Whether you are a first time traveller in China or a seasoned expat, apps for your smartphones are life savers. Below is a list of useful apps that will help you with your everyday life in China.
1. WeChat (known as Weixin in China)
This Chinese developed app has become one of the world’s most popular mobile messaging and social networking platform. Send text, voice messages, photos, and make phone and video call to friends no matter where they are, for free (it only require you to be connected to internet). The user has a profile and can post status and share photos and links on their “moments” timeline, through a feature similar to Instagram and Facebook. WeChat has over 300 million users so if you live in China, don’t be surprise if your newfound Chinese friend ask you for your WeChat ID instead of your phone number.
2. Waygo Visual Translator
Waygo is an app that instantly translates Chinese menu and signs into English just by hovering a smartphone camera over it. Now the app doesn’t know every single dishes or characters but it does a good job translating most of the dishes you can find in the Chinese menu. And the best part, it works offline!
3. Hello Talk
Looking for partener to practise Chinese, still shy to use it face-to-face or simply looking for friends in China or all over the world? Here is app for you. Hello talk is easy to use application, where you can communicate with locals, translate, use pinyin or characters, and whats more exchange your culture through casual talk.
Language: Depends on your phone language (auto) or choose in options.
4. Pleco Chinese Dictionary
This is one of the top Chinese/English dictionary app that covers 130,000 Chinese words and includes 20,000 example sentences with pinyin. It is perfect for those who want to learn Chinese but also for tourists who need to translate words or phrase from English to Chinese. The additional paid add-ons add more dictionaries, handwriting input, flashcard system and optical character recognizer (similar function as Waygo app).
5. Learn Chinese Mandarin Phrases
This app is very easy to use and it is perfect for travelers in China and for those who are interested in learning Chinese Mandarin. The LITE version (free) contains over 300 essential phrases; include greetings, general conversation, directions and places etc. To make your practice more easier, this app provides Chinese Mandarin pronunciation, pinyin, Chinese characters and English translation. No internet connection is required.
6. Explore Metro Maps
For those who are living in one of the bigger cities in China like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, the Explore Metro Maps app is an essential subway app. You can search station, plan your route and get the time and price information – very easy to use, up to date and it works offline.
Price: US$1.99 on iTunes, free on Google Play
7. Google maps
Don’t think this app need any further introduction. If you don’t have this app already, download it now. This app will help you to explore new places and navigate through one of the biggest country in the world. Getting hopelessly lost during your travel in China can now be a thing of the past.
8. China Daily News
Keep up with the daily local news with this official English language Chinese newspaper app. China Daily News app brings you the latest and essential stories in China, world, business, sports, life and culture etc.
9. Air Quality China
Air pollution has become a serious problem in China. This Air Quality China app help you to check real time Air Quality Index (AQI) values of all major cities in China.
For those who also knows Chinese...
This app offers you a similar service to Yelp! providing you with a range of reviews, descriptions and locations of restaurants, bars, accommodation around China. Dianping also has a feature that show highly rate restaurant around your current location.
If you live in China you have probably heard of Taobao, one of the largest marketplaces in the world. You can buy anything and everything, from clothes and food to computer, pets and even real helicopters. The best part is that is normally cheaper than in the stores and you will have it shipped straight to your door, sometimes even on the same day you ordered it! Not a very useful app for traveller but a godsend for expats in China.