ByteDance has recently begun investing in sectors not directly related to social media. Photo: Handout

Chinese social media firm ByteDance, parent company of TikTok, revealed this week it is developing a smartphone, following a deal it made with device maker Smartisan Technology, reported.

The plans come as the tech firm expands into new sectors beyond video and news apps.

In a statement, a ByteDance spokeswoman said a smartphone had been part of Smartisan’s development plans before the deal it made with ByteDance.

“The product was a continuation of earlier Smartisan plans, aiming to satisfy the needs of the old Smartisan user base,” the spokeswoman added.

On Monday a sub-division of Chinese financial news outlet Caijing reported that the smartphone had been in development for seven months. The effort is being led by Wu Dezhou, a former executive at Smartisan.

Earlier this year ByteDance acquired a set of patents from Smartisan. Some Smartisan employees also transferred to ByteDance, as part of what the latter company called a “normal flow of talent.”

Smartisan is a niche player in China’s smartphone sector and is best known for its flamboyant founder Luo Yonghao, who has sometimes been described as “the Steve Jobs of China.”

According to Engadget, unlike many execs, Luo speaks his mind, both on and off stage. An English teacher turned founder of the smartphone startup, Luo has designs on being the next great tech visionary.

Meanwhile, ByteDance has risen to become a leading player in tech, rivaling the likes of Baidu and Tencent in influence.

Douyin, the company’s app for streaming short videos, has more than 300 million monthly users in China, ByteDance marketing manager Zhi Ying said in June.

One of Douyin’s key differentiators has been its editing functions, which have tapped into young Chinese users’ preferences by adding a whole host of add-ons, music themes, animations, and more, according to Technode.

While most video platforms (including YouTube) require you to hit play on their videos, on Douyin you simply scroll/swipe between clips. If it serves up something you’re not particularly interested in or if you can’t make it through the 15 seconds that each clip lasts for, you can move to another piece of content with a quick flick of your screen.

ByteDance has recently begun investing in sectors not directly related to social media. The company has hired several staff from London-based startup JukeDeck, which specializes in AI-generated music, Reuters reported in July.

The firm, which has been described as the world’s largest unicorn following a US$75 billion valuation, also launched its own messaging app for the Chinese market earlier this year, according to Engadget.

TikTok is a social media video app for creating and sharing short lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos. The app was launched in 2017 by ByteDance, for markets outside of China, where it is doing well.

Sources: CGTN, Engadget, Technode

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