How to Localize Your App for Singapore

Justin Duckersby 
App Growth Consultant at AppTweak

11 min read

Despite its small size, Singapore is the third most densely populated country in the world and the second country with the highest GDP per capita. With favorable market conditions, Singapore has become a hub for innovation in digital and mobile technologies, as well as an open door to the countries of Southeast Asia. Companies from all over the world have taken the opportunity to expand globally through Singapore.

We’ve gathered for you all the information and tips you need to know to successfully localize your app/game for Singapore.


Mobile landscape in Singapore

iOS vs Android

According to Statcounter, Android occupies more than 79% of the mobile operating systems market in Singapore (December 2022), while iOS occupies “only” 20% of this market – a situation that was reversed 10 years ago. The fact that the vast majority of entry-level smartphones run on Android and that mobile market leaders like Huawei and OPPO have entered the Singaporean market in the meantime has contributed to such a shift.

graph showing the market share of android versus ios since 2009
The Mobile Operating System Market Share in Singapore has seen its trend reversed during the 2010s. Source: StatCounter, December 2022.

Since Android dominates the Singaporean market, this analysis focuses mainly on the Google Play Store.

Top apps in Singapore

Looking at leading apps and games in Singapore, non-local publishers are more popular. Nevertheless, multiple Singaporean publishers stand out, including COGNOSPHERE PTE. LTD., the publisher of Genshin Impact on the Google Play Store and the App Store, Bigo Technology Pte. Ltd., author of the popular Asian live streaming platform Bigo Live, and Carousell, a mobile and web-based Singaporean marketplace. Other leading mobile publishers in Singapore are often based in East Asia, especially in China (Tik Tok Pte. Ltd., Moonton) and in Western countries (King, Meta).

The categories of Finance, Communication, and Tools drive a high amount of downloads on the Singaporean Play Store. However, the Social, Productivity, and Video Players app categories are the three that generate the highest in-app revenue despite driving a bit fewer downloads. Tik Tok and CapCut (video players), Instagram, and Facebook (social) often make it in the top 10 free apps charts of Singapore.

Screenshot showing that Video Players and Social Apps rank in the Top 10 free apps charts
Social and Video Players categories generate the highest in-app revenue in Singapore.

Mobile gaming landscape in Singapore

Mobile games are very popular in Singapore: more than two-thirds of Singaporeans play mobile games and the city state hosts multiple international e-sports events. Role-playing and Strategy game categories are by far the most profitable categories, while Action and Casual games also generate a good amount of revenue and downloads. Two-thirds of the games ranking in the top 10 free and grossing games charts belong to one of these four categories.

screenshot highlighting the Action, Casual, Strategy, and Role-Playing games that rank in the top 10 free and grossing games.
Games from the Role-playing, Action, Casual, and Strategy categories tend to dominate the top 10 free games charts of Singapore.

Language

Singapore has a rich history with diverse languages and cultures spanning many centuries. Originally inhabited by the Malays, an Austronesian ethnic group, contemporary Singapore acknowledges this cultural heritage and recognizes Malay as its national language in its constitution.

Nevertheless, as a result of British colonization, English is the main language of Singapore. About 48% of Singaporeans speak English at home, as well as in administration, school, and in business. Singlish, a creole language that blends English with several Southeast Asian languages and dialects, is also on the rise and is spoken by a majority of Singaporeans.

Malay, on the other hand, is spoken by about 9% of the population at home (Singapore Department of Statistics).

Over the centuries, a relatively large Chinese community has developed as well in Singapore, so that about 30% of the population speaks Chinese nowadays. In 1979, a political decision simplified things in Singapore by standardizing Mandarin Chinese as the only spoken Chinese language taught in schools.

As for writing, Simplified Chinese is the norm and prominently used on Singaporean Google Play. This provides practical insights for app developers and marketers targeting this market.

We’ll concentrate on English and Simplified Chinese, the two default locales on Singapore’s Play Store and the most spoken languages in the region.

Expert Tip

On Google Play, visitors see store listings in the language they set on their Android phone settings. However, if the app developer did not create a store listing specific to a language. For instance, store visitors with Malay as their phone’s language will see the default store listing of the app instead.
screenshots of app pages showing the difference in character length chinese versus english
Simplified Chinese requires less space than English, so make the most of it by targeting as many keywords as possible in the metadata of your Simplified Chinese locale.

Learn how to localize your app for the Chinese language and market

Metadata

1. Title

In Singapore, we distinguish between store listings in English vs Simplified Chinese. The English store listings are the most common. For these, it is common to add generic keywords in the title. These extra keywords increase the app’s visibility and explains its functions.

App titles in the Tools category provide a good example of how they help understand the function of the app and facilitate the search of store visitors.

examples of tools apps with descriptive titles
Descriptive app titles in the Tools category make it very simple to understand what the app is about.

2. Short & long descriptions

  • While Google’s auto-translation system translates store listings into Simplified Chinese, this isn’t necessarily a localization effort on the part of developers. Most listings only have their short descriptions translated, and the results can be flawed. We advise disabling this feature for accuracy.

In Singapore, apps and games that do translate their listings into Simplified Chinese employ varying strategies. Some, like Disney+ and Tik Tok, translate both short and long descriptions but retain their English brand names. In Singapore, this typically receives a positive response.

Others, while keeping their brand names, incorporate generic Chinese keywords into their titles to increase visibility in Chinese searches on the Play Store.

For example, the dating app Bumble added the Chinese phrase for “Expand your network” to its title. On the other hand, Brave included a full sentence describing its features.

  • Another strategy is complete translation of the store listing into Chinese. Games like Coin Master and Rise of Kingdom exemplify this approach. The latter includes its Latin title abbreviation “RoK” to maintain brand recognition.

 

A look at the title translation from english to chinese of different apps
Translating your title into Simplified Chinese can help you create proximity with your Chinese-speaking audience.

AppTweak’s recommendation

  • Simplified Chinese requires 30% less space than English on average. This allows you to target more keywords in your app page metadata. However, since Chinese characters are complex, we recommend using a larger text font in your app text.
  • Translate your app’s short description and the long description for the Chinese store listing. More than a simple question of understanding, it’s also a way to show respect and interest for your store visitors.

If you already have a localized app page on the Chinese Play Store, simply update a few keywords considering the search volume on the Singaporean Play Store.

  • Also consider changing the features presented with those that are most popular in Singapore.
Comparison of the search volume of the same keywords in English and in Chinese
Both Chinese and English keywords often have a good search volume on the Singaporean Play Store. Going beyond simple translation and establishing an aligned keyword optimization strategy between your two locales will allow you to boost your visibility to the maximum.

Creatives

What emerges from an analysis of the Singaporean Google Play is that the vast majority of the creatives are simply taken from the British Play Store (for the English app pages) and the Chinese Play Store (for the Chinese app pages). Little localization effort is made from a creatives point of view. 

highlighting the fact the app pages are the same on both UK/chinese play store and singaporean play store
Singaporean Play Store app pages recycle their creatives either from the British Play Store or from the Chinese Play Store.

Bonus tips to localize your app for Singapore

1. QR codes popular on Singaporean Play Store

QR codes are used very frequently in the daily life of Singaporeans – to access the gym, while shopping at the supermarket, or to make mobile payments. Singapore is the first country to have implemented a unified payment QR code called Singapore Quick Response Code (SGQR) to make life easier for customers and merchants alike and to accelerate the transition to a cashless economy.

As a direct consequence of such a frequent use of QR codes, apps in the Tools category used to scan QR codes are very popular on the Singaporean Play Store and are among the most downloaded apps in the Tools category.

Highlighting that 3 QR codes scanner apps rank in the top 10 of the tools category
On the Singaporean Play Store, 3 out of 10 apps in the top 10 free Tools apps chart are QR code scanners.

2. Anime franchises popular in Singapore’s mobile gaming

Anime, a cultural phenomenon of worldwide fame, is also popular in Singapore.

On the Play Store, many games derived from popular anime franchises can be found in the top charts of different game categories. Consider doing a collaboration with anime, for example, in the context of an in-app event, to capitalize on their popularity.

The feature graphics of 4 mobile games that are derived from popular anime series
Mobile games derived from popular anime franchises enjoy extra popularity on the Singaporean Play Store.

3. Ethnicity-specific dating apps in Singapore

With a rich cultural tapestry, Singapore presents a unique opportunity for dating apps. These apps, available on the Singapore Play Store, cater specifically to different ethnic groups such as Tamils, Chinese, Filipinos, Thais, and Vietnamese.

Understanding your target audience and tailoring your app accordingly is a practical and effective strategy for app developers and marketers.

feature graphics of dating apps that target specific ethnicities
In a culturally diverse country like Singapore, dating apps are designed to connect with different ethnicities.

4. Year display in tool apps’ icon

Competition is fierce in the Tools category on the Singaporean Play Store. So, these apps do their best to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Developers incorporate a distinctive feature into their icons – a banner that displays the current year. This approach serves as a visual cue to users, indicating that the app receives regular updates.

It sets these apps apart from their competitors who may not be regularly updating their offerings.

In addition, it creates an impression of relevance and timeliness, assuring users that the app is up-to-date with the latest features and functionalities.

Examples of icons that display the current year
To stand out from the competition, apps in the Tools category add small details such as the current year in their icon.

5. Singapore shopping apps update icons for Asian events

Similar to what we noticed in Indonesia, shopping apps in Singapore also update their icon on the occasion of different Asian events that are now associated with sales. This is a way for shopping apps to indicate that they too participate in events in an attempt to attract more visitors.

Examples of shopping app icons that are updated to show they participe in sales events
Singaporean shopping apps update their icons to show participation in different Asian events in an endeavor to attract more store visitors.

Find out how to boost your app downloads with app store localization


TLDR

A relatively small country, Singapore has a high GDP per capita and is the gateway to other Southeast Asian countries. To successfully localize your app or game in the Singaporean market, here are some valuable tips for you to keep in mind:

  • Despite the presence of some major Singaporean publishers such as COGNOSPHERE PTE. LTD. and Bigo Technology Pte. Ltd., non-local publishers dominate the top charts for both apps and games.
  • Singapore is a culturally and linguistically diverse country. English and Mandarin Chinese are, however, the two most spoken languages in the city-state. English and Simplified Chinese are the two locales available on the Singaporean Play Store.
  • It is recommended to translate your short and long description into Simplified Chinese for your Chinese store listing. As for the title, English titles are generally well received in Singapore, even on the Chinese store listing. However, we recommend adding descriptive keywords (in Simplified Chinese) to boost your app visibility.
  • Creatives are rarely localized on the Singaporean Play Store. Instead, developers use creatives from the British Play Store for their English store listing and from the Chinese Play Store for their Chinese store listing.
  • QR code scanners and anime (especially games derived from the latter) are very popular in Singapore.

With over 100 languages supported and over 1,800 leaders worldwide using it, AppTweak is the reference ASO tool to help you localize your app in Singapore as well as in the rest of the world.

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Justin Duckers
by , App Growth Consultant at AppTweak
Justin is an App Growth Consultant at AppTweak, helping apps boost their visibility and downloads. Passionate about sci-fi and fantasy, he spends his free time walking, reading and bouldering.