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Best of 2015 from the Apple App Store China

Apple launched its Best of 2015 last week. We’re excited to see rising exceptional Chinese developers with more impressive work on Apple’s list this year.

Based on Apple’s Best of 2015 and the 10 Popular Categories lists, AllChinaTech selects 10 outstanding iOS applications for our recommendations this year. These apps are not only user-friendly but also have a unique product philosophy, which reflects the idea that the advance of technology isn’t only about technology per se, but also about culture and humanity.

Check out these exceptional apps and their outstanding Chinese developers.

The Palace Museum Daily 

Developer: The Palace Museum

The Palace Museum Daily pushes one antique item to a user’s smartphone every day with a brief exhibit. It is also part of China’s biggest museum’s digitalization transition.

The Palace Museum launched several other apps this year for public education purposes. Enjoying all the carefully-curated Chinese antiques in a neatly designed presentation is an unparalleled experience for many average users. It’s an applaudable step for the Palace Museum bringing the country’s cultural legacy to the public in a novel way.


Developer: Liu Yang

Ci was an ancient Chinese poetry style popular during China’s Song dynasty. This well-designed app with the same name is both a collection of classic Ci from Chinese literature and a reference tool for the complicated metre and rhyming schemes for Song Ci.

This app was designed independently by young female developer Liu Yang. As a practice work for the developer, the app has surprisingly received much attention this year. The popularity of the app shows Chinese traditional culture is still celebrated by users in the digital age.

Chinese University MOOC

Developer: iCourse & NetEase

Riding the global MOOC trend, iCourse and NetEase co-launched this Chinese University MOOC platform with support from China’s Ministry of Education. With resources from both NetEase and the state, the platform already has over six million users according to its official website.

In a country with a huge shortage of educational resources, the tailored Chinese online education platform is a blessing to Chinese students. Considering the constant smog alerts in Northern China, MOOCs and online education may become an even bigger hit in the coming year.


Developer: Keep

Healthcare-related products are becoming more popular in China as people have become aware of personal health over the past couple of years. The team of Keep has latched on to the trend launching this fitness app for training tutorials and an online community. It has developed short indoor training plans with short coaching clips for busy modern citizens and has gone viral among fitness fans.

Though the team of Keep is pretty young with an average age of 25, Keep managed to acquire ten million users within a year completing a USD ten million B-series financing in July, demonstrating the power of youth.


Developer: Ying Wang

iCalorie represents another type of fitness app which has caught fire in China this year. It is a calorie calculator tracking daily calorie intake and consumption. What separates iCalorie from other calculators is that it shows users how much exercise one needs to do after consumption, which has a tendency to induce guilt among users. It also visualizes how much you gain or lose in comparison with animals as a motive.

Unlike many similar calorie calculation tools in China right now, iCalorie has no e-commerce channel and no social function, but sometimes simplicity is all a user needs.


Developer: Beijing Legend Zest Advertisement

Though Chinese users are more concerned with their health nowadays, food-related apps still can attract eyes easily. As we introduced earlier, Flavours is an app that offers top chef tutorials and recipes. It became one of the most popular apps in the cuisine category this year and is the only one developed by a Chinese team.

The majority of team members at Flavours have experience working at cuisine magazines. With a strong editorial team, Flavours is proof of what a content-driven and PGC-based platform can achieve in China.

Butter Camera

Developer: Muke Inc.

Asians are known for their obsession with food porn. Butter Camera is exactly the tool to help a user create some. The app was originally designed for editing photos of food with pre-loaded filters, fonts and icons. With all the tools embedded in the app, creating a professional food photo becomes easy for anyone.

Now, Butter Camera is more of an Instagram-like photo-sharing community. It has also launched a new function Ding! that enables users to copy the editing work of others with one single click. Will Butter Camera become the Instagram of China? This will be an app to watch in 2016.



In comparison with Butter Camera, Polarr is for professionals. Developed by two Chinese students at Stanford University, it’s now one of the most powerful photo-editing apps on a smartphone. Polarr enables users to edit the brightness, contrast, saturation and even curve of a photo.

Sophiscated photo-editing on smartphones is still too much trouble considering the limited screen space and tricky finger-tip operations. But with the trend of big-screen smartphones, photo-editing with mobile applications like Polarr may become a trend even for professionals.

QYer Trip Planner


The best photos are always taken during a trip. So after having all the good photo-editing apps, QYer Trip Planner should be the next on your wish list.

QYer, the Tripadvisor-like website, built a trip planner that can automatically draft a trip plan for you based on the millions of user-generated trip guides available in its database. Users can make tailored adjustments according to personal preference, saving you the headache of reading all those various trip guides online.

QYer received investment from Alibaba in 2013 and may further collaborate with Alibaba’s travelling platform in the coming year. The flow of capital also gives more space for imagining the possible evolution of this already outstanding app.


Developer: Chen Hongqu

Grow is the only game on this list. Designed by independent game developer Chen Hongqu, Grow also won the IndiePlay China Independent Game Award of 2015. The game simulates the process of a seed growing out of the ground. Players need to guide the bud to avoid all the negative materials underground and finally reach the world above ground to grow into a tree.

The game is also a metaphor for people’s life paths: one has to face all the hardships in the darkness to reach the light. The design and philosophy of Grow remind people of another celebrated game Monument. Though both the design and game mechanisms are simple, Grow still gives encouraging signals by showing the potential of Chinese independent game developers.

Read our 2015 series on Top 5 O2O startups, Top 5 tech mergers, Top 6 tech founders and Top 5 smartphones.

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