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Most useful apps

9 apps that will make your life much easier in China!

Everybody owns a smartphone nowadays, and it is even truer in China, the country with the most connected people in the world. Along the last few years, a great variety of very useful aps in China were developed, some specially designed to ease foreigners’ life in China, others targeting the huge local market. Among those apps, some progressively became unavoidable. From simple dictionaries, daily news, weather forecast to online platforms facilitating commercial exchanges through this vast country, here are 10 apps that will be of great help in China:

1- WeChat (or Weixin in chinese)

With more than 650 million of active users, WeChat is the very first application you have to download in China. It is the most used mobile instant messenger and social network in China, and it is gaining in popularity worldwide. Quite similar to WhatsApp in Western countries, it allows you to send texts and vocal messages, photos and videos, phoning some friends, to make voice or video call, all that for free since you just need Internet. Beside communicating, WeChat can be used as a simplified Facebook, as you can publish pictures, short movies and messages on your “moments” page.

features wechat

2- Waygo: the instant camera translator for Chinese and Japanese

You can speak a few words of Chinese but cannot read Chinese characters yet? This application is made for you: use the camera on your phone to take a picture of a restaurant’s menu for example, and Waygo will instantly translate it from Chinese and Japanese characters into English.
It doesn’t work so well with very stylized Chinese character and calligraphy but does a good work for most of other things. And more importantly: it works offline.

3- Pleco: Chinese dictionary


One of the best offline Chinese/English dictionary app, with 130 000 chinese words and 20 000 sentences in pinyin, English, and Chinese character. A perfect tool for anyone who wish to translate some words, sentences or just wants to learn Chinese.

A basic version is free, a pay-version will include more functions, similar to Waygo.

4- How to learn Chinese Mandarin with LITE

A very easy to use application for anyone in China who does not know Mandarin. A free version will teach you some basics and essential sentences, such as general conversation, greetings, places, directions… This all comes with Chinese pronunciation, pinyin, Chinese characters and the corresponding English. One great advantage is that it works offline.

5- Explore Metro Maps

Another quite smart and practical application. Explore Metro Maps will be very useful if you use metro in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou (and you probably will). This application will help you to find the closest metro stations and plan your itinerary. It will also provide schedules, or some information about prices, and it works off line.

metro map

6- Google Maps

Everybody knows this application which is currently one of the best on the market. It is very useful and usually works pretty well, but in China it will not work without VPN because of censorship. You can try some local map mobile application, however Google is still the best and safest one, so you’d better to figure out how to install a VPN on your mobile.

7- China Air Quality

Air pollution in China is a very serious issue affecting hundreds of millions of people, especially younger ones and seniors. Another efficient way to protect yourself, beside wearing a mask, is to regularly check the Indice Quality of Air (IQA) before going out or engage in any sport activity. Even though some others similar application does exist; China Air Quality is still the best one, and it works in all major cities in China.


8- Dianping (only in Chinese language)

Similar to Yelp!, Dianping offers comments and tips from its users, details, locations for restaurants, pubs, and accommodations all around China. You also can use some of Dianping’s tools to find some very well ranked restaurant in your surroundings, or to subscribe to Groupon Discount.

9- Taobao (only in Chinese language)

Taobao is the biggest e-commerce platform in China, quite certainly in the world as well. You can find everything you want and even more: from clothes, food, to computers and even helicopters…And all that comes with a very efficient delivery system and smaller prices than in most of stores. One down point though is that some products may be fakes or counterfeits, a situation that has a lot improved along the last years but still exists.

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