China has the world’s largest internet population at 632 million.
According to figures released by the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the number of internet users in China rose 2.3 percent in the first six months of 2014, up from 618 million at the end of last year, reports Reuters.
However, new user growth has slowed. For the first six months of this year, there were 14.42 million new internet users compared to 53.58 internet users added for the same period last year, reports China Daily. The slower growth rate is largely attributed to declining smartphone sales which dropped nearly 25 percent for the first three months of 2014 compared to the same period last year.
Mobile has become the gateway to the internet. Chinese users accessing the internet from a mobile device surpassed those doing so with a personal computer for the first time.
Of the total 632 million, 83 percent (527 million) accessed the internet through a mobile device, up 5.4 percent from 500 million users since the end of last year. Mobile just edged out internet access on a personal computer with 81 percent of Chinese gaining access in that manner.
These figures go hand-in-hand with the explosion in the number of mobile shoppers, which rose 42 percent over the first six months of 2014. This number is expected to continue to surge, as China is the world’s biggest smartphone market, and by 2018, is estimated to account for nearly one third of the total 1.8 billion smartphones expected to be shipped that year. The key to growth will have to come from rural areas because the urban centers have reached saturation levels.
The fastest-growing segments of mobile internet use were mobile payment (up 63.4 percent), online banking (up 56.4 percent), and mobile travel booking (up 65.4 percent).
However, not all segments of internet use in China grew. Weibo microblogging platforms such as Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo have seen consecutive six-month decreases in users, falling 1.9 percent to 275 million. Weibo users numbered 331 million at the end of June 2013. Due to a government crackdown on such platforms, WeChat and similar apps have become the number one choice for social media.
Other mobile services that saw rapid growth included music, video, gaming, search, and group-buying, which all saw double-digit growth rates.
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