Christmas apps on a smartphone. They provide services like sale of presents and Santa Claus-themed decorations.[Provided to China Daily]
Decking out your smartphone for Christmas has opened up another niche market for mobile app designers hoping to cash in on a Santa-style windfall.
There are more than 4,000 special festive games and intricate Yuletide-inspired screen wallpaper on Apple Inc's iOS app store and Google's Andriod system.
Most can be downloaded for free, with banner ads generating the revenue, but others you need to buy.
"The application market is now highly competitive in China," Tang Xin, senior researcher at Beijing-based market consultancy iResearch Consulting Group, said.
"We can say that the market has now become a 'Red Ocean' of competition. A number of apps has sprung up, while users have become more mature."
One of the most popular seasonal apps is Toca Hair Salon－Christmas Gift from Swedish game development studio Toca Boca AB.
The online app targets children under the age of 5, and allows users to decorate and color a Christmas tree or Santa Claus.
While the app is free, the company makes money from linked banner ads, although Toca Boca has yet to release detailed download figures. But it did reveal that it "celebrated 100 million downloads in mid-September for apps for children".
Zhang Yuling, 35, a sales manager of a multinational luxury company, installed Toca Hair Salon for her 3-year-old daughter on an iPad.
"It is good to let children develop their own appreciation of what Santa Claus should look like," she said. "It has some nice sound effects, which can retain a child's attention for a long time."
The majority of Chinese independent app developers specialize in screen wallpaper.
One of the most fashionable brands is produced by IndieBros Studio, a small company run by two brothers Wang Ke and Zhang Yan.
The firm's Yuletide app, which is also free but linked to banner ads, allows users to download a Christmas tree on iOS system devices, such as iPads and iPhones, and deck it out with festive decorations.
Zhang Yan, designer and co-founder of IndieBros, pointed out that the company's apps attracted 4 million downloads in the first eight months after the site was rolled out in 2011.
"Now, our screen wallpaper apps, which the studio is best known for, has more than 250,000 paid users all over the world," Zhang said, adding that the company managed to make 2 million yuan ($312,600) profit in the past 18 months.
One of IndieBros regular customers is Xia Nan, a public relations specialist in Guangzhou. To get into the holiday mood, she has just downloaded the latest Christmas app.
"I have already tried the one from IndieBros to test its features," Xia said. "Since my apartment is too small to put in a real Christmas tree, to have one as wallpaper on my smartphone is the next best thing."
According to figures released from Apple in October, there were more than one million Chinese developers working on iOS apps this year compared to just 500,000 during the same period in 2014.
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