up, must come down, and by the end of 2016, the live streaming wave began to recede.

In early 2016, fierce competition in the news and information space was limited to various news apps, but by the end of the year, news feeds had penetrated every corner of the mobile web, including browsers and utility apps. Users have shown the greatest interest in personalized recommendation software. Those publishers who have been able to grasp the needs of users have been the most successful.

In the first half of 2016, Didi Chuxing ended its war with Uber—its foreign rival—in the most unexpected way. But just when people thought the car hailing market had finally settled down, underdogs in the sector returned to the market after the government issued strict regulations for the industry, once again complicating the market.

While everyone was busy predicting the future direction of the premium car hailing market, new bike-sharing apps emerged. In no time, cities were witnessning orange, yellow and blue bikes streaking across the streets. Bike-sharing, which came out of nowhere, began to compete with other players in the transportation sector.

The cold winter hasn’t been able to cool the bike-sharing craze, just as a fitness craze in general has spread throughout the country. A dancing app called Tangdou Dance even reached the top of the fitness app rankings. Maybe there remains even more unexplored opportunities in the fitness market.

Consider the past, and you shall know the future. To celebrate the arrival of 2017, Cheetah Global Lab, in cooperation with libra, Cheetah Mobile’s big data platform, and 36kr, a leading technology media company, has ranked the different types of apps on the Android platform to provide an overview of a memorable 2016, and provide insight into the trends that will shape 2017.

(Notes: Cheetah Mobile’s own utility apps, such as Clean Master, CM Security and CM Browser are excluded from the list. Apps with a high pre-install ratio are also excluded.)


Part 1: Social, Live Streaming, Short Video, Photography

In 2016, live streaming and short video became all the rage and served as a new form of social. For easy comparison, the ranking here will be classified in line with Cheetah Global Lab’s conventional approach, namely, classifying apps into social, short video and live streaming categories. But we believe that in the near future, the lines between these categories will become increasingly blurred, allowing us to compare them in a more comprehensive manner.


Live streaming and short video are the ace in the hole for social apps; Sina Weibo returned to its peak.

Tencent’s WeChat and QQ apps predictably topped the annual social apps list again in 2016, but what surprised people, was that WeChat continued to widen its gap over QQ, leaving it far behind in terms of weekly active penetration rate. In other news, Qzone was caught and passed by Sina’s Weibo.

2016 is acknowledged as the “first year of live streaming” in the social media space. On the one hand, many live streaming apps entered the social app rankings, while on the other hand, all of the Top 6 social apps, with the exception of WeChat, have added live streaming services. Weibo made the right gamble by devoting itself to short video and live streaming, which drove its stock price to a new high and catapulted it into third place in the app rankings.

Meanwhile, previously popular social platform Douban fell out of the Top 15 partly due to poor functionality in the latest version.

Emerging social apps: Vertical apps gradually rising

Blued is now the most popular gay social networking app in China, ranking 13th in the rankings. Compared with other social apps, Blued’s weekly active user base is not that impressive, but in terms of the weekly openings, it has shown strong user stickiness. When live streaming became popular, Blued reacted quickly by adding live streaming functionality. In June 2016, Blued announced that it had completed Series C and Series C-plus financing worth several hundred million RMB, signaling the entrance of gay apps into the mainstream market.

As the mobile internet becomes increasingly ubiquitous, “mobile offices” are becoming a trend. WeChat is no longer just a social platform for friends and acquaintances, but it now serves as an office communication tool. In fact, how to separate their work and private lives has become a pain point for WeChat users. Emerging at just the right time, Ding Talk has quickly climbed in the rankings. However, WeChat has also opened its own enterprise services, so it remains to be seen which social apps will take the lead in the office communications space going forward.



Live streaming: changes took place at the end of 2016, finally settling down despite ups and downs.

Live streaming was the most dynamic app sector of 2016. In October 2016, live streaming app Inke finally surpassed its top rival YY to top the list of purely live streaming apps. Just two months later, YY once again beat out Inke, but by that time, another live streaming app, Huya, had surpassed both of them to take the top spot.


However, it’s not all good news for live streaming apps. An analysis of Huya, YY, Douyu, and Inke’s performance data from the end of August to the end of December shows the slowing pace of live streaming apps. According to the development trends over the past four months, Cheetah Global Lab has concluded that, though we are still uncertain as to which app will come out on top, the live streaming industry as a whole has said goodbye to the high growth rates that characterized it in the past. It will not be easy for live streaming apps to climb further up the rankings, and they still have a long way to go.



Short video: Short video app Kwai become the biggest challenger to Tencent; TouTiao Video shined the brightest

Almost all of the apps in the short video rankings are new besides a few established players like Kwai, Miaopai and Meipai. 13th ranked Pear Video was just launched in November. Earlier in the year, Faceu topped Cheetah Global Lab’s rising app rankings in February with a 32X growth rate. Although the popularity of short video apps took a hit with the rise of live streaming, it witnessed another surge at the end of the year.

Keeping up with the trend, Kwai added live streaming functionality in 2016. Kwai leads the short video sector, even outclassing TouTiao Video, which ranked 2nd, despite its rapid development. If we were to put Kwai into the social app ranking, it would far outperform Qzone, but fall slightly behind Weibo in terms of weekly active penetration rate. However, it beats Weibo by a margin of 2:1 in terms of weekly app openings, second only to WeChat in the social app category, thereby posing the greatest threat to Tencent, WeChat’s parent company.

TouTiao Video was the fastest-growing app of 2016. It was launched in July 2016 and ranked 40th in China’s app rankings by the end of the year. Volcano Short Video was originally named Volcano Live. It was also launched by Toutiao.com as an imbedded live streaming app. The name changed and its shift towards short video shows Toutiao.com’s ambitions in the short video space. TouTiao Video provides users with a collection of recommended short videos, while Volcano Short Video focuses on social, while maintaining its original live streaming service. In this way, the two apps complement each other.


Photography: Meitu went public; Memory Album went online.

Meitu, which dominated the photo app industry in China, went public in 2016, becoming the first company to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange before earning a profit. Although Meitu boasts of its 1.1 billion users, most of its profits come from cell phone manufacturing. Meitu’s transformation is imminent.

It wasn’t any easy task for Memory Album to rank 4th in the photography category and make it into the overall Top 100 given the fierce competition in the photography app space both at home and abroad. Much of its success comes from its marketing approach. For example, it recently partnered with a popular Japanese animated film called Your Name to release a filter which allows users to make their own photos look like the animation style from the film. When users share the photos to their WeChat Moments, it imbeds them with a QR code that other WeChat users can scan to transform their own photos.

Another app worth mentioning is B612. In 2015, B612 became popular in the overseas market, and in 2016, it successfully entered China. After adding video beautification features, B612 became the fastest growing photo app in the fourth quarter of 2016, with over 200% growth.


Part 2: News & Information and Reading Apps



News & information: Personalized news recommendation stands out; head-on collision between Tencent and TouTiao.com

Personalized news recommendation apps can be considered the top tier of news apps in 2016. Personalized recommendation, represented by TouTiao.com, topped the list of news apps for the whole 2016. Tencent News, which ranked 2nd, and Tiantian Kuaibao (also a Tencent app), which ranked 3rd, are in a good position to challenge TouTiao.com in the personalized news recommendation space. Tiantian Kuaibao was not on the list last year, but has risen to 3rd place now, indicating its strong influence. Yidianzixun, which ranked 4th, also focuses on personalized recommendations and customized content. It is now striving to surpass the tier-one rivals ahead of it. However, we also have to also mention TouTiao.com (Express Version), which skyrocketed to 5th place just one month after its launch. It is basically a pared down version of TouTiao.com that has maintained its core news notification and video features while taking up less space and running faster.  

Although TouTiao.com is the overall leader, in terms of the combined user base of a single company, the weekly active user base of Tencent’s two apps (including overlapping users) exceeds that of TouTiao.com and Toutiao.com (Express Version). In terms of the number of times it is opened per week, Tiantian Kuaibao has the absolute advantage over all other news apps. Therefore, the news app battle was epitomized by the head-on collision between Tencent and TouTiao.com in 2016. These two rivals will continue to champion their vested interests and expand their operations in 2017.

The second tier of news apps is composed of various portal websites. Quick response and solid special topic planning has enabled major news media to gain a foothold in the news app market, with Sohu, NetEase, iFeng and Sina ranking 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th respectively.

The third tier contains various vertical news app whose performance is noteworthy despite their failure to enter into the Top 10. Some apps have taken the opposite approach of AI-based personalized recommendation apps, instead focusing on high quality and in-depth articles selected by human editors. Paid content is also becoming more prevalent. Cheetah Global Lab estimates that in 2017, vertical news app will grow stronger, especially in areas like paid content and deep-dive research.



Reading: Competition is fierce, but no one has become the undisputed leader; QQ and iReader are in the front seat for now

Reading apps are in a much lower-profile position compared with news app because of a lack of report on this sector. But it does not mean the sector is not popular, instead, it boasts a large number of users with a decent amount of space to expand. In addition to selling e-books, another major income source for reading apps derives from subscriptions to online novels and online literatary works, which are released chapter by chapter, so users have purchase them one at a time.

At present, QQ Reading is almost on a par with iReader in terms of active penetration rate, followed by Easou. These three apps constitute the first tier of reading apps. It’s worth mentioning that if we combined both the domestic and overseas versions of iReader, we find that the weekly active user base of iReader has surpassed that of QQ Reading. QQ Reading, by means of its strong user resources and technical strengths, allows users to read across different platforms like websites and mobile terminals without affecting the reading experience. Book giveaways sponsored by QQ and WeChat have also increased its popularity. iReader, on the other hand, is shifting towards hardware with the release of an e-book reader. Currently, Tencent is beginning to expand into the Southeast Asian market, while iReader has also released an international version.

The apps ranked from 4th to 10th place all have similarly sized user bases. They all compete against each other in a group, with no single app standing out from the rest.

For now, reading apps are confronted with an awkward situation. Although the market is full of such apps, those with quality content are rare. Many quality novels which you have to pay to read are released for free on other platforms where intellectual property rights are not strictly enforced. Cheetah Global Lab believes that as the industry starts to pay more attention to copyright protection, the reading app industry landscape will shift, and platforms that do not attach importance to copyright protection will gradually be eliminated. Moreover, legitimate platforms will try their best to win authors and IP rights. Thus, only platforms with the best content will survive.

What’s more, many mainstream browsers have added online novel-reading functions, which represents a direct challenge to reading apps. In this way, they are sure to benefit from the traffic generated from online reading. They will also develop pay-to-read mechanisms when the online reading market becomes more mature.



Comics: Leaders are starting to emerge; originality and copyrights are the most important

Comic book-reading is a relatively vertical sector. Given the weekly active penetration rate of Kuaikan Comic, a fixed pattern is forming in the comic app community. Comic-reading is just like novel-reading, which encourages originality, accumulates pay-to-read users, and binds users to a particular app.


Part 3: Audio and Video


Video: Content is Key; Mango TV and Bilibili are the big winners

The 2016 annual rankings have experienced major changes since the 2015 rankings were published: Mango TV and Bilibili both moved up 6 places; Tudou and PPTV fell out of the Top 10; though Youku remained in 3rd place, the gap between Youku and the No. 1 and No. 2 apps continues to widen.

iQiyi has been in first place ever since November last year. It owes its success to its content strategy. In addition to popular online entertainment programs like “S_Style_Show,” iQiyi also purchased overseas programs in bulk. Korean TV show “The Descendant of the Sun” is the only show that can be seen on both Baidu’s annual buzzwords list and Google’s global TV show search rankings. iQiyi’s purchase of “The Descendant of the Sun” earned itself many subscribers. iQiyi also launched another app called “Bubble,” aimed at people who share similar interests. So far, the strategy has yielded initial results.

Mango TV’s ascent has everything to do with content. Mango TV has the rights to broadcast exclusive shows belonging to Hunan TV, thus gaining a first-mover advantage. In terms of self-produced content, Mango TV has won widespread acclaim in the market. When live streaming was at its peak, Mango TV dived right in and consolidated its gains by offering differentiated live streaming shows.

After securing investment from Tencent at the end of 2015, Bilibili became bolder about purchasing programs in bulk. It went out of its way to sponsor the Shanghai Sharks professional basketball team, sparking a heated discussion all over China. It also runs differentiated live streaming operations. All of these efforts have paid off given its rise in the rankings. Cheetah Global Lab believes that video apps in the future should provide users with more unique and quality shows and create their own community cultures. The current chaotic payment system needs to be simplified and streamlined.



Music apps: NetEase Cloud Music was dwarfed by the merger of three strong rivals; though the landscape is set, copyright issues are still unresolved

The year of 2015 featured a rivalry among OMusic, QQ Music and AliMusic. Later, Omusic was acquired by QQ Music, which resulted in an overwhelming victory for Tencent, as the company now owns all of the Top 3 apps in the market (Kugou, QQ Music, Kwmusic). In fact, the combined weekly active penetration rate of the 4th through 10th ranked apps doesn’t even equal that of 3rd ranked Kwmusic.

Netease Cloud Music, ranked 4th, moved up three places from 2015. It is very trendy and well-liked by users. Although its weekly active penetration rate pales in comparison to the Top 3 apps, it is opened, on average, more than 40 times per week, indicating huge support from its huge fans.

Despite partnering with famous singers Gao Xiaosong and He Jiong, AliMusic, which operates music apps AliPlanet and Xiami, failed to make a splash in 2016. AliPlanet (formerly “TTPod”) ceased its online music service in October 2016, while Xiami Music only maintained a lackluster position in the rankings. Cheetah Global Lab thinks that AliMusic’s failure lies in its fragmentary and disjointed brand strategy. It also never did well securing music copyrights, resulting in a change of attitude amongst its fans.

Although copyrights are of strategic importance, no company is capable of purchasing all musical copyrights. Thus, it seems difficult to defeat rivals by virtue of copyrights alone. Online music in the future may draw on the experience from video apps. With unique resources and special community cultures, different apps will certainly appeal to distinct groups, and we will continue to see users who own several accounts at the same time

Kugou, Kwmusic and Netease Cloud Music have all ventured into smart hardware sectors such as headphones and stereos either through original R&D or investments, serving perhaps as evidence that the online music business has entered into a new stage and that companies are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.


Audio: Himalaya FM’s pay-for-audio model achieved great success; the audio market will witness major changes

China’s top audio app Himalaya FM continued to pull away from 2nd place Lazy Audiobook in Q4 2016. The active penetration rate of Himalaya FM tripled that of Lazy Audiobook based on the success of its “Knowledge Carnival” held in the beginning of December. It gathered together 850 online celebrities for a one-day event which earned a record RMB 50 million in sales within a 24-hour period, thus giving a huge boost to the paid audio content industry. Now that Himalaya FM has struck deals with huge number of content providers, it’s service is becoming more and more mature.


Himalaya FM’s experience is laying the foundation and creating guideposts for other audio apps. In 2017, as paid content models become gradually more accepted by users, audio apps will surely have a bright future.


Part 4: E-commerce, Group-Buying and Delivery apps


E-commerce: Content e-commerce is taking shape; second-hand e-commerce is pushing forward

2016 is the year in which e-commerce entered the internet industry’s second stage. Comprehensive e-commerce players like Taobao, JD, Tmall, and Suning maintained their respective market positions for the entire year, so it seems that the landscape in the comprehensive e-commerce market is essentially set.

Nonetheless, every e-commerce app added new features in 2016. Taobao, JD and Mogu Street added live streaming in the hopes of expanding their popularity through online celebrity recommendations and celebrity product demonstrations. Meanwhile, some e-commerce platforms added content-reading features to their apps, such as Taobao Headlines and JD Findings, in order to raise user stickiness and prolong usage time.

As for second-hand e-commerce, Xian Yu has risen from No.10 to No.7. Meanwhile, 58.com’s Spin app also made it into the rankings. Used car apps continued to gain investment in 2016, thus propelling the development of China’s used car market.



Group-buying: Meituan.com and Dianping.com dominated the market together; Nuomi.com’s future is unclear

Meituan.com and dianping.com, which merged in 2015, and Baidu’s Nuomi.com offer comprehensive O2O and lifestyle services, including travel, ticketing and group-buying. From the above chart we can see that Meituan.com outperformed the others by a large margin and was the clear leader in this sector.

Meituan.com ventured into the finance sector in 2016, with the launch of a small-loan service called “Meituan.com Small Loan,” targeting small and micro-enterprises such as catering businesses and flower shops. Nuomi.com lost even more ground against Meituan.com and Dianping.com after the merger. Rumors have swirled about potential mergers and acquisitions involving Nuomi.com every since Baidu rescinded its offer to provide subsidies worth RMB 20 billion to the struggling O2O platform. As a result, the fate of Nuomi.com in 2017 is still unclear.


Delivery apps: Ele.me tops the list; KFC surprises the market

In 2016, Ele.me continued to widen the gap over its chief rivals, Meituan Takeaway and Baidu Takeaway, as it led the market both in terms of weekly active users and weekly app openings. By reaching 4th place in the app rankings as a brand, KFC displayed its strong influence in the China market.


Part 5   Transportation: Car-Hailing, Bike-Sharing, Maps


Car-hailing: Didi Chuxing is undergoing a transformation following strict new policies; transportation market set for a bright future

Earlier in 2016, Cheetah Global Lab published an article titled “Didi Chuxing is 7 Times Larger than Uber,” which predicted that Didi will dominate the Chinese market and expand overseas, especially in Latin America. No one thought that Uber would develop as fast as it did in China. By the time Didi announced its acquisition of Uber China in July, Uber’s user base had reached one third that of Didi.

The rankings shows that Didi has become the undisputed leader in this sector, while Yongche Inc. and CAR Inc. are still struggling for market share.

What was even more astonishing than rapid Uber’s rise and fall in China, was the effect China’s strict new car hailing regulations had on the industry. According to regulations that were proposed in October 2016, but didn’t go into effect in Shanghai and Beijing until December, drivers for car hailing services must possess local “hukou” (residency permit) for those cities. We have witnesses a negative impact on Didi Chuxing’s performance over the past month since the policies took effect.


At the beginning of 2017, Didi Chuxing announced plans to invest in Brazilian car hailing app 99Taxis; launched an international version of its flagship car hailing app Didi; and made a strategic investment in ofo, a popular Chinese bike-sharing app. Based on these moves, we can see that Didi Chuxing is now expanding the scope of its business to target the overseas car hailing and domestic bike-sharing markets.

A temporary downturn does not spell doom for China’s transportation app industry. In the future, the transportation market will be more embedded with other sectors. The biggest question for 2017 will be, “Will Didi Chuxing go public?”


Bike-sharing continues to prosper in spite of awful weather

According to the limited statistics we have, there are more than 24 bike-sharing apps in the market. According to available financing statistics, at least 5 bike-sharing apps have attracted investment worth a combined RMB 100 million. Many people are not optimistic about the future of bike-sharing, but just one month after Cheetah Global Lab published its own “Bike-Sharing Report,” bike-sharing user numbers doubled again, despite China’s chilly weather and heavy air pollution. Cheetah Global Lab noticed that there are two new players in the list of bike-sharing apps: Bluegogo and Xiaoming Bike.

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At present, Mobike and Ofo (invested in by Didi) are the only two bike-sharing apps with fairly large user bases. When the weather turns warmer, bike-sharing apps may witness another usage spike or another investment spike. DD Bike is a newcomer which was launched in December 2016. It’s core development team came from Didi. Although the company hasn’t disclosed any information about its investors, its name and the makeup of its team heavily suggests Didi’s involvement in the venture. On January 4th, 2017, mobike announced the completion of a new round of financing worth USD 200 million led by Tencent. Incidentally, Tencent is also an investor in Didi.

Whether bike-sharing will be a success and who will ultimately prevail in this sector remains to be seen. This will be an area to watch in 2017.




Maps & navigation: Baidu Maps and Amap continue to duke it out

The fierce battle between Baidu Maps and Amap rages on. As of the end of 2016, Baidu Maps still topped the list in terms of weekly active penetration rate. Although Baidu Maps only does slightly better than Amap, the difference between them is 1.5 times the active penetration rate of QQ Map. In terms of weekly app openings, Amap has an advantage over Baidu Maps. Advanced technologies such as AR will become more mature in 2017, and this new technology will likely play a role in determining who ultimately prevails in the battle between Baidu Maps and Amap.


Part 6: Internet Finance


Finance: AliPay is the overwhelming leader, but the weekly app openings of AliPay is less than one tenth that of WeChat.  

AliPay has no rival in finance segment. However, the real rival of AliPay is still Wechat payment, so that explains exactly why AliPay is struggling to create a social community. In terms of weekly app openings per capita, AliPay got 16 times, while WeChat got 167 times, over ten times of that of AliPay. WeChat still dominates social, while AliPay is just a tool. On another note, it wasn’t easy for Ant Fortune to rank 7th place in the finance segment.

Cheetah Global Lab believes that the future of AliPay and Ant Fortune should be in leveraging AI and big data, providing users opportunities to manage their own finance as well as the ever-rising consumer finance.


Securities trading: Straight Flush still dominates DZH

Straight Flush has always been No. 1 in securities trading. Other rivals failed to challenge it over the past year. The gap between Straight Flush and its counterparts continue to widen. It now is triple the size of DZH.

At present, there is a new trend in securities investment. A lot of stock-related apps have added live streaming as one of the new features in which experts will deliver stock analysis and guidance.

In 2017, given the RMB’s unstable exchange rate against US dollar, the stock market will likely rebound again. By then, securities trading-related apps might flourish once again.


Part 7 Utility tools: Browsers and wi-fi


Browsers: major shift from traffic portals to content

As the mobile internet witnesses an explosion of information, competition among news apps becomes intensive. The dividend that new apps creates is disappearing, whereas browsers, once forgotten, have staged a comeback. As the access points for internet traffic, browsers are now a critical transformation stage. Users are already used to rushing on to CM Browser to buy tickets back home during the Spring Festival, but now personalized news recommendation, novel-reading and video features are in place as part of Cheetah’s content product portfolio. A closer look at of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent’s (known collectively as “BAT”) browser shows the same pattern.


Based on the above chart, Cheetah Global Lab has summarized several findings:

Browsers focus on exclusive content and go full steam ahead to promote their own subscriptions.’

Short videos are the drivers behind exclusive content. They are also important promotional tools for browsers. Video is the newest form of content promotion, so the future of content promotion lies in the creation of quality short videos.

Browsers are now investing in novels and comic book content in order to capture the paid content trend. A major change for browsers recently is to enable users to read content online or download it for later. Chinese netizens tend to download novels from the internet, which makes the internet a battleground for the novel-reading market.

In addition to UC, other browsers are also trying to build their own communities on the internet. Users can comment in news feeds, but they first need to log in before they comment. UC supports multiple login channels while Baidu only supports Baidu accounts, and QQ browser only supports QQ or WeChat accounts. Similarly, browsers have set up their own communities like “Huatiquan” on QQ browser and “Quxingqiu” on Baidu browser.


Wi-fi: An invisible giant is looming; WiFi Master Key shifts its focus to content

Wifi Master Key, published by Lianshang Network, may be the most undervalued internet company of 2016. At present, it is the unicorn in the wi-fi utility apps market. Based on its own published data, Wifi Master Key’s user base has reached 900 million along with over 4 billion average daily openings.

Wifi Master Key is currently moving into network flow-oriented market research. On its official website, an access point to an ad platform is now available now. This indicates that Wifi Master Key is putting greater effort into content.


Part 8 Sports and Fitness



Tangdou Dance is the top fitness app

As the mobile internet develops, more and more groups are beginning to use apps. Tangdou, ranked No.1 in the fitness category, reflects middle age and elderly users’ fitness preferences.

As short video and live streaming develops, fitness apps are also adding similar functions. For example, the advantage of Tangdou lies in its accessibility to a sea of videos related to Chinese “square dancing.” Fitness tracking app Keep also took advantage of short video to achieve a better performance in 2016.



Sports apps: persistence is needed in the coming year; searching for breakthroughs amid the turmoil

2016 witnessed the UEFA Euro Cup, Olympic Games and the launch of one sports apps after another. Tencent Sports and LeSports took turns as the No. 1 sports app. At the end of the year, Tencent Sports was the winner. However, sports live streaming app “Live Show” catapulted into the 2nd place, which was a great surprise. In terms of weekly active penetration rate, the Top 3 apps were roughly the same, but in terms of weekly app openings per capita, Hoop China dominated the competition. It is not easy to purchase IP right in the sports sector and at the same time maintain bandwidth. It will require further efforts for sports app to become more popular with people in the future.


Part 9: Growth rankings



Growth rate rankings overview: Short video and live streaming maintain sound momentum; the app with the largest growth rate is Tencent Wi-fi.



Among the Top 20 fastest growing apps, there are 6 short video and live streaming apps. Though B612 is technically classified as a photography app, it can also be considered a short video tool with beautification features. We predict that short video and live streaming will maintain sustainable growth in 2017.

Tencent Wi-fi has the largest user base among Top 20. It’s also the top wi-fi app.

Trend: Online education is a potential force; there might be a fierce competition in 2017

In the growth rate rankings, the second largest sector is online education. This phenomenon was also highlighted in our Q3 2016 app rankings. We have seen major growth in online education for at least two quarters in a row.


The 3rd and 6th ranked education apps can also be seen on the growth rate rankings. Another app, Susuanhezi, ranked 12th in terms of online education, while Homework Help, which topped the list, registered a growth rate of 29.78% in the 4th quarter despite failing to enter into the Top 20 growth rate rankings. All of these statistics indicate that online education is progressing at a rapid pace.


Part 10 Trends and Forecasts

Based on changes in the rankings, app growth rates and our insights into the mobile internet industry, Cheetah Global Lab has produced the following forecast for China’s mobile internet app market in 2017.

Major trends

In 2017, apps will need to focus on content and subscriptions. Companies represented by Toutiao.com, Tencent, UC and Baidu will focus more on their own subscription-based models and loop them into their app ecosystems. The most outstanding feature of the content competition in 2017 will be the content transformation seen in apps such as browsers, wi-fi, mobile management tools (desktop, cleaners, security) and subscription traffic.


Live streaming and short video will continue to dominate the mainstream market as a concrete form rather than a separate classification centering mainly on the social and content sectors. As technology develops, they will become more closely connected with VR, AR, and MR.


2017 will witness fast development and fierce competition in certain industries such as bike-sharing, online education and paid content. However, people will soon find out what will happen to bike-sharing, while online education still has a long way to go, and paid content maybe the next tipping point where capital and the bubble converge.

As public welfare and charity becomes more and more of a concern for people, public welfare apps might appear and exert great impact. As users get more used to online payments, consumer finance is projected to develop, or even flourish.


As the mobile internet develops, an internet way of thinking is being adopted by an increasing number of people. Building “light” business models and platform will become more difficult. The next area of opportunity might be the close cooperation between online and offline (“heavy model”).


Two variables in 2017: AI and mini apps.

2016 was actually semi-dominated by AI, be it personalized content distribution or picture recognition in live streaming and short video. Deep learning technology is the driver behind all of this progress. After Master (an updated version of AlphaGo) defeated all human competitors at GO, we could see that AI has developed faster than we have ever expected, and various sectors will reshuffle. We have already seen iFlytech’s voice recognition software, Microsoft’s “Xiao Ying” virtual assistant on WeChat, and Apple’s Siri which we talk to every day. Therefore, if there is to be a disruptive change in the Internet industry in 2017, the driving force will almost certainly be AI.

As the top super app in China, WeChat launched mini apps on January 9th, 2017. If such mini apps gain popularity, it might radically change the way we think about apps, bringing a transformation to the market.

Data notes:

The rankings are arranged according to weekly active user penetration rates (Android platform only)

Unless specifically noted, all statistics are taken from Cheetah Mobile’s big data platform, libra; On August 22nd, 2016, libra began utilizing new data with a more wide-ranging set of sources and larger reach. Following the upgrade, our statistics covers more dimensions, including daily activity, weekly activity, monthly activity, new installation rates and retention rate, thus providing a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the market. Cheetah Global Lab, based on this data, continue to provide even more authoritative and detailed reports on the mobile internet industry.

Statistics are collected by Cheetah Mobile on a daily basis in accordance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Statistics are limited to the user base and distribution of Cheetah Mobile’s products.