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The Next Big Thing

Chinese tech firm Qihoo 360 announces smartphone brand, but not the phones

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 1:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 1:21pm

Chinese internet security company Qihoo 360 announced a new brand of smartphone at a glitzy event in Beijing on Wednesday, although it did not show the actual gadgets as many had expected.

Company chairman Zhou Hongyi told the hundreds of attendees that the phones were not ready, and asked for time because he was not satisfied with what the company had developed so far.

“Our smartphone should have been available three months ago. Our prototype works fine, but it lacks highlights to stand out from competitors, so please be patient with us,” he said.

Qihoo is one of a number of firms rushing to enter the booming Chinese smartphone market, driven by the prospect of huge profits as millions of Chinese upgrade from older feature phones. But competition will be fierce against established local big players such as Xiaomi, ZTE and Huawei, as well as big-name foreign makers Apple and Samsung.

The internet security software company has invested US$409 million teamed in a joint venture with Coolpad, one of the biggest Android phone makers and one of the first to launch 4G smartphones in China, to make the smartphones.

The phones will be sold under Qihoo’s Qiku brand and Coolpad’s Dazen brand. 

“Are you OK? How are you? I am very happy to be in China,” Zhou told his audience, in a nod to Xiaomi boss Lei Jun, whose verbal stumble at a product launch in India, when he said he was happy to be in China, became an overnight meme on Chinese social media.

Zhou did not give details about when the phones would be available, saying only that three models would be launched in the first batch. The phones would have metal cases.

Read more: Prospect for big profits stokes competition in China smartphone race

A part of Qiku’s equity would be made publicly available to supporters through crowdfunding, he added, without elaborating.

This is not Zhou’s first attempt at making smartphones. He last tried to enter the market in 2012, partnering with smartphone makers including Haier and Alcatel and selling customised handsets on their websites.

“Several years ago when I made phones, my biggest issue was I was in a rush, and I wanted to conjure up a mobile phone in three days and push it out on the market in a week. I’m learning from the experience this time,” he said.