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A day in the life of a Chinese app addict

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

In 2014, Chinese smartphone users downloaded a whopping 185 billion apps, 59% of all downloads worldwide—and that number is only expected to increase this year, thanks to China’s over half a billion (and growing) smartphone users. China surpassed the US this year to become the biggest downloader of iOS apps in the world, according to a report from App Annie (registration required), and while Google is blocked in China, several homegrown Android app stores have sprung up to cater to Chinese customers.

All this downloading means Chinese consumers, and especially the younger ones, are spending huge amounts of their day interacting with apps. Currently, gaming apps remain the most popular app category in China but shopping, video-streaming, and image-and-video apps for social media are catching up quickly. Quartz asked Vivi Chen, a 31-year-old resident of Chongqing, a city in China’s southwest, to detail a typical day’s worth of app usage:

8am: ”Bip!” I was woken up by my phone in the morning; it wasn’t an alarm but a message from Sposter! My deliveries had arrived! It’s OK, I will sleep longer and collect them later.

Two hours later I went downstairs to the Sposter lockers, turned on the Sposter app to get the package codes, entered them into the lockers’ computer screen and “bang,” one of the locker doors opens. Wheeeeeeeee…! Thanks to Sposter I don’t have to run to meet the delivery guy to collect my parcels whenever they call me. Instead, when deliveries arrive the guy just needs to put them in the Sposter lockers and I receive a message telling me they’re there; I can go to collect them downstairs from my house any time in the next 48 hours!

Quartz/Vivi Chen
“Sposter” delivery boxes.
Quartz/Vivi Chen
Enter the code sent via an app to unlock your delivered goods.

Seven parcels arrived today, all ordered from Jingdong ( a few days earlier. I recently discovered that Jingdong offers a credit service called Baitiao; they gave me 4,500 yuan ($706) in credit that I can spend on whatever I want, and I can repay my bill interest-free any time within 30 days. Or I can spread the payments over anything up to 24 months. F-cking amazing.

With all that credit, I could not help but order stuff from Jingdong; I started ordering a ton of household items, and ended up spending 1,626 yuan. I’ve been short on cash lately so I opted to repay my bill in monthly instalments, which worked out at around 140 yuan per month for the next 12 months. God damn it, the interest (around 60 yuan) is so low I decided not to buy anything with my bank’s credit cards anymore!

10:30am: Back in my apartment, I tear open all the packages with power and happiness. I install everything around the house and I feel so satisfied.

Next, I open the Jingdong app, click on today’s orders and confirm their receipt. I go back to the Jingdong app’s home page and there are so many offers I start to look around, wondering what I should order next… I should stop doing that; every time I do, I spend at least three hours on the app looking around at the stuff I want, comparing prices, and looking again and again. I think I am addicted to these apps, I even ordered plants from them! God, I am so happy they are still alive!

Noon: A friend messaged me on WeChat to ask if I can help him get involved with the restaurant industry. Actually he wants to build up the Alipay payment service in Chongqing, and hopes to specialize by joining the service to restaurants and bars in the city. I told him that I thought that was a good idea. I remembered the last time I was in a supermarket, I noticed some people using Alipay to buy their groceries.

At the checkout they would open their Alipay app, show the staff their QR code, and let the staff scan it. The money from their Alipay account would transfer directly to the supermarket. I told my friend the restaurant and bar market really needs this kind of service, and arranged to meet later to talk about it. We will meet at Baker Street, a new restaurant that has been open for only a few weeks. I chose Baker Street as I told my friend they might be interested in cooperating, but that he also needs to buy me lunch :).

While I’m getting ready to meet my friend I turn on my Uber app and look for a car. Lucky! There’s one just outside my apartment.

2pm: Twenty minutes later I’m in downtown Chongqing, at the restaurant. “Bip!” I get a bill from Uber, only seven yuan!!! (That’s about $1.10) So cheappppppppppp. Uber gave me 10 yuan credit as I failed to find a car last time. Normally, a taxi for the same journey costs about 25 yuan, but if I take an Uber it’s about 16 yuan. Today, it only cost seven yuan! Wow. After using Uber for the first time I decided never to take a taxi again!

Quartz/Vivi Chen
Selfie in an Uber car in Chongqing.

2:30pm: My friend arrived at Baker Street and I asked the restaurant’s managers to join us. They agreed that the food and beverage market will begin to use Alipay more and more; when people go out they won’t even need to bring their wallet, they can soon ask for a car and pay for stuff in town just with their phones. Such an arrangement would be more convenient for restaurants too, and it would allow them to avoid fake money issues.

The meeting goes well. My friend got what he wanted, as Baker Street agreed to install an Alipay system. Mission completed.

Quartz/Vivi Chen
Uber in Chongqing.

I travel back home—by Uber, of course.

6pm: By now it’s dinner time but there’s no food in the fridge… Hungry. I want some KFC, but I don’t want to go out. I check my phone. KFC does not have a delivery service! WTF! So I go on Taobao, type in “KFC delivery,” and check the results. Hahahaha…. There is a KFC family set menu on there, for 80 yuan plus 25 yuan delivery. Basically, some people have just set up the service on Taobao, so that if you want to get something and are too lazy to go, they will do it for you! Just need to pay them some money for the service. Great! Thirty minutes later, a guy showed up at my door with KFC.

7pm: Full. Mmmm, but it would be better if there were some sweets or desserts here. Ok, I decide I’ll go out myself and just get an ice cream at the shop. I grabbed a Magnum chocolate ice cream and am about to pay the bill… Shit, i forgot my wallet. I spotted another guy in the shop and walked over to him. “Hi, can I transfer some money from my Alipay or WeChat wallet, as I just want an ice cream, but I forgot to bring my cash?” I look at him with my puppy-dog eyes… “OK!” Thanks a lot. Lol, that was really not expected. I guess my puppy-dog eyes helped.

Back home with my ice cream I chat with my friend on WeChat. I tell him that if he receives hongbao that he shouldn’t share the cash with others, as you can use the money to pay your phone bill, utilities, and for shopping on Jingdong. That’s why I started using Jingdong in the first place. Speak of the devil, I receive a message from Jingdong saying my next orders have been shipped…

Then I get a message from a friend, asking me if he can find an apartment to rent in Jiefangbei (downtown Chongqing), for around 1,500 yuan. I tell him to download the Ganji app! You can find anything!

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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