‘You can do without a wallet in Beijing these days but not without a smartphone.’ This came from the cab driver who picked me up at Beijing International airport when I landed with my mother last fall for the first trip back to my home country (and hometown) in years. He was completely right.
Over the following weeks, I grew a renewed appreciation for my iPhone (now powered by a local SIM card), and constantly found myself pulling it out for all the things I had never used it for – to help open a bank account (you have to have a local mobile number and a phone that can at least receive authentication codes to be able to open an account in China), to make online reservations at restaurants (many of them don’t take reservations over the phone), to book an online appointment at a local salon and get a nice discount for the visit, to use an app to call cabs (Didi, the world largest ride-hailing service with nearly 400 million users across 40 cities in China), and of course, to make in-store purchases by scanning QR codes.
Having followed and reported on tech trends for years, I was prepared for the role of smartphones in China. However, being there to experience and witness the smartphone culture first-hand, I still couldn’t help but constantly marvel at how involved my fellow citizens are today with their beloved phones.
With a willing consumer and increasingly sophisticated local players, China is poised to continue to lead the evolution of the mobile culture. Brands trying to crack the Chinese market must recognize the essential role of mobile in the lives of these consumers. And for those curious about the future of mobile technologies, China – not the US – may be the closest to offer a glimpse.
Veronica Chen is Vice President at GfK Consumer Life. To share your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
GfK PoS Measurement, 2016, Sales Units, USA and Mexico not included
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