iPad Apps for Chinese Study (2011)

We recently purchased an iPad 2 for AllSet Learning, and quickly set about looking for useful apps for learning Chinese. It didn’t take long for me to realize a basic truth about having an iPad: once you have an iPad, you want to run iPad apps on it, not iPhone apps. And the there are way more iPhone apps out there for learning Chinese than there are iPad apps. The purpose of this post is to call attention to the decent iPad apps out there.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

I realize this post isn’t going to stay current for very long, and that’s OK. Rapid innovation is one of the things that drew me to the iOS platform in the first place. For now, though, I have my top picks for iPad apps for learning Chinese. One thing I should make clear in advance, though: many of these apps are not explicitly for learning Chinese; they’re simply apps in Chinese (good sources of more input).


Yes, I think I’ve mentioned before that I love Pleco. It’s a great dictionary app. It also supports the iPad, while many other iPhone dictionaries don’t. I won’t say too much about Pleco here.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

QQ Live HD

I must admit that I’m not a fan of the QQ IM client. But this app is great. It doesn’t require any kind of QQ login or account; it’s just a simple app for streaming Chinese movies and TV shows, and it’s fast (in Shanghai, anyway). I’ve already watched several movies on it, and while I won’t recommend any of those movies, the app does its job just fine.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese


This one is an obvious Flipboard clone, but it’s a really good Flipboard clone. It’s one of those really good clones that tries to one-up the original. And, of course, it’s got tons of Chinese content ready to be added for magazine-style consumption, whether it’s Chinese news, Chinese blogs, or Weibo. It supports copy-paste, too, so you can pop over to the Pleco Pasteboard Reader when you need to.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese


I’ve reviewed this one before already: Chinagram for iPad.

Radio Chinese Plus+

This app is quite simple. It only offers three Mandarin stations and three Cantonese stations (6 total), but it works just fine.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese


This is just a big collection of silly photos from the internet. Some are funny; many are just bizarre.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese


A collection of poorly drawn comics of the 冷笑话 (dumb joke) tradition. This app, like the last one, demonstrates how simple an iPad app can be.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

My Chinese Library, Pinyin Trainer, and Chinese Number Trainer

I’m grouping all these apps together because they’re all by one company, called TrainChinese. While these apps aren’t revolutionary, they’re of good quality and exist in iPad versions. Sadly, not many apps for learning Chinese have met that simple requirement. They all seem to have free versions which are somewhat limited, trying to get you to pay. I recommend the pinyin trainer and number trainer to beginners.

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

My list of really noteworthy iPad apps for learners of Chinese ends there. There are a few others worth pointing out, though… The four others pictured but not covered are: 枫林书院精选 (an ebook reader that comes with a number of titles), 中国新闻周刊 (China Newsweek), iLearn Chinese Characters Lite, and Kids Mandarin.

These are the apps in the “Good…not HD” folder (I wish they had iPad versions):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

These are the apps in the “词典” folder (iPad apps include: iCED, KTdict, eFlashChinese):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

These are the apps in the “阅读” folder (iPad apps include: 格林童话集, 中文杂志, 宋词三十首, 三毛全集, 给力书城, 拇指索引圣经, 爱阅读, 让笑话飞, 小姐日记):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

These are the apps in the “新闻” folder (none are iPad apps):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

These are the apps in the “故事” folder (iPad apps include: Chinese Stories (really bad), Heroes of Three Kingdoms, The Greatest Daddy (English and Chinese), 一千零一夜选, nciku Peter Rabbit):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

These are the apps in the “其它” folder (none are iPad apps):

iPad Apps for Learning Chinese

I know I haven’t been exhaustive in my search for good iPad apps; I’d love to hear recommendations!


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. There is a native iPad 微博 app: http://itunes.apple.com/cn/app/id386098453?mt=8

    • Ah, nice! This is the kind of thing I was hoping to learn from doing this post.


      • The iphone version is better than the ipad version, but at least there is an ipad version that they are working on. I thusstill use the iphone version on my ipad sometimes. What is your weibo username? I would love to follow you. 🙂

    • Don Wilder Says: November 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Great review.. quite helpful for those with iPads but little info about helpful apps..

  2. light487 Says: May 5, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Do you know if any of these are restricted to China iTunes market?

    • That’s a good question, but I don’t really understand the restrictions. I have a US iTunes account, and my iPad is not jailbroken, but I was able to install all these apps directly from the app store on the iPad itself, no problem. While I was adding all the links, I started to wonder if the fact that the apps seem to be in so many different countries’ versions of the app store makes a difference.

      • If you could see them in the Store, then they are available in the US app store. Unfortunately many developers decide (ridiculously, IMHO) to restrict their apps to certain stores, and I think that’s what light487 is talking about (Australia, for whatever reason, seems to miss out on a lot of apps, from what I’ve heard).

  3. zhongtang Says: May 5, 2011 at 9:33 am

    That’s a great post. I wish you’ll do the same, but for Android Market apps, since it reaches a lot more people than Apple exclusive products.

    • Apple exclusive products? Sorry I must have missed the memo announcing free Android phones and tablets for everyone. Oh wait, that’s right, the iPad is actually cheaper than most Android tablets.

  4. Pleco is amazing on an iPad. The big screen is just so much better than an iPod touch. I’ve also enjoyed the EEO 经济观察报app. I enjoy reading that newspaper and the app is pretty functional. Sadly, I was unable to get the nanfangzhoumo app to work. I could never get any of the editions to download.

  5. One thing I find particularly useful is the Financial Times (FT) chinese version. You can get it to display the news in Chinese with the English version along side it. It’s particularly useful for newspaper reading class(!!) and to check yourself that you’re not misunderstanding something. and it’s free.

  6. Alaric Says: May 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    A very helpful post! Just downloaded several of your suggested apps. I also like Pleco. It was the most expensive app I’ve ever bought, but a good investment.

    Here are a three others that I like:

    VOA Chinese News RSS Player (HD)
    Text and audio for VOA news and human interest stories. Can copy text and read in Pleco. Very well implemented.

    HSK Test
    By Language Systems
    Although I have no intention or need to ever take the HSK, I very much enjoyed using this app a few times, getting instant feedback to advanced level reading comprehension exercises. (iPhone app)

    A good iPad app to help one find other Chinese language apps, free and otherwise.

  7. The QQ app is a great find. It works great from the US. The only delay is when you first start to watch a movie, but the movies stream without delay and don’t flicker.

  8. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  9. Don’t forget 土豆!They have a nifty little app too 🙂

  10. 周末画报 is a great app. also for iphone

  11. I wouldn’t leave QQ斗地主 out, it is not useful for learning Chinese, but fun nonetheless (and has an ipad version)

    And while I know how much you love Pleco, the nciku mobile dictionary is quite good too, but it doesn’t have an ipad version

  12. Thanks for the post. Was pleasantly surprised to see the screencap of KAZN 1300 AM; I listen to that when I am driving here in the L.A. area. I like this for learning to write characters: http://goo.gl/8B7SD . The basic is free, then you can pay for module upgrades. The same company has other apps.

  13. Charles Says: May 9, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Hi John,

    There is one dictionary called EU Dict 欧路词典 http://itunes.apple.com/cn/app/id367278030?mt=8
    it is free and it’s very comprehensive it’s available in the ipad version….you might want to take a look



  14. […] is pretty awesome. I discovered it through its iPad version (and wrote about it in my recent iPad Apps for Chinese Study post), but have heard that there’s a desktop version for Windows that works great too. Get […]

  15. I highly recommend the PPTV app. It’s like QQ Live but much better. Tons of movies, great quality, and subtitles on everything.

  16. Hey John,

    We just released a version of our Chinese Writing app for iPad. Nice high resolution graphics and the same tactile interface for stroke correction as on the smaller iPhone version.


    Feel free to use it with your students at Allset. Best,


  17. John,

    Our iPad app Word Tracer – Learn Chinese just got approved yesterday. Would love to know what you think of it.


    If you are interested, you can email me and I will send you a promo code to try out the app.


  18. Great write up!! I would also include the YouKu HD, it works really well as I don’t have to wait at all for the movies to load at all!!

  19. […] Provide feedback on various types of learning materials, from comics to Communist Party doctrine to iPad apps […]

  20. […] iPad Apps for Chinese Study (2011) Posted at 8:58am. Posted in language Tags: AllSet Learning, apps, Chinese characters, iPad, […]

  21. John,
    Our iPad app “Lingua Kidz” – just got approved 5 days ago. It is meant for young children who would like to learn languages (also Chinese). I hope you like it.
    If you are interested, I can send you a promo code to try out the app.
    All the best

  22. Shane Taylor Says: March 15, 2012 at 4:11 am
  23. Thanks for your sharing. I just found a great blog for introducing learning Chinese App.

    Hope it’s helpful for you.

    Also, I’d like to recommend an app for learning Chinese Characters with different ways.
    Just go to App Store and search for “Art of Chinese Characters”. 🙂

  24. Hey,

    thanks for the good work.
    I’m a loyal Pleco user, even bought the expensive add on where you use your camera to find characters. It’s also good.

    I got one question though: I wanna make my own collection of vocabulary lists, memory cards as I am at the end of my studies and my classes have rather extensive unusual vocabulary.

    Which ipad app is the best for creating chinese vocabulary cards? 3 sided with pinyin, hanzi and translation would be good.

    Any ideas?


    • Hi, this answer may reach you kind of late, but if you are a Pleco user you might find their flascard system useful. I use it all the time, has all the requirements you mentioned.

  25. Hi all!

    My 2 year old niece recently started learning Chinese and while I was researching I found something called the Diglot Weave. The Diglot Weave is a natural language learning method that simulates immersion via a weaving of the user’s native language and the foreign language to be learned. I thought it would be fun to develop an iPad app that utilizes this weave to teach Chinese to English speakers. Please take the time to check it out!


  26. I strongly suggest to check out StickyStudy HANZI for ipad and iphone. It is a very complete flashcard software with also characters pronounced. It has many different customizable sets of characters that can be arranged as one pleases. I’m using it every day to prepare for HSK6 now.

  27. […] iPad Apps for Chinese Study 2011 […]

  28. Haggis McBaozi Says: April 28, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Very useful post, 谢谢!love Zaker ^_^
    For ‘light’ creative reading , can i suggest 画报


  29. Try this free app to learn chinese word on-the-go. With full sound pack of sample sentence.
    Recorded by top narrator!


  30. John,

    In line with all the other responses to this post listed above going to post our app… ; )

    The app is Nommoc which is for learning to write Chinese:


    1) Nommoc includes stroke order animations for the 2500 most common Chinese characters which were hand written by a native Chinese.
    2) Nommoc allows free-hand writing of the the most common Chinese characters.

    We hope to say goodbye to “expat illiteracy”… let’s all learn to write Chinese!



  31. Aviral singh Says: June 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Guys you all should try 25pp named software for windows to download any paid app even from Chinese App Store for free and can install it via that’s software on your non jail broken iOS device.
    You can check this software on YouTube also just type 25pp …guys this is going viral ..I downloaded all the keynote , numbers , pages from it for free

  32. Johannes Says: July 26, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the great list. I also recommend Chinese Stories – Elementary
    There are some free articles I can read every, it help me improve my reading skill…which is my weakness.
    I can click the vocabularies I don’t know, and they will pop out the definition and sentences.
    Also, I watch TV shows a lot to improve my listening, like PPTV,PPS,风行电影, MapleStage. They are all interesting way to learn Chinese.

  33. For training tones I recommend “Sounds like Chinese”, unfortunately only for the iPhone, or on the iPad in small size. But the developers put a lot of though into that game, it’s not just “what tone did you just hear” same old same old. And it’s beautiful too.

  34. There’s a new app coming out called “Make Love in Chinese or English”. It’s kind of a different take on the whole learning language experience, but it does look pretty hilarious. They use memes and some sort of real life game thing that seems quite intriguing. http://www.appycode.com/makeloveapp/

  35. Jacqueline Says: January 20, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    A newly released app for junior Chinese learner – Chinese Make Easy for Kids. I think it’s fun !!


  36. I’d like to recommend an app we’re developing in Beijing!

    ChinesesSkill, it’s a free app that gamifies the learning process and helps anyone to learn Chinese from no experience to mastering 2000 characters. Try it out!

  37. […] to start re-examining all the best apps out there for learning Chinese and do an update to my 2011 post on apps for Chinese study. I’d also like to do a post directly comparing HelloChinese and ChineseSkill, but I thought […]

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