With no Google, Chinese app stores soar on high downloads

Baidu surpassed Apple to become the world's second-largest app distributor

Chinese demand for smartphones is leading to a surge in app downloads from the country -- so much so that five of the leading app stores in the world are now from China.

Apple and Google still run two of the biggest app stores on the planet, but in China local app stores are pulling in billions of downloads, just by targeting the home market, according to Juniper Research.

China itself accounted for 59 percent of all app downloads made last year, which in total reached close to 185 billion. In contrast, the U.S. market only accounted for 8 percent of all app downloads.

During that same period, Chinese search giant Baidu eclipsed Apple to become the world's second-largest app distributor in terms of downloads, Juniper Research said.

Google Play ranks as the largest app store in the world, but the company has refrained from bringing the platform to mainland China, where it has faced a rocky relationship with the country's government over online censorship. Last year, China cut access to all Google services.

The absence of Google Play has given Chinese app stores a better chance to thrive, as Android has long reigned as the country's dominant mobile OS.

Baidu, which runs China's largest search engine, acquired two local app stores in 2013, helping to make it into a major destination for app downloads.

Chinese security vendor Qihoo 360, which runs its own browser and search engine, ranked as the world's fourth-largest app distributor, with over 20 billion downloads last year, Juniper Research said. Other top Chinese app stores include one run by Xiaomi, an Android handset maker that rose to become the country's largest smartphone vendor last year.

Not only is China the world's largest smartphone market, but consumers in the country tend to devour apps in large numbers.

In China, users will download close to 90 apps every year per smartphone or tablet. That's far more than the global average, which sits at just 28 app downloads, Juniper Research said.

Demand for apps is only expected to increase in 2015. Juniper Research estimates the total app downloads will reach 236 billion, for close to a 28 percent year-over-year growth. Games are projected be the most popular downloaded apps.

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Michael Kan

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