China's ByteDance to develop its own smartphone: report

May 27, 2019 15:13
Beijing ByteDance Technology is the developer of popular Chinese video app TikTok and news aggregator Toutiao. The startup is reportedly stepping into the hardware business. Photo: Bloomberg

Fast-growing Chinese media startup ByteDance, the company behind news aggregator Toutiao and video streaming platform TikTok, plans to develop its own smartphone, the Financial Times reported

“No comment,” ByteDance said when asked about the report.

ByteDance, whose valuation reached US$75 billion following its latest funding round, plans to launch a smartphone with its own built-in apps, such as TikTok, which operates under the brand Douyin in China, and news aggregation app Toutiao, as well as games, the newspaper said, citing two people it said were familiar with the project.

The Beijing-based app developer is rumored to have stepped into the hardware business in January this year.

Staff at Smartisan Technology, a boutique smartphone maker founded by Luo Yonghao, were asked to sign new employment contracts with ByteDance that put them on a six-month probation, Chinese media reported.

A spokesperson for ByteDance said the company has acquired some of Smartisan’s patent rights to explore business opportunities in the education sector.

ByteDance also confirmed that a number of Smartisan employees have joined the company under the deal.

Founded in 2012, Smartisan has launched eight smartphone models and developed its own operating system, the Smartisan OS, which was based on Android.

As of January, it owns 111 intellectual property patents, including wireless communication equipment, voice recognition solutions, and a keypad for mobile devices.

After the deal, ByteDance registered the Smartisan OS as a product of its subsidiary, Chinese media said.

Major internet companies from Apple and Google to Alibaba and Tencent are building their own ecosystems through an integrated hardware-software approach.

Gaming hardware maker Razer announced in March it was working with Tencent to focus on mobile gaming, in a collaboration that will cover hardware, software and services.

The social media and gaming giant is reportedly looking to build a gaming smartphone with Razer, Xiaomi's Black Shark and Asus as potential partners.

Expanding beyond newsfeeds and video-sharing services, ByteDance has launched its video-based social messaging app Duoshan, which allows users to send text messages and stickers, as well as share images and videos, in a bid to rival Tencent’s messaging platform WeChat.

This month, TechCrunch reported that ByteDance also plans to launch a music streaming app as soon as the end of this quarter. Offering both a premium and an ad-supported free tier, ByteDance’s new music app is targeting emerging markets such as India.

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