A mobe with obnoxious teen karaoke app TikTok built in?! Wow, thanks ByteDance, sign us up
Chinese app titan switches course, but it's a risky one
ByteDance, the company behind vast video-sharing platform TikTok, is planning to build its own mobile handsets pre-loaded with its applications.
The Chinese firm claims almost a billion users around the world: it provides news reader apps and music platforms like music.ly, but is most famous for TikTok.
The move into hardware is the brainchild and long-held dream of founder Zhang Yiming, according to the Financial Times. Earlier this year Tiktok bought patents and picked up staff from Chinese phone maker Smartisan.
The company is seen as one of the world's most valuable startups, and its latest round of investment led by Japanese giant Softbank puts its theoretical value at $75bn. Adoption in China and India has helped its rocket-like growth in users and downloads.
TikTok uses AI - of sorts - to suggest content to users. That content is mostly short video clips of teenagers singing along to songs. Users can also add simple special effects and split screens to the clips. It is terrifyingly popular with the yoof and claims 500 million active monthly users – not bad considering it launched in September 2016.
The company has come into conflict with Chinese regulators and international growth has not been without its hiccups either. In February, TikTok paid a $5.7m fine to the Federal Trade Commissiona for illegally collecting data on minors.
The move could be seen as more evidence of Chinese technology providers trying to become more self-reliant in the face of increasingly hostile and isolationist moves from the US government.
But ByteDance would do well to tread carefully – the history of application makers, even big ones, moving into hardware is not marked by many successes. Given an even more crowded mobile market today, ByteDance may find it tough to carve out a niche even with brand recognition from a billion people.
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