ByteDance, the company behind video app TikTok, is reportedly building its own smartphone too. According to two unnamed sources in a Financial Times report, the phone would come preloaded with ByteDance’s many apps — which include the news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, the ubiquitous TikTok, and according to some rumors, an unreleased streaming music service.
The Financial Times says that ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming has “long dreamt” of building a smartphone full of preloaded apps. The Beijing-based company confirmed a deal with phone maker Smartisan early this year, saying it had acquired a patent portfolio and hired some Smartisan employees. ByteDance claimed this would help it “explore the education business,” but this recent news casts the purchase in a new light.
The report doesn’t offer details about the phone’s design or intended market, although it suggests that ByteDance could be hampered by the US government’s hostility toward Chinese telecommunication companies. ByteDance has also faced problems in India, where TikTok has exploded in popularity — but the government briefly banned it for promoting “cultural degradation.”
Overall, the FT report is highly skeptical of the phone’s prospects. It notes that Facebook and Amazon have launched phones preloaded with special apps, but both companies discontinued the fairly unpopular products. Especially in Facebook’s case, users could simply download the apps they wanted on other phones — a challenge ByteDance might face as well. On the other hand, Chinese selfie app maker Meitu successfully parlayed a smartphone business into a deal with Xiaomi.