Mobile Internet Usage Down 7% in China For the First Time As Services Related to Offline Activities Surge

After more than ten years of sustained growth, mobile internet usage in China showed a slight decline in 2023 for the first time, according to intelligence data service provider QuestMobile.

Mobile Internet Usage Time Down 7% YoY

In December 2023, the average monthly usage time of mobile internet was 165.9 hours, down by nearly 12 hours, or 7% year-on-year, according to QuestMobile.

The average monthly number of usage times was 2559.6 times, down by nearly 3% year-on-year, while the number of mobile apps used by users continued to increase year-on-year, showing that the competition for user attention among apps is still intensifying.

One explanation could be that users are becoming more discerning about their time and attention. They are less likely to spend hours scrolling through social media or watching videos if they do not find the content to be valuable or engaging.

Another factor is that users are increasingly using the internet for more productive purposes, such as work or education. They have less time for leisure activities, such as browsing the internet for entertainment.

Overall Growth of China’s Mobile Internet Market

The report also showed that the total scale of China’s mobile internet users reached 1.227 billion in 2023, maintaining a stable growth rate of 2% throughout the year.

The growth in users was driven by young and older citizens, while the percentage of users in major (first-tier and second-tier) cities increased by 10.5%.

The focus of mobile internet usage showed a trend toward healthy diet, outdoor activities, and experience-based consumption.

In particularly, online applications related to offline activities showed sustained and rapid growth against the trend. Cultural and tourism consumption related to movies, performances, train services, car services, and online travel grew by 172.3%, 66.7%, 46.8%, and 34.1%, respectively.

Public transportation services, second-hand transactions, food delivery services, and local life services continued to be popular, growing by 48.2%, 29.1%, 16.1%, and 12.4%, respectively.

Major Changes in How Mobile Internet Is Used

Short video and social networking have become the main battlefields for mobile internet users, and the competition between platforms in these two areas is becoming increasingly fierce.

Content IP has become a key driving force for the development of the mobile internet industry. Platforms are increasingly investing in the development of content IP, and the integration of content and commerce is becoming a trend.

Online-to-offline (O2O) services are becoming increasingly popular, as COVID-19 pandemic has made people more comfortable with using the internet to access offline services. Users are also increasingly looking for ways to save time and money via using apps that make accessing offline services cheaper and faster.

Major Mobile Internet Platforms Remain Steady

As of December 2023, there were 12 companies with a total user base of over 500 million.

Among them, Tencent Holdings, Alibaba, Baidu Group, and Douyin Group all had over 1 billion users, with 12.21 billion, 11.51 billion, 11.02 billion, and 10.57 billion users, respectively.

Ant Group, Pinduoduo, Meituan,, Kuaishou, Tencent Music, China Mobile, and Weibo all had over 500 million users, with 9.12 billion, 8.81 billion, 8.78 billion, 6.81 billion, 5.72 billion, 5.45 billion, 5.3 billion, and 5.29 billion users, respectively.

Specifically, the companies with over 500 million users are as follows:

Tencent Holdings (1.221 billion users)
Alibaba (1.151 billion users)
Baidu Group (1.102 billion users)
Douyin Group (1.057 billion users)
Ant Group (912 million users)
Pinduoduo (881 million users)
Meituan (878 million users) (681 million users)
Kuaishou (572 million users)
Tencent Music (545 million users)
China Mobile (530 million users)
Weibo (529 million users)

This data shows that the Chinese mobile internet market is still highly concentrated, with a small number of large companies dominating the market.

The top 12 companies account for over 90% of the total user base.

The Popularity of AI Large-Scale Models

The popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) large models has led to the sustained growth of intelligent applications.

Aside from consumer-grade AI applications such as Baidu’s Ernie Bot and ByteDance’s Doubao, AI has been increasingly incorporated into apps such as AI-powered shopping, AI-powered office, and AI-powered photography.

Applications that combine intelligence with offline scenarios are even more popular. For example, smart cars, smart accessories, smart wearables, and smart homes have grown by 49.5%, 49%, 20%, and 18.4%, respectively.

Applications that combine intelligence with offline scenarios are particularly promising. For example, smart cars can help drivers navigate traffic and avoid accidents. Smart homes can automatically control lights, thermostats, and other devices.

The growth of AI-related applications is creating new opportunities for businesses. Businesses need to develop strategies to capitalize on these opportunities.


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