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Chinese apps: alternatives to TikTok, WeChat and other popular apps

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It's a well-known fact that China is guilty of spying over its citizens. However, its reach doesn't stop there. The Chinese government mines data through many means and methods, including the smartphones you use daily and their apps. Lately, some of these have been creating quite a buzz in the press. 

For example, last Wednesday, President Trump issued executive orders that will effectively ban TikTok in the US. This will stop American companies from conducting business with TikTok, denying advertising revenue or licensing agreements

Chinese apps ban 

Trump isn't the first to challenge popular apps backed by Chinese companies. One month before, the government of India banned 59 apps, including TikTok, WeChat, and SHAREit. Even before the India ban, Australian MPs called for a ban on Chinese apps. At the same time, Turkey launched a probe into TikTok. 

The Tories in the UK are also currently asking for the TikTok ban. In short, outrage at intrusive Chinese apps is widespread. It is no longer isolated to India's or USA's relation to China. It's hard to say whether more major countries will ban TikTok or how the situation will unfold with the Chinese apps that are currently still available. 

Should you avoid all Chinese apps? 

You should. There are many reports of China spying outside its borders by using innocent-looking apps. This isn't as extreme as their native propaganda app that grants the government direct root access to everything that's on your phone. Still, it's no reason to give away your data voluntarily. 

Additionally, with the recent crackdown on democratic rights in Hong Kong, the apps of service providers based in the city-state have become vulnerable to much of the surveillance that was already prevalent in mainland China. 

The Chinese app boycott can become rather inconvenient, especially if you got used to certain apps or services and never bothered to check who's behind them. With this in mind, we came up with a shortlist of apps to use if you're concerned about your privacy and are looking for a substitute app, or your favorite app has just been banned. 

1. TikTok alternatives

Social media platforms, by nature, aren't private, so Chinese social media platforms might just be the worst of both worlds. If you're searching for an alternative, Instagram's TikTok competitor, Reels, will begin testing in the US, this month. If you're looking for current Western substitutes, Dubsmash and Byte are both video sharing services. If you want to avoid Facebook products, you should stick to these.

Dubsmash

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Mobile Motion GmbH
Country: US
Installs: 100,000,000+

Byte

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Byte Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 1,000,000+

2. Helo alternatives

Helo is another Chinese-owned social media platform used for discovering and sharing viral content with friends and communities. Its main selling point is curated content for regional audiences. If you're in India and are looking for social media platforms with curated content and local language support, your best bet will be ShareChat. Other countries should probably just stick to Twitter.

ShareChat

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Mohalla Tech Pvt Ltd.
Country: India
Installs: 100,000,000+

3. WeChat alternatives

WeChat is a messaging app that incorporates money transfers, calls, and more. Mind you, all of this with the Chinese government keeping tabs on your communications. This is enough to classify this app as spyware, and you should get rid of it as fast as possible. The best alternative to replace WeChat is Signal, it uses end-to-end encryption, storing keys at the endpoints (not on Signal’s servers). They use the open-source Signal protocol, and no one will be able to read your messages or listen to your calls, not even the employees.

Signal

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Signal Foundation
Country: US
Installs: 10,000,000+

4. SHAREit alternatives

SHAREit is a Chinese closed-source app that makes sharing files across devices so easy that it allows adjacent devices to access files without permission - a major security vulnerability. Despite the vulnerabilities now being patched, this doesn't shine a positive light on the developers. If you're looking for ways to share files easily, Files by Google might be the solution. It primarily works as a program to clear up space on your phone, by subtly recommending what you could remove. However, it also doubles as a service to transfer files that doesn't require an internet connection.

Files by Google

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Google LLC
Country: US
Installs: 500,000,000+

5. UCBrowser alternatives 

Let's agree on one thing – you shouldn't be using web browsers from companies located in the Chinese surveillance dystopia. This also includes CM Browser, DU Browser, and APUS Browser. Delete any of these immediately, and never look back. Instead, you might install Mozilla Firefox or Brave Private Browser. Not only will this improve your browsing performance, but it will be a big boost to your privacy.

Firefox Browser

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Mozilla Foundation
Country: US
Installs: 100,000,000+

Brave Private Browser

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Brave Software, Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 10,000,000+

6. QQmail alternatives

Tencent Technology makes malware disguised as mobile software – there are no two ways about it. QQmail is one of their worst inventions. Not only will most reputable email clients block some of your emails, but your communications will also be visible to a multibillion-dollar Chinese tech giant that cooperates with an oppressive government. This is possible if you integrate your mailbox through QQmail as a client. Since Thunderbird or Claws Mail isn't available on Android or iOS, you're better off just sticking to Apple Mail on iOS, and K-9 Mail on Android. It’s an open-source email client that features encryption with OpenKeychain support. Alternatively, Outlook is still a great email client as well.

K-9 Mail

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: N/A
Country: US
Installs: 5,000,000+

Apple Mail

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Apple Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 125,000,000 + 

7. CamScanner alternatives 

After trojan malware was detected within the app and following its removal from the Google play store, there aren't any reasons to keep using this app. However, this doesn't mean users don't need scanning software anymore. The bad news is, the market lacks any private or encrypted scanning options. You could use Genius Scan and Foxit, then save local copies, or opt for Adobe Scan. However, you wouldn't be able to deactivate automatic uploads for Adobe cloud.

Genius Scan

Free or Paid: Free, but also has a paid option without ads
Owned by: The Grizzly Labs
Country: France
Installs: 5,000,000+

Foxit

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Foxit Software Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 5,000,000+

Adobe Scan

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Adobe Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 10,000,000+

8. Newsdog alternatives 

Even though we're putting Newsdog on notice because of its popularity, the same criticisms can be leveled at UC News and QQ Newsfeed. The point is, if you're using the Chinese news app, you should reconsider your choice. The best alternatives would be Google News if you're an Android user, and Apple News, if you're an iOS user. Both of them are lightweight and will be included on your OS by default.

Google News

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Google LLC
Country: US
Installs: 1,000,000,000+

Apple News

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Apple Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 125,000,000 +

9. WeSync alternatives 

WeSync is advertised as an encrypted cloud backup for your address book, and other important information stored on your smartphone. Accessing your contact list is one of the most sensitive permissions you could give to an app. One of the few trustworthy options at this moment is Syncthing, which is P2P, rather than cloud-based. Using it, you'll have much more control over how data is transmitted.

Syncthing

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: The Syncthing Foundation
Country: Sweden
Installs: 100,000+

10. AppLock alternatives 

Applock's permissions state that "According to the needs of specific features, we may read (probably not save) your photos, media, and files, use the mobile camera and microphone." Now, ask yourself why an App Locker would ask that many permissions. More importantly, how do you feel about that “probably not save” clause?

If you're using an Android device, the best alternative for AppLock would be your native app lock. You can find it in Settings>Security>Application Lock.

If you're an Apple user, you can do the same via Screen Time options. Just go to Screen Time, enable it, add a passcode, add a time limit for 0 minutes, so the next time someone wants to open it, they’ll have to enter a password, effectively locking the app.

11. Viva Video alternatives 

Viva Video, VideoStatus, VFly Video Status, U Video are the most popular Chinese video editing apps. All of these apps ask for too many permissions a video editing app shouldn't need. If you need video editor alternatives, you can try KineMaster on Android, or iMovie for iOS. With either of them, you'll be able to work on multi-level timelines, edit audio, and more.

KineMaster

Free or Paid: Free, but also has a paid option without ads
Owned by: KineMaster Corporation
Country: Korea
Installs: 100,000,000+

iMovie

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Apple Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 125,000,000+

12. DU Recorder alternatives 

DU Recorder not only asks for lots of permissions, but it also installs malware. It uses the “Draw over other apps” permission not only for recording but for popup ads as well. Even if you uninstall the app, the popup ads will remain. iPhone users can use a built-in screen recorder, but Android users will find it a little more complicated. Since Android version 10, Samsung and LG phones have a built-in Screen Recording (on an LG) or Screen Recorder (on a Samsung) app. Others will have to use a third-party app like AZ Screen Recorder. It will do the trick and won't ask for strange permissions.

AZ Screen Recorder

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: AZ Screen Recorder
Country: N/A
Installs: 50,000,000+

13. BeautyPlus alternatives 

We have conducted extensive research on beauty camera apps scraping and selling your data, plaguing your device with ads, redirecting you to phishing websites, and spying on you. BeutyPlus was the most popular of them - it was identified as either malware or spyware. Well, you can still find it on Google Play Store and App Store. Our solution would be to choose alternatives like Snapchat, or Instagram filters. If you're shooting your privacy in the leg, at least do it with more accountable organizations.

Snapchat

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Snap Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 1,000,000,000+

Instagram

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: Facebook, Inc.
Country: US
Installs: 1,000,000,000+

14. Virus Cleaner alternatives 

It's an open secret that most apps on Android and iOS devices are just scareware made to serve you ads and collect your data. By default, Android doesn't give anything root privileges. It's only a risk if you have a rooted phone. Otherwise, nothing that you download from the Play store will be able to mess with your system files.

What you should worry about is keyloggers, data collectors, and adware, all of which comes from giving apps too many permissions. In general, you don't need an antivirus on Android, and you need one even less on iOS.

15. DU Battery Saver 

All of the apps that you can find on the Play Store as battery saver apps are gimmicks. They pretend to save your battery while serving you ads. The only app that works is Greenify. However, it doesn't do anything revolutionary. It only forces your phone to enter Doze Mode in minutes instead of hours.

If your phone has an OLED screen, it would also be more efficient to turn on the dark mode. iPhone users can also just toggle low power mode in their settings.

Greenify

Free or Paid: Free
Owned by: GeekLab
Country: US
Installs: 10,000,000+

What happens to banned apps that have already been downloaded?

The apps that were already downloaded to your device won't disappear overnight. They will stay where you put them. However, they won't get any developer support or future updates. If the apps need internet access, the servers in your country may be unresponsive and deny the connection attempt. The same goes if you buy a phone with a pre-installed bundle of apps that includes some of the banned ones. 

Bottom line 

Even though we've listed alternative apps to use instead of Chinese variants, this solves just half of your privacy problems. If you're downloading an American app instead of a Chinese one, most probably, you're just changing your data collector's uniform. Don't think that Google or Facebook variants will be more privacy-focused because they won't. Your data is valuable and data collection is just a fact of life with most apps. With the revisions of the Patriot Act, you should be very cautious about what you're installing and what permissions you're giving away.

Which Chinese apps are banned? 

The only country that banned Chinese apps is India. Here’s a complete list of 59 apps that you won’t be able to download from Google Play store or Apple App Store:

1.    APUS Browser

2.    Baidu map

3.    Baidu Translate

4.    Beutry Plus

5.    Bigo Live

6.    Cache Cleaner DU App studio

7.    Cam Scanner

8.    Clash of Kings

9.    Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile

10.  Club Factory

11.  CM Browers

12.  DU battery saver

13.  DU Browser

14.  DU Cleaner

15.  DU Privacy

16.  DU Recorder

17.  ES File Explorer

18.  Hago Play With New Friends

19.  Helo

20.  Kwai

21.  Likee

22.  Mail Master

23.  Meitu

24.  Mi Community

25.  Mi Video Call – Xiaomi

26.  Mobile Legends

27.  New Video Status

28.  Newsdog

29.  Parallel Space

30.  Photo Wonder

31.  QQ International

32.  QQ Launcher

33.  QQ Mail

34.  QQ Music

35.  QQ Newsfeed

36.  QQ Player

37.  QQ Security Center

38.  ROMWE

39.  SelfieCity

40.  Shareit

41.  Shein

42.  Sweet Selfie

43.  TikTok

44.  U Video

45.  UC Browser

46.  UC News

47.  V fly Status Video

48.  Vault-Hide

49.  Vigo Video

50.  Virus Cleaner

51.  Viva Video – QU Video Inc

52.  Vmate

53.  We Meet

54.  WeChat

55.  Weibo

56.  WeSync

57.  Wonder Camera

58.  Xender

59.  YouCam makeup

Other countries are looking into ways to restrict advertising transactions between the parent companies of the ads, or removing them from their local app stores as a boycott of intrusive Chinese software. Still, as of writing this article, all of them are available and can be downloaded outside India. 

FAQ

Comments
Athaang
Athaang
prefix 1 year ago
There is no mention of Epic Privacy Browser from hiddenreflex.com.
Many websites dealing with privacy have rated it next to Tor.
Thanks,
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