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Chinese unicorn ByteDance, creator of popular short-form video-sharing app TikTok, plans to diversify its business with a foray into the smartphone market. Photo: Reuters

TikTok creator ByteDance to enter smartphone market, following deal with Smartisan

  • The world’s most valuable start-up is expanding into new sectors beyond video and news apps

ByteDance, the world’s most valuable start-up, said on Monday it is developing a smartphone, following a deal it made with device maker Smartisan Technology.

That plan comes as the Beijing-based company behind popular short-form video-sharing app TikTok, known as Douyin in mainland China, expands into new sectors beyond video and news apps.

In a statement, a ByteDance spokeswoman said a smartphone had been part of development plans.

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

ByteDance, the company behind TikTok video app, looks beyond entertainment with a move into education

The ByteDance smartphone had been in development for seven months, according to a report on Monday by a subdivision of Chinese financial news outlet Caijing. That effort is being led by Wu Dezhou, a former executive at Smartisan, the report said.

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

Smartisan is a niche player in China’s highly competitive smartphone sector. The privately held company, which is also based in Beijing, is best known for its flamboyant founder Luo Yonghao.

Founded in 2012, ByteDance has risen to become a leading player in the country’s technology industry, rivalling the likes of Baidu and Tencent Holdings in influence.

Douyin has more than 300 million monthly active users in China, ByteDance marketing manager Zhi Ying said in June. TikTok, its global-facing counterpart, has also grown popular in North America.

ByteDance, which also operates Chinese news app Jinri Toutiao, has recently begun investing in sectors not directly related to social media. The company has hired several staff from London-based start-up Jukedeck, which specialises in artificial intelligence-generated music.