Dan Grover has updated his excellent annual survey of UI trends in Chinese mobile apps with a new installment that covers the t-shirt icon, the happy shopping bag, the moving SEND button, the rise of data-management apps and chatbots, and more.
Some of these conventions entered China from elsewhere in the region -- Japan -- and some will doubtless enter other countries' mobile ecosystems. China has the largest mobile device user population in the world, and a hyper-competitive -- and uniquely regulated -- mobile sector trying to serve them. It's a strange hothouse for growing the next generation of mobile conventions.
The section on data-management really caught my eye. China's mobile users are in the unique position of having a large number of very low-income people in a very advanced mobile market, spawning a huge number of sophisticated, advanced techniques for device vendors (who do not have the same interests as the carriers) to get around high-priced mobile bandwidth, arbitraging it for wifi where it is available, and coming up with ingenious ways to make that seamless, even in the presence of China's surveillance-driven "real names" policy for wifi logins.
I mentioned before, too, that most media apps allow downloading content for offline viewing. Thus if I want to binge-watch House of Cards on my next flight home, I can do it with iQIYI, but not Netflix.
Because people don’t want to waste data, when WiFi is available, they’ll quickly switch to it. All restaurants (except for the lowest-end) provide free wifi to their patrons.
Consequently, there are popular apps for unlocking different networks of hotspots, or for sharing passwords for password-protected hotspots. They even help you guess (hint: it’s usually 88888888). Xiaomi wisely turned Chinese users’ WiFi reliance into a selling point. Their OS’s WiFi connection UI includes badges to tell you which hotspots are known good, free ones, as well as a way to share credentials to a password-protected network with a friend via a QR code. They’ve even got deals with some hotspots to provide free WiFi to people with their hardware.
Open hotspots in public places like malls and coffee shops present the user with a captive portal page — you know, when the first page you access is redirected to some other site. In China, these gateway pages almost always require entering your phone number, solving a CAPTCHA, and finally entering the verification code they sent you via SMS. This is due to a law requiring users to provide some kind of “real identity” to all apps, ISPs, and hotspots. A verified cell phone number (which now requires handing over one’s national ID card to get) is thus the most convenient way to do this. I assume it’s so if the Stasi comes to your Starbucks, they can see who’s accessing which cat videos. For hotspot providers, this also lets them keep a handle on people casually leeching their bandwidth.
More Chinese Mobile UI Trends
(via Dan Hon)