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China passes 500 million mobile Internet user mark

gadgets Updated: Feb 04, 2015 10:46 IST

Almost half of the country's population now has some form of web access, and smartphones in particular are helping the Chinese get connected.

According to the China Internet Network Information Centre's (CINIC) latest figures, published Tuesday, the number of web users in the country has climbed another 5% since December 2013 to stand at 649 million users or 47.9% of the population.

And 85% of that total is getting online via the mobile web. According to the CINIC's data, as of December 31, 2014 there were 557 million mobile internet users.

But as well as providing mobile internet user numbers, the report also highlights the strongest current mobile device trends within the country. Nine in 10 mobile users run a messaging app on their device and in terms of other app categories, gaming is continuing to prove hugely popular, but it is travel apps, and specifically online booking apps, that have seen the biggest surge in growth (up 194.6%) over the past 12 months.

Other categories to see a growth surge on smartphones over the past 12 months include mobile shopping apps (63.5%), mobile payments (73.2%) and mobile banking (69.2%).
In December, Alipay, China's largest online payment provider published its annual customer spending report. It showed that 54% of its 80 million daily transactions were now conducted on mobile rather than via the desktop.

Alipay allows users to make payments in stores or online, to settle utility bills or to transfer funds between friends, and its figures highlight how the growing popularity and accessibility of smartphones was bringing more rural areas of the country into the digital age.

In regions such as in Shaanxi and Ningxia the majority (60% and 58% respectively) of transactions are being made via mobile. However, in the mega cities and urban hubs, a much smaller percentage of use comes from mobile. For example, in Beijing, only 29% of Alipay transactions were mobile in 2014.