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China Blasts Past The Half-Billion Mobile User Mark

China has blasted past the half-billion mobile users mark. A report from the Beijing government’s China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) says the number of mobile Internet users climbed to 557 million as of December 2014, up 11.4 percent from the year before, TechCrunch reported.

The number of Internet users of all kinds in China reached 649 million, up 5 percent from 2013. That means just under half of China’s population (47.9 percent) is on the Internet — and that the percentage of those users getting on the Internet via mobile devices has climbed from 81 percent a year ago to 85.8 percent at the end of 2014.

(TechCrunch notes that the number of individual mobile Internet users might not be quite as big as the CNNIC suggests, since the report doesn’t break down mobile users by SIM cards. Dual-SIM phones are very popular in China.)

When it comes to apps, 91.2 percent of mobile users use instant messaging, according to the report (via Google Translate) — that category is dominated by Tencent with its WeChat app, and Tencent also rules in mobile gaming, which showed explosive growth, the report said.

But the fastest growing app category was mobile travel bookings, which jumped 194.6 percent, nearly tripling in size in a year.

Annual growth rates were 63.5 percent for mobile shopping and 73.2 percent for mobile payments — both categories dominated by Tencent’s archrival Alibaba. And mobile banking grew 69.2 percent in 2014 — and could jump much more dramatically in 2015, with both Tencent and Alibaba licensed to open new online banks this year.

Also growing strongly were online-to-offline (O2O) services ranging from mature categories like food delivery and movie ticket sales — where Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu have all invested heavily — to newer categories such as medical and household services.

The CNNIC report said 39.2 percent of consumers in large Chinese cities used O2O services last year, while the percentage of users isn’t as large but is steadily growing in smaller cities.

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