China’s ByteDance plans to develop its own smartphone – Financial Times

What happened: According to a statement released by Bytedance on May 30, the company’s first consumer hardware product will be an education-focused gadget. The statement was likely issued in response to a Financial Times report on May 27 that said that the TikTok owner was developing its own smartphone to advance into the hardware market, citing two people familiar with the matter. The report follows Bytedance’s acquisition of a number of patents from Chinese smartphone maker Smartisan earlier this year, though Bytedance said Thursday it will continue with the Smartisan brand. The smartphone fulfilled Bytedance founder Zhang Yiming’s longtime dream to release a phone with Bytedance apps pre-installed, according to one of the sources.

Why it’s important: The educational gadget falls more in line with Bytedance’s recent moves in the online education landscape, rather than embarking on a smartphone project into the highly competitive and somewhat saturated hardware landscape. Smartphone shipments to China are declining as the economy slows and users hold on to their handsets longer. Companies such as Facebook and Amazon have played with the idea of smartphones but eventually the abandoned their respective projects due to unsatisfying market performance. Bytedance’s lack of experience in product design, supply chain, and sales channels could put the company at a severe disadvantage in the phone market. Bytedance has been trying to diversify its revenue for a while. It has previously launched a number of products such office productivity suite Lark and social app Feiliao and acquired several companies such game company Mokun to expand its line of products.

Update: This story was updated on June 3 to reflect a statement from Bytedance.

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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