The Android Market is currently blocked in China, presumably by the Great Firewall. It may be temporary (there have been earlier blocks), but we tested it with different devices the result is always the same: connection expired. Blocks in China always come without any official public notification.

When Google Maps updated to 4.70 for Android it was blocked too. The last time I checked Gmail on my phone, that was blocked too. Google faces a severe deficit of trust with the Chinese government.

But fear not, China’s local app stores have you covered! While the rest of the world relies on Android Market, most Chinese Android users have a number of local markets and online forums to download their apps, including cracked versions with the best price tag of all: free.

Android phones sold through official channels are never equipped with Google’s Android Market. The norm is either a China Unicom Market or China Mobile, whose middling offerings leave a huge market gap for the local startups to provide downloads for apps.

Here’s a sampling of the alternative offerings in that space:

Wandoujia (豌豆夹)

Wandoujia, an Innovation Works startup, is a mobile apps manager that bills itself as “iTunes for Android.” It’s PC desktop client that hosts most of the most popular app stores in China–the local ones that is, the Android Market is not included.

It provides an app search across all of the markets it supports. Anytime one of them has an update for your app, it will also update for you.

Apart from apps, you can also backup your phone’s contacts, messages and even the apps installed for future system reinstalls.

Tencent, China’s largest cloner, also recently launched an Android app manager that challenges Wandoujia.

GFan Forum (机锋网)

GFan is an online forum. Internet forums were once completely dominant and are still an important form of online social networking in China. Users share millions of contents, including attachments, product info, etc.

GFan is an Android-specific forum. The site’s categories are divided by Android phone models, with an independent area for downloads. Piracy runs wild.

GFan also provides a mobile client for its forum with a search feature that allows you to search for app attachments shared by other users.

MIUI.com

This is another online forum, by Xiaomi, that provides downloads for the latest MIUI OS and also user-shared apps. The forum runs on a point system where each download requires certain number of points (usually one). To earn points, all you have to do is interact in the forum, so it’s pretty much free anyway.

There is no point going through all of the local Android markets because there still isn’t much differentiation. But there are couple notable ones for you to check out:

AppChina, Ndoo Market, and HiAPK.

And HTC Android phones come pre-installed with their own HTC Market. Every manufacturer wants a piece of the action.

So I wouldn’t be worried that with the Android Market banned from China users in this country will miss out on the top apps. But Google should worry about missing out on the lucrative business of selling apps, especially as most of the local markets provide pirated version of paid apps.

But this is a long standing problem and challenge for any software publisher or provider to tackle in China: for now, piracy still rules the sea of China.

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  • http://twitter.com/BlockedInChina BlockedInChina

    Andriod Market sure is blocked in China!  You can test for yourself at http://www.blockedinchina.net/?siteurl=market.android.com

  • Eevvkk

    not only Android Market, but also mobile Gmail and Google maps stopped work for me day before yesterday.

  • Eevvkk

    what a second. If it would be blocked on Great Firewall level, it wouldn’t be accessible on Web too, however it is. Maybe something wrong on Google side? They like to link accounts and settings to SIM cards, which is really annoying.  

  • SysOp

    Until Oct-01 when I acessed it the last time, it was not blocked, at least not in Shenyang. What is true though is that there are tieout problems. But that is true for many websites as all traffic has to pass the Golden Shield, and those machines may have problems to cope with the ever increasing network load. Also, timeout and related problems differ from operator to operator. Try to access it by WLAN from home at non-peak hours (aka morning), then it might work well.

  • ger

    It’s not blocked though. I can access market.android.com from my browser. And I can even get it to push apps to my phone using the install feature (and they download successfully). The only thing that doesn’t work is the market app.

    • Ojo

      Can you tell me how you managed to do this, as I am having trouble getting ANY apps onto my phone

  • David Gagnon

    Wow, that is really great advice indeed… Telling people to go and download their apps from these local Chinese app stores, which are FAMOUS for their propagation of malware, trojans through their free and pirated apps.

    What is it with people in China finding it absolutely normal and acceptable to pirate absolutely everything? Has it ever occured to you people that if you actually PAID good money for the apps you like and enjoy, that you might actually be encouraging developers to maintain and continue making more great apps like that? If you encourage people to go and download pirate stuff, you’re doing much more harm to Android than good. Don’t be surprised afterwards if nobody wants to make apps for Android anymore, you’ve been part of the problem thank you.

    So thanks a lot for your advice, but no thanks, I’d much rather find other ways through SSH tunnels or VPNs to keep my access to the REAL Android Market, which is clean from viruses, and I don’t actually mind PAYING for the great apps and games I want to enjoy.

    Btw, if you really don’t want to bother paying money for your software, that’s also fine, there’s a whole lot of great free and open source software out there. I absolutely blows my mind that most people in China insist on running crappy pirated versions of Windows XP when you could actually enjoy MUCH BETTER software such as Linux/Ubuntu, for absolutely free.

    • Taikongren

      Wow, what is it with people in the West finding it absolutely normal and acceptable to so carelessly throw out generalizations and judgements without understanding?

      True piracy is a problem in China. And Chinese people are aware of the problem and recognize it as a problem. And Chinese people an afford many of the low-cost Android apps. But if the market is blocked, why shouldn’t they go to a local alternative (which is more localized for Chinese people than the app market anyway)?

      Yes…why don’t all Chinese people get vpn in order to get un-blocked internet? Well, for starters, you need a custom rooted ROM on your phone…which most Andoid phones have anyway because they are purchased on the grey market…because the account is tied to a SIM card. And Androidd tablets, VPN won’t unblock the market… you have to delete your account and re-sign on, as well as reset all Google app data before Google’s servers will recognize your devise as being in the USA. So… if Google is interested in preventing the growth of “grey markets”, they probably should address this issue.

      • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

        The ‘issue’ here is that Aliyun and BaiduOS (?) are now ready for primetime. Fittingly they’re Android forks (ha!), and the money has been wired to Beijing, so the Government has decided its time to stamp out Google in China.

        Congrats to Alibaba and Baidu for… um.. slaying the round-eyed dragon…Really inspiring guys

        • El Cid

          Which is only fair considering that Google took Linux and Java and created Android from there. Lol

    • Tommy

      yeah unfortunately some of us who actually live in china have to “get real” and just go along with what we can get – we have to crack this, pirate that and literally jump through fire walls just to get on facebook – get over here and live for a while and see how long it takes before you embrace it!

    • El Cid

      Confucius says: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”

      It calls for dropping the inner mask through which we constantly see and evaluate the world, distorted by our wants and belief-systems. Here we have to look at things as they are. Just like a newborn child would look at things. Then we are able to really see again, without instant labeling of what we see and therefore only really seeing our label. If we become able to do this – just for a second without judgment, we can see that everything in nature is as it should be. And in this natural perfection lies beauty.

  • Nick

    i did reset my phone 10 times until found this information by luck

  • Anon

    Google, Gmail, and Android Market are not blocked, but are extremely slow to load in China. I think this might be why the Market App has been throwing out the “Connection Timed Out” error. Hopefully everything will be better again at the end of the month, when the silly Poliburo meetings are over in Beijing.

  • Openidtest Openidtest

    You guys don’t get it.

  • sgii

    the android market is not BLOCKed in terms of IP if u access it by browser. When you buy a phone in china which has the manufacture rom you will not have the android market, and to obtain the apk for it would not work either. you have to root your phone and change factory localization and sorts to access android market. 

  • Mattlove23

    Can’t you just use a VPN?