TikTok maker mulling smartphone play - Mobile World Live

TikTok maker mulling smartphone play

28 MAY 2019

Chinese app maker ByteDance is planning to develop its own smartphone hardware, taking a path which has already seen other major internet players fail, according to a Financial Times report.

ByteDance has become a major player in the apps market thanks to its short video app TikTok, which is augmented by content discovery, social, selfie and news titles. Unlike some other Chinese online giants, it has also built up a following in overseas markets.

The newspaper said that its $75 billion valuation makes ByteDance one of the biggest start-ups in the world.

The smartphone plan would, unsurprisingly, see the company’s apps placed front-and-centre on the device. It comes after the acquisition of patents from Chinese phonemaker Smartisan, and the subsequent recruitment of some of its staff.

But other big internet players have already followed a similar path, with little reward for their efforts. Facebook worked with HTC to offer a device featuring the social giant’s Facebook Home user interface, which saw its rollout shelved after failing to impress in international markets.

Amazon also dipped its toe in the smartphone waters with its Fire phone, which met lukewarm reviews due to its high price and app catalogue which lacked some key titles. Amazon has seen more success in the tablet market, bolstered by its content catalogue.

Closer to home for ByteDance, selfie app company Meitu ended up shifting away from its own devices business in favour of a Xiaomi partnership due to challenges in scaling its business.

ByteDance will face a number of challenges should it decide to go ahead with the smartphone plan. While its apps have a large user base, that does not mean that they are prepared to extend this to buying devices – as Facebook found to its cost.

The device business is also fiercely competitive, and ByteDance will face established rivals which already have scale, strong brands, channels to market and device experience. With ByteDance having access to the users of these devices via the existing apps, it is not immediately clear what benefits a hardware play would bring to offset the challenges.

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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