What I learned about app development from Hong Kong

During July 2014, I were on holiday to Hong Kong for a wedding.  While staying in Hong Kong it actually gave me a good insight into the people there and their uses for technology.  From what I have learned, I hope to use this information to create apps that will appeal even better to the eastern audiences.

Technology

Hong Kong has a lot of free Wi-Fi access in hotels but access to normal 3G network is what is truly brilliant.  You are able to get onto the internet from pretty much anywhere in the city, even on their underground system called MTR!

London has been trialling this on specific underground lines for  a while but the network is extremely slow and, as far as I’m aware, is still only available on the Vodafone network.  Because of this constant connection to the internet people are always on their phones, not much communication is made between people other than when getting off.

So as everyone was on their phones all the time I could see that the majority of devices sold to those in Hong Kong was undoubtedly Samsung devices.  And, unlike those in Western society  who prefer smaller devices for phones, I saw a great many people using Samsung Note’s, and Galaxy S4 and 5′.  It’s seems that the bigger device is favoured over there.  I personally didn’t see anyone with anything smaller than a Galaxy S3.  I’ve recently been able to upgrade my phone so I’ve been researching the best model to next dedicate the next two years of my life to.  I narrowed it down to the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (as a Z2 Compact doesn’t exist currently).  So I looked in various shops to test out my chosen device and was shocked that not only did the majority of shops not sell it but the guys in there tried to change my mind to getting a phone with a bigger screen!  They couldn’t make me change my mind.

So with Samsung being the dominant device that means that Android is the dominant operating system in this part of the world and not iOS as in the western part.  Very interesting.  And with everyone using bigger devices this means that the games and apps developed, appealing and being interacted with by eastern people can contain more details and features as you have more screen real estate to play with.

Games and Apps

So what was everyone doing on their phones?  I really tried not to gaze over too many shoulders as I don’t speak a word of the language and making someone annoyed with me in a cramped space in very, very hot conditions didn’t appeal to me.  Luckily, because the screens are so big I didn’t need to lean over so far.  Most people where on WhatsApp, Facebook, a messaging system that took Cantonese characters or on small short pick-up-and-put-down games like Candy Crush Saga.

Every app interacted with was bright and colourful.  This theme continued within advertisements on TVs (for example they often showed a card/sticker collecting game on TV) and games posters.   What I gathered was that because everyone is always connected, sharing mechanics in games and apps are vital to marketing your product and a necessary feature if you are targeting these audiences.   You took part in the card/sticker collecting game by watching certain TV programs and when a QR code appeared you would scan it to obtain an in-app item.   The graphics on this were also bright, playful and cartoon-like.

Anime was very prevalent in Hong Kong.  Comics and magazines sold in markets, tourists areas and general very busy places usually depicted anime characters and shows.

Lifestyle

Other than land, the cost of living is very cheap out there.  So when pricing your app I would recommend that you should aim to sell either at a very cheap price or simply make it free making money from in-app purchases and incentivised ads.  This will make your app easy for the audience to get into and if the in-app items are priced well, will be a cheap hobby for eastern society’s to maintain.  For example, if you had a card collecting game you could give the player free cards obtained via things that people do everyday i.e. MTR rides so that every station contained a different QR code and will provide the player with a new card at each station.

Hong Kong was a great place to visit and this has given me a lot of first hand experience about developing apps for eastern cultures that you could learn via reading but why not go on a holiday if you can at the same time 😉