Is China the new gateway to mobile app developer success?

Jason Ankenyeditor's corner

It's a big world out there, and for mobile application developers, it's getting even bigger--and more lucrative. While the United States remains the globe's leading app market, with the total number of user sessions doubling between January 2011 and October 2011, the rest of the world is growing even faster according to new data issued by mobile app analytics provider Flurry. Where the U.S. yielded 55 percent of all app sessions worldwide at the beginning of the year, that number slipped to 47 percent in October as sessions across the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China increased from 28 percent to 31 percent. At the same time, the rest of the globe grew from 17 percent of all sessions to 22 percent, a trend Flurry credits to decreasing prices for older Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS devices and the explosion of bargain-priced smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android.

With an eye-popping 950 million mobile users, China is the nation most responsible for shaping this brave new world. Flurry reports that app session growth in China has increased by an astonishing 870 percent during the first 10 months of 2011, far ahead of any other international market--Argentina trails a distant second at 527 percent. In fact, China now generates more app sessions each month than any country other than the U.S., yielding 7.3 percent of all sessions across the globe. Although the U.S. still accounts for 47 percent of all sessions, China is currently on pace to overtake the American market by the end of 2013, with both countries averaging around 23 percent of total session share.

Flurry's data reveals that Chinese consumers are hungry for new apps as well. Back in January, Chinese subscribers accounted for just 1.2 percent of all iOS and Android downloads across Flurry's AppCircle mobile application traffic acquisition network. Fast-forward to October, and not only have total AppCircle installs grown 2.5 times since the beginning of the year, but the Chinese market is now responsible for 12 percent of AppCircle downloads, behind only the U.S. at 57 percent and far ahead of Taiwan (4 percent), the U.K. (3 percent) and Hong Kong (2 percent).

It's clear that developers must expand their horizons beyond the North American and Western European markets and actively pursue the Chinese subscriber demographic--the opportunity is enormous. What isn't so clear is how developers can most effectively pursue an opportunity that's so many miles away, especially given the fragmented Chinese app store landscape. But in that respect, the world is getting smaller: On Monday, mobile application exchange appbackr announced a partnership with in-app payments platform MoVend to deliver mobile solutions to app stores across the Asia Pacific region, including HTC China, Lenovo China and AppChina. Appbackr's SmartApps algorithm identifies the apps likely to enjoy the greatest success in a specific market, offering developers insight traffic and sales patterns. Another option: Social gaming platform provider PapayaMobile's Gateway to China program, which offers developers localization, distribution and promotional support. There are other partners and possibilities as well, and savvy developers should explore them all. The world is waiting. -Jason