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Forget China -- Google Has to Fight Off Alibaba on Mobile in India

New data shows Alibaba's UC browser is beating Google's in its key growth market.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Should Google return some services in mainland China, as many expect it to do soon, it will have to go head to head with China’s Internet giants. In the meantime, Google is squaring off against one of them, Alibaba, in India, Google’s largest growth market.

The Information published a solid look at mobile habits across India, courtesy of data from mobile startup Quettra. Some of the figures aren’t surprising. Facebook dominates: Indians love the social site and really love Facebook’s WhatsApp — it has 55 million users monthly hours spent, blowing away other messaging apps. Google, though, has a solid lead in utilities and video apps, thanks to YouTube.

A potentially troubling sign for the search giant is the race on mobile browsers.

The UC browser, which Alibaba acquired last year, is beating Google’s Chrome in India, with over five million more monthly hours of use. Alibaba’s stripped-down browser takes fourth place.

Android dominates India. But Google is still concerned with getting the millions there coming online with smartphones to take their first steps on Google’s service, particularly since Facebook is making a similar push. A mobile browser is, for now, one key thing Google has that its U.S. rival does not.

But getting mobile users to use services isn’t the hard problem in India. It’s covering their data costs, which are often prohibitively high. Hence Google’s recent push on building lighter, even offline versions of its products. On Monday, Google unveiled an update to the data-saving mode for mobile Chrome that will roll out first in Indonesia and India.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.