BEIJING (Reuters) — The number of China’s internet users going online with a mobile device — such as a smartphone or tablet — has overtaken those doing so with a personal computer (PC) for the first time, said the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Monday.
China’s total number of internet users crept up 2.3 percent to 632 million by the end of June, from 618 million at the end of 2013, said CNNIC’s internet development statistics report.
Of those, 527 million — or 83 percent — went online via mobile. Those doing so with a PC made up 81 percent the total.
China is the largest smartphone market in the world, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped that year, according to data firm IDC.
The increase in internet users was mainly driven by mobile, which grew 5.4 percent from the 500 million users at the end of 2013. The number of mobile shoppers surged 42 percent from December through June.
Chinese e-commerce is dominated by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, which is preparing for a mammoth initial public offering widely expected to take place in September.
Alibaba’s biggest competitor is JD.com Inc, which specialises in business-to-customer e-commerce in a similar vein to Amazon.com Inc, and is 17.6 percent owned by Alibaba arch-rival Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Other online mobile services with rapid growth from the end of 2013 include music, video, gaming, search, and group-buying, all of which experienced double-digit increases.
The fastest growing services were mobile payment, where users shot up 63.4 percent, online banking, with a 56.4 percent rise, and mobile travel booking, which was up 65.4 percent.
But not all internet activity saw growth. Users of microblogs such as Tencent Weibo and that offered by Weibo Corp fell for the second six-month period in a row, by 1.9 percent to 275 million.
They numbered 331 million at the end of June last year before the government in September started clamping down on “online rumours” which it said threatened social stability.
Blockbuster mobile messaging apps such as Tencent’s WeChat have since become venues of choice for users who want to express views without fear of retribution.