Taobao, the mainland's leading internet retailer, aims to make online shopping in the country more mobile next year, with the launch of handsets custom designed for e-commerce. The company has joined with network operator China Telecom Corp and handset makers TCL Communication Technology Holdings and Lenovo Mobile Communications Technology to launch Taobao.com-branded mobiles in February. The three handsets will be available through Taobao.com, department stores and other retail outlets. The internet-ready models will come pre-installed with proprietary software applications Taobao Shopkeeper and Portable Purchasing developed for use by the retail portal's vendors and buyers. Privately held Taobao, a unit of Hangzhou-based internet conglomerate Alibaba Group, developed the applications which provide search, price comparison and messaging functions. 'This will provide Taobao's more than 145 million users with convenient mobile e-commerce features and improved customer support,' the company said yesterday. The Shopkeeper programme allows sellers on Taobao.com's online shopping centre to manage their storefronts anytime and anywhere without using a personal computer. Functions are included for managing orders, products, transactions and storefront ratings. China Telecom, the smallest of the mainland's three mobile network operators, will serve as Taobao's first carrier-partner. In a report, Goldman Sachs said Taobao had 80 per cent of the mainland consumer retail e-commerce market, far ahead of rival online shopping portals run by Baidu and Tencent Holdings. Taobao's first-half transaction volume rose 97 per cent year on year to 80.9 billion yuan (HK$91.9 billion), putting the company on track to reach its gross merchandise volume target of 200 billion yuan by the end of the year.