Market Data

State of Mobile 2023: Focus on China, Korea and Japan

Lexi Sydow

Whether you would describe 2022 as the first post-pandemic year (or not), we can all agree it was a year tested by challenging global macroeconomic pressures. Let’s see how those pressures played out in North Asia’s leading mobile markets.

Key findings of this analysis:

  • China remained the world’s most valuable market in terms of consumer spend at $58.1 billion
  • South Korea led the region in average daily time spent in apps at 5 hours
  • Japan saw the largest increase in daily time spent and was up 60 minutes over 2019

The app market was a mixed picture across North Asia — China, Japan and South Korea — in 2022. As revealed in’s State of Mobile 2023 report, China remained the world’s most valuable market in terms of consumer spend. 

China also bucked the downward trend in global app spending. App users there actually increased their spending from $56.7 billion to $58.1 billion in 2022, ahead of the United States at #2.

Japan came in third – although its collective spending slipped from $20.7 billion to $17.8 billion in 2022. Despite the decline, the total is impressive at more than 4x those of the United Kingdom and Germany.

The likely driver here is the country’s passion – and its willingness to spend money on – mobile games and digital manga.

South Korea is a similar market in this respect. This might explain why it is the world’s fourth-largest region in terms of consumer spending. Like Japan, its total fell year-over-year (from $6.6 billion to $6.3 billion), but it remained nearly double the size of the world’s #5 market (the U.K. at $3.8 billion).

China, Japan and South Korea: App Downloads

If 2022 was a year in which macroeconomic factors squeezed spending in apps, there’s plenty of evidence that consumer interest in the medium is still on the rise.

Global downloads grew an impressive 11% YoY in 2022. And the overwhelmingly dominant force in this area was China. Last year, Chinese consumers downloaded a remarkable 111.1 billion apps across iOS and third-party Android stores, up from 98.3 billion in 2021.

It’s a vast number and more than 4x the total of the world’s second most active market, India, at 28.9 billion. 

Japan’s download total went in the other direction. Its total slipped from 2.56 billion in 2021 to 2.4 billion last year. However, it is important to note that there is still a strong appetite for new mobile services — shown in the high levels of annual downloads, despite maturity in the market.

It’s noticeable that South Korea does not appear in the top 20 markets by this measure.

China, Japan and South Korea: Time Spent in Apps

Despite the slight contraction of in-app spending across 2022, the amount of time consumers spent in apps globally continued to rise.

Last year, the average daily time spent in apps per user across the top 10 markets analyzed reached 5 hours and 2 minutes on Android phones.

The North Asia regions indeed followed this time spent pattern. In fact, they were among its most impressive performers.

Japan was one of the few areas to show a marked boost. The average time spent in apps hit 4.8 hours a day. This was up over 2021, and it represents a rise of more than 60 minutes over the pre-pandemic figure of 3.7 hours for 2019.

Meanwhile, South Korea stabilized at 5 hours (it is one of just five countries to have passed this milestone), while China increased its time spent from 3.2 hours to 3.6 hours year-over-year. This represents a modest gain, but China remains – curiously – the lowest of all mobile-first markets by this measure. 

This may be due, at least in part, to mounting restrictions placed on mobile gamers under the age of 18, who are now limited to just three hours of play time per week (known as the “3-hour rule”). It is also important to note that this is based on Android phones operating off Third Party Android Stores in China, whereas usage data for other markets is based on apps available on the Google Play store, which could partially contribute to differences in consumer usage patterns.

A Region That Remains Resolute Against Headwinds

The three regions of North Asia wield considerable influence on the global app space. China is its biggest market by value, while Japan and South Korea have historically shaped many of its key trends – notably in gaming and digital manga. So it’s worth noting how these countries fared in a year that saw the first global decline in spending while still maintaining growth in downloads and time spent.

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February 10, 2023

Market Data

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