China is so far ahead at mobile – and it’s time for the US to catch up.

Chinese Mobile Users

The first app that most people download when they get to China for the first time is WeChat. Begun as a social messaging app, WeChat has since grown into a mobile platform behemoth that combines social media, online finance, e-commerce, and news and entertainment into one simple app.

WeChat is just one example of the mobile revolution that has swept through China. In China, nearly everything can now be done on a smartphone, which have become steadily more affordable. That’s the biggest difference between the US and China, people will joke in China. Here, everything is done through mobile.

Because of China’s dominance in mobile programming and the strong mobile buy-in among Chinese users, more and more foreign ad tech companies are trying to enter the Chinese market. They are here to help Chinese apps go global but also to monetize user acquisition and overseas traffic.

Mobile will be the single largest driver of advertising growth and the creation of digital content in the next decade. In China alone, there are already 574 million smartphones users. Within the next two short years, that user base is expected to grow to 704 million. Last year 2015 was the first time a Chinese user spent more time on mobile than desktop.

Mobile’s easy portability, and its versatile interface has pushed it far beyond the capabilities and scope of desktop. Because of its ubiquity, mobile has a much higher penetration into the daily lives of its users than desktop. This opens up a huge wealth of new business models and services that rely on constant presence and interaction, such as in-demand models.

Mobile also revolutionizes the way advertisers and companies can deliver content to eyeballs. We now spend much more than ever looking at a digital screen, opening up a world of possibilities for delivering content (and soon creating content) through mobile. As a result, more and more investment is going into mobile ad tech. According to eMarketer spending on mobile programming will double in 2017 to 7 billion. This represents 68% of total online ad spend, while mobile video is set to grow 77% to 3 billion this year.

This trend is not just limited to China. It’s happening globally. World smartphone usage will grow by leaps and bounds in the next few years. Currently, there are 2.1 billion smartphone subscriptions in the world. By 2020 — four years from now — that number is expected to shoot to 6.1 billion users. Much of that growth will happen in the developing world, not just in China but in India (another smartphone-reliant society,) Asia (excluding India and China,) and Africa. Economically still developing, these markets are just starting to come into their own. They were previously ignored by technology developers and ad tech companies, who tailored their products to an English-speaking or European countries. Now, they are the areas of highest growth potential.

That mean huge opportunities for mobile-driven content and ads. Native content — advertisements that are embedded in original content or itself is informative and interesting enough stand alone — will be particularly strong area of growth. The next wave of innovation in marketing and advertising will come from pioneering different methods to deliver native content and eventually, allowing smartphone users to participate in content creation themselves right from their smartphone.

That’s why Stepes intentionally is a mobile-centric translation platform. The world is quickly and inevitably switching to mobile as the most dominant medium for interacting with the world and the people around us. Service delivery is not only faster but also higher quality as mobile services can scale up to meet much higher demand volumes with minimum cost.

Because 70% of the world’s digital content is already being created for mobile, translating on mobile itself is a natural next step. As more ad spend and more ad tech is specifically geared towards mobile (and towards exponentially growing audiences in China, Africa, India, and the APAC countries), localization on and for mobile will become increasingly important.