July 29, 2019 / 10:46 AM / 4 months ago

China's ByteDance, after Smartisan deal, says developing smartphone

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese social media firm ByteDance Ltd said on Monday it is developing a smartphone, following a deal it made with device maker Smartisan Technology.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen at the Bytedance Technology booth at the Digital China exhibition in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

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 phone had been in development for seven months. The effort is being led by Wu Dezhou, a former executive at Smartisan, the outlet added.

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.

ByteDance has risen to become a leading player in tech, rivaling the likes of Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd 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. TikTok, Douyin’s global-facing counterpart, has also grown popular in North America.

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.

Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and David Holmes

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