25 Apps to Live Like a Local in China

As a software developer, it’s an absolute treat to learn about how all of these apps have transformed every one’s live in China. After all, China overtook U.S. in iOS app store last year. This makes my coding senses tinkle. I have organized all the apps that I have downloaded for China into six categories:

  1. Finance
  2. Social
  3. Housing
  4. Shopping
  5. Transportation
  6. Food

Of course, there might be a million other apps that are useful in China, but the point here is to have a minimum number of apps to produce the maximum impact when you’re here in China. It was also difficult categorize some of the apps, because now multi function app is trending.

1. Finance Apps

The first app is the app for my bank in China. Since you can pay for everything straight from your mobile phone, it’s a good idea to check your balance on your phone. WeChat payment is also supported essentially everywhere in Shanghai, and it deducts straight from your bank account. Therefore, if you go on a crazy shopping spree, money might feel a little less intangible than cash. Checking your balance will serve as a sanity check. For more info about Alipay and WeChat payment, check out my last post.

2. Social Apps

大众点评(da-zhong-dian-ping) is pretty much Yelp on steroids. Besides the reviews of the local businesses around you, you can also buy movie ticket, book a room for a hotel, reserve for a karaoke session, or even schedule a kickboxing lesson. Not that you would do those activities in that order, but if you do, that’s incredible. You know how to live!

WeChat is a communication/social/payment app. So imagine you just made a new friend in Shanghai and ask for his/her phone number, by the time when you punch in all 11 digits, he/she has already added other 10 people on WeChat then leaves for the after party mentioned on their group chat. Yes, Story of my life. To be cool, don’t ask for number, just pull out your WeChat QR code and say, “Scan me” That’s also how I imagine a jug of milk would say to a cashier too. A jug of milk wouldn’t ask for cashier’s number, why should you?

Weibo — Twitter in China.

Alimail and QQ — As you might know, Google is banned in China. The equivalent search engine in China is Baidu. However, gmail is also tied to Google. Alimail or QQ provide email services if you’re doing business in China and wants to be notified immediately when someone sends you an email. You could redirect your gmail to your new Chinese inbox. Or just give the new email address to a few people you care about, it’s like starting fresh again without spam.

中国移动(zhong-guo-yi-dong) is a mobile service provider’s app. Yea, it’s not really social, but you need cell phone service to be able to connect to anything on phone. This app will help you monitor your data usage, and because you’re not locked into a contract, you can adjust your data plan next month to fit your need.

ExpressVPN — Some of my friends wonder, “Hey, I thought you were in China. How could you be on Facebook?” And I am like, “I rubbed Mark Zuckerberg’s back and gave him a Thai massage, so he hooked me up with an exclusive cable line” Nah, as much as I wish that I have that kind of connection, ExpressVPN literally helped me to connect with the outside world. The reason why I can even write content is largely in thanks to ExpressVPN. So what exactly is ExpressVPN, it takes your current connection to a Virtual Private Network and run it through a server from a different country, which grants the access of internet that you would have in that country. If you’re a tech freak like me and wants to know more how it works, click here

Youkui4Phone — Netflix in China. Mostly Chinese shows. Great way to get in touch with the Chinese culture or learn Chinese.

3. Housing Apps

58同城(58tong-cheng) has real estate property listing and job listing. But be warned, my friends here in Shanghai say that there are several fake listing. And renting a decent place in Shanghai can be quite tricky. I didn’t have much experience with finding a house, because someone took care of that for me. However, I will need to find a new place soon, so more about this in the future.

4. Shopping Apps

Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s shopping time!

Taobao and TienMao or Tmall are both apps that you can essentially buy anything with, and they are usually cheaper than the market price. However, be sure to check the number of reviews, so you know it’s not fake. Yes, there are fake stuff. Fake Nike shoes, fake iPhone, fake everything. But these two apps have taken out the most critical factor of why I hate shopping, it’s “walking with no purpose” I have bought everyday objects like hangers, frying pan, bath towel, etc. You can track every movement of your package on the app. Not to mention every purchase is linked to Alipay, so you only have to wait till the delivery man show up.

5. Transportation Apps

oFo and Mobike are bike sharing app. Bikes are scattered everywhere in the city. All you do is to scan the QR code on the bike with the app and it unlocks, then you can ride it to everywhere except private property. Apparently in the past, people rode the bike to their home and then just kept it. I guess their parents never taught them how to share.

DiDi — Chinese Uber

携程旅行 — All your travel needs. Plane, Train, Hotel on lock.

高德地图 and 百度地图 are both maps in China. Since there’s no Google Map, at first it sounds scary, I can’t go anywhere without Google Map back home. So downloaded both of the most popular map in China to be double sure that I wouldn’t get lost. I like how 高德地图 has a voice assistant that recognize Chinese pronunciation quite accurately, and it’s smart enough to tell me the closest location of whatever I said.

高铁管家 — Book High Speed Rail

8684公交 — Check Bus time

6. Food Apps

美团 is a little similar to 大众点评 mixed with Groupon idea. Get discounts on food, movie, hotel, etc. 饿了么 is my new best friend in Shanghai. It’s a food delivery system. You can find almost any type of food on there, and it will be at your place within 30 minutes after you place the order. Now I can focus on what I am doing without having to leave and get food every time I am hungry. If you prefer to cook yourself, 盒马 is an app that delivery fresh grocery to your door.

To conclude, every person has a powerful device in their hands. It does crypto currency exchange, spread and receive massive loads of information, handles our future accommodation, summons other human beings to move around the city, and food flying straight to your door. And somehow, Shanghainese are not impressed at all. While I am in awe, the next technology that shock Shanghainese will truly be revolutionary.

Hit the 👏 button or share with a friend who’s curious about China.

For more, click below.

Software Freelancer based in Shanghai. Get my free checklist for project management: https://wedevelopment.ck.page/aaa095ff65