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List of Most Useful Apps in China

List of Most Useful Apps in China

by Lenny Chen, TBC Chinese Roommate & Marketing Communications Intern

It is often said that all you need to live your life in China is your phone – it provides so many features that indeed it can be the only thing you need besides your keys when you leave your room. In China, your phone is not only your means of communication, but is also your wallet, your subway card, your restaurant and your shopping mall. However, none of these will be available to you if you don’t have the right apps. In this article, we’ll make a list of the most useful apps that will make your life in China a lot easier.

1. WeChat

Of all the apps that you need in China, WeChat definitely deserves a place on the top of the list. It is not only the means of communication between friends and family, but many companies have started using WeChat for professional communication channel as well, especially companies with more young people who typically find it a pain to send emails. WeChat also acts as your virtual wallet, as almost all stores and restaurants in China, even the street vendors not only accept but actually prefer to receive payments through WeChat Pay or Alipay. It also acts as a platform that other apps and run on through WeChat mini programs, so that you can order takeout, call a taxi, go online shopping or even rent apartments all in one app.


2. Taobao/Alipay

As the largest e-commerce company in China, Taobao offers a plethora of options for anything you want to buy from clothes, electronics to those ingenious little gadgets you didn’t think would exist. Shipping is fast in China and you can receive what you order typically within three days. Taobao only works with Alipay, which is another payment service widely accepted in China, provided by Taobao’s parent company Alibaba group.

3. Baidu Maps

For people like me who are completely useless when it comes to directions, Baidu Maps has a feature called Real View Navigation which allows you to point the camera onto to the road and it’ll tell you which direction to go – you don’t even need to be able to read the map.


4. Meituan/Eleme

These are the two most popular takeout platforms and offer a myriad of choices when you don’t feel like leaving the room for food or have just gotten tired of the restaurants near campus. Food will arrive typically within 20 minutes to an hour depending on how far the restaurant is and you can track where your food is as it’s being delivered real-time on the map to more efficiently plan your time before the food arrives.

Eleme app interface

5. Ofo

Ofo is a company that offers bike-sharing services at a very low price. Ofos are ubiquitous in China and they are great when you are running late for class or don’t feel up to the ten-minute walk from the

subway station to campus after a long day out. During promotion period, you can pay as little as 10 kuai (less than two dollars) and take as many bike trips as possible for 3 months.


6. QQ/Netease music

Mainstream music streaming services in the US are not always available in China (you need a VPN to login to Spotify but don’t need a VPN to listen to music, and SoundCloud needs a VPN to work) so it’ll be good to know that there are alternatives if your usually music provider does not work in China. QQ and Netease music provide access to most songs and music videos that are available for download free of charge.

NetEase Music