This Google app isn't banned in China -- and it has plenty of users
Google pulled its search engine from mainland China in 2010 after fears over censorship. Since then, services like Gmail and YouTube have been blocked by Chinese authorities.
But last March, one app made a quiet comeback -- and it’s been quickly gaining ground, according to a new report.
Google Translate saw nearly 1.8 million downloads in China’s App Store last quarter -- more than double the number a year ago, according to Chinese site 36kr citing statistics from US research firm Sensor Tower.
Data shows it topped the store’s “References” category among iPhone apps for weeks from January to March, beating popular rival Baidu Translate. It’s currently rated 4.7 out of 5 by iOS users.
Many Google apps are available for download in China’s App Store -- but only a few can be used without a VPN (virtual private network). Google Translate is one of them.
And there’s another breakout Google product you might not expect: Snapseed. The photo editing app reportedly had around 1.68 million App Store downloads in China last quarter.
While apps like Google Photos and Google Cloud need access to Google’s servers to run, Snapseed’s editing tools can function offline. That means it can be used without bypassing China’s firewall. On the Chinese microblog Weibo, Snapseed users are often seen sharing photos and tutorials.
In December, Google picked Beijing as the location of its first AI research center in Asia -- fueling speculation that the tech giant is plotting a bigger return to China. Google and Alphabet executives have both said there’s interest in going back.