TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, could soon be launching yet another ambitious project: their own smartphone.
The Financial Times reported the new project, citing “two people familiar with the project,” on Monday. The plan is to focus on launching the phone with the company’s many apps pre-installed to lure buyers into choosing their phone over competitors.
Besides TikTok, ByteDance also owns news app Jinri Toutiao, its Chinese version of TikTok called Douyin, and new messaging app Flipchat. It is reportedly also looking into its own music streaming service to compete with the likes of Apple Music and Spotify.
According to the Financial Times:
ByteDance’s latest project, the brainchild of founder Zhang Yiming, follows its acquisition of a number of patents from Smartisan, a Chinese phonemaker, and subsequent recruitment of some of its staff.
Mr Zhang has long dreamt of a phone with ByteDance apps pre-installed, according to one person with knowledge of the secretive project.
Whether or not Zhang’s dream actually materializes is another matter. The FT is quick to note failed phone projects from two other tech giants, Amazon and Facebook. And one can’t forget the disaster that was Snapchat’s own hardware foray, Spectacles.
And there’s the privacy issue: Douyin is heavily surveilled and censored by the Chinese government. One of the most well-known examples of this censorship was the 2018 wiping of tens of thousands of Peppa Pig videos from Douyin because government officials considered the cartoon pig a “subversive” figure.
The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China could also throw a big wrench in any plans ByteDance has to get traction in the American phone market. The U.S. Department of Commerce banned Chinese tech giant Huawei, for example, over spying and other national security concerns, prompting Microsoft to clear its laptops from its store and Google to temporarily cut off business with the company.
Whether ByteDance can replicate their app success on in the hardware market remains to be seen, but it’s looking like a tough gambit.