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Mobile use differs markedly between cities

Updated: 2013-10-20 23:37
By Xu Lin ( China Daily)

The first thing Zhang Ning, an office worker in Shanghai, does each day is check her social networking app WeChat and the weather app on her cellphone.

She takes her iPhone everywhere and said she feels anxious without it. Like most young Chinese, cellphone apps have become an essential part of her lifestyle due to their convenience.

"Whatever you need, you just touch your device, and you get what you want," said Zhang, 28, sustainability consulting director with Yemann Architects in Shanghai.

Using different apps, Zhang shops online, keeps her accounts, browses recipes and reads tips on how to keep healthy.

"I can't live without my cellphone," she said jokingly.

With smartphones used by most of the country's young generation, cellphone apps have become part of their lives.

However, the popularity of certain apps differs markedly from one city to another.

According to the Horizon Research Consultancy Group of Beijing, one's habit of using cellphone apps reflects the diversity of Chinese cities.

For example, for those living in metropolises such as Beijing and Shanghai, navigation software is necessary, while those from small cities tend to use smartphones more as video game machines.

In general, social networking apps top the popularity list in big and small cities, according to the survey. Among 1,973 respondents aged 18 to 32, 53.8 percent of those from big cities use social networking apps often, while in third- and fourth-tier cities, the figure is about 41 percent.

In big cities, cellphones are also widely loaded with apps for consumption, sports and tourism, while in small cities, they are used more as entertainment providers, for such things as listening to songs and watching videos.

For example, Zhang finds practical applications such as taxi hailing and restaurant recommendations to be convenient and essential. Without them, she said, it's "hopeless" to hail a cab in rush hours or locate a suitable restaurant to meet friends from across the city.

However, she uses cellphone apps differently when she is on business trips to small cities. When she tries to look for local restaurants with the help of, a Chinese daily deals and local reviews site, she found only a few choices and comments. Instead, she asks locals to recommend good restaurants.

Su Jing, 24, who spent two years in Shanghai for graduate study and now works for a State-owned enterprise in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, agrees.

"If I were still in Shanghai, I would use a lot of apps. But in a small city like Jiujiang, my lifestyle is different," Su said. "Without some apps, I can still lead a comfortable life."

She doesn't need an app that offers information and coupons about cinemas, as there are only a few cinemas in the city. The fame of good restaurants spreads by word-of-mouth, so she doesn't have to do research on her phone.

Besides social networking apps, her leisure time in a smaller city has allowed her enough time to use apps that compare goods prices of different supermarkets.

But for those like Zhang in big cities, the fast paced life gives them only short leisure times, including while waiting for a bus or a subway train.

Most of the time, they prefer to use social media like WeChat and its interactive games, which helps them connect with their online community.

According to Zhang, her best friends live in different cities, but they feel close to each other due to the use of micro blogs and WeChat. Even though she has friends in Shanghai, it's not easy to meet as they are all busy.

"It's easy to share your game scores on social networking sites. You are playing games alone, but you are actually not. It breaks the distance and space, and we feel connected to each other," Zhang said.