Lower device costs and easy surfing access fueling surge
Smartphones have overtaken personal computers and tablets to become the ultimate gateway for those who want to connect to the Internet in China, said a report released on Thursday.
China added 18.94 million new Web users during the first six months of the year and its Internet population had reached 668 million by June, according to the report published by the China Internet Network Information Center.
Though 48.8 percent of the population use the Internet, the growth momentum has slowed considerably from a year earlier. However, due to the popularity of smartphones, the surge in mobile Internet users outpaced the overall growth in Web users, said the Beijing-based CNNIC, a government-backed industry body.
Smartphones further established their presence as the magnet for Internet traffic by adding 36.79 million Web users in the first six months of the year. By the end of June, about 594 million Chinese accessed the Internet through their smartphones, said the CNNIC.
The report also showed about 89 percent of China's Internet users logged on to the World Wide Web through smartphones, compared with 85.8 percent by the end of 2014.
"Lower device costs and better surfing experiences will help smartphones overtake personal computers and tablets as the device of choice for Internet users in China," said Liu Bing, deputy director of the CNNIC.
The top three frequently used applications for Chinese smartphone users are instant messaging, search engine and online news, but the growth in smartphone Internet users has also increased the use of mobile payment, mobile shopping and other business-related apps, and become a major engine of China's Internet economy.
According to the CNNIC, which has published the statistical report on Internet development in China twice a year since 1997, said the number of Chinese who access to the Internet via smartphones had already exceeded those who use personal computers to go online since last year and the gap is growing.
The proportion of Internet users who use tablets to go online fell by 1.1 percentage points to 33.7 percent between January and June, said the report.
The most recent sales performance of Apple Inc's iPads also demonstrated the trend. The United States tech giant reported iPad sales of 10.9 million in the quarter ended on June 15, an 18 percent drop from the year-ago period.
The overall growth in China's Internet users has already flattened, but there is still huge potential for growth in the rural regions. Nearly half of the newly added Internet users in China between January and June are from rural areas.
The report showed that the total number of rural Internet users increased by 8 million to 186 million in the first six months. Liu from the CNNIC said that the penetration rate of Internet usage in the age group of 10 to 40 in the rural areas is significantly lower than their counterparts in urban China.
"It is the age group that can be easily educated to become Internet users, which means there is still huge potential for growth," he said.