Users will be able to search for local services on TouchPal Life

Users will be able to search for local services on TouchPal Life

CooTek, the developer behind the popular Chinese keyboard app TouchPal, launched a local service platform for China market today.

Last month TouchPal announced that total users of the keyboard reached 170 million. Approaching 90% are from outside China — 25% from the U.S., 18% from Europe, 8% from Russia, 6% from the Philippines and 5% from Indonesia.

The app, available on Android, iOS and Windows 8, is for free. The major revenue source of the tech-centric company is licensing deal with smartphone manufacturers. The company hasn’t disclosed financials, but people doubt that licensing a keyboard application could be a nicely profitable business.

It looks CookTek now is giving more time to China market that, before the local service platform, launched a mobile search service on top of caller identification app, TouchPal Contacts. As there’s a phone number database behind the caller identification app, CooTek developed a feature for users to search for food delivery services, logistics status, after-sales support, flight/train ticket sellers, hotels, car rental services, banks and other local services.

The upcoming new version of the caller identification app will become TouchPal Life (not official translation), where, apart from the search capability, a self-service system will be added for businesses big or small to build presence on top of their phone number IDs. Also, as payment services will be available on TouchPal Life, it is expected those local businesses will be able to take payments directly within the app.

CooTek claims it has indexed 53 million entries about merchants and the caller identification app has had 50 million users with tens of millions being daily active — The app has been added into Xiaomi Android phones as one of the built-in caller identification services. It’s unknown whether all Xiaomi users are counted.

The new app sounds like a better business than the app licensing one. Michael Wang, CEO of CooTek, said last month, when the search service was launched, that he hoped it would help keep a healthy cash flow in the same way the similar service operated by Chinese telco China Telecom had done in the feature phone era.

CooTek thus becomes competitors to a lot of players in China who are heading in the same direction: getting the local businesses on one platform, encouraging users to visit it regularly, enabling transactions and eventually making revenues from traffic and transactions.

That includes local listings services such as 58.com and Ganji.com, ratings & reviews services like Dianping, maps like Alibaba’s AutoNavi and many others. Xiaomi, who has shipped more than 60 million Android phones, is working on a similar one, called Yellow Page, that has made one or two from each sector built-in services so that Xiaomi users can access them without leaving the Yellow Page.