Young Americans love Chinese apps

Last month, four of the five top apps in the US were made in China.

Together with

The Future. Apps created by Chinese tech firms are dominating American app store charts, mostly thanks to young people. It’s one of the reasons why banning TikTok is proving such a hot-button issue in the US… and why other Chinese tech companies are trying to distance their apps from their homeland. But looking at why Chinese apps are so successful may give US tech companies clues into how to make their products more sticky.

The Hitmakers
Last month, four of the five top apps in the US were made in China.

  • Temu, an Amazon-like shopping app,was the most downloaded during the first three weeks, driven by cheap products and hauls going viral on TikTok.
  • CapCut, the video-editing companion app to TikTok, was the second-most downloaded.
  • TikTok, despite the threats of getting banned and reaching critical mass in the US, still came in third.
  • SHEIN, which until recently was the most-downloaded shopping app in America (now it’s Temu), is still coming in fourth overall.

And Facebook came in fifth.

Under the algorithm
How have these apps become so addictive? 

  • Chinese tech companies use a massive roster of engineers to constantly fine-tune products — dubbed “embroidery.”
  • They assign multiple teams the same feature or product, but with slight differences, with the best-performing version ultimately getting all the resources — dubbed “horse racing.”

Once apps are fully primed for maximum addiction through constant tweaking among Chinese users, Chinese companies then market them to US users — spending huge sums to do so. Not every app hits, but when they do, they can really hit the zeitgeist.


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