Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance—the company behind TikTok—has long dreamed of making a phone. And now, based on some new reports, it seems a TikTok phone is finally going to happen.
According to Reuters, earlier today, ByteDance announced that as a continuation on a previous deal with Chinese smartphone maker Smartisan, ByteDance will follow up on its plans to develop its own handset, which has reportedly been in development for around seven months.
The announcement comes after a deal made earlier this year that saw ByteDance acquire a number of Smartisan employees alongside a number of smartphone-related patents as ByteDance tries to expand its products from apps and software into hardware.
While it’s unclear how far ByteDance’s and Smartisan’s partnership extends, ByteDance may be looking to usurp or absorb the niche phone maker, as a spokesperson for ByteDance noted that the company’s new phone is “a continuation of earlier Smartisan plans, aiming to satisfy the needs of the old Smartisan user base.”
That said, even among Chinese phone manufactures, Smartisan is still a relatively small player compared to big names like Huawei, Xiaomi, and B.K. electronics, which owns both Oppo and OnePlus.
However, despite previous social media phone flops like the Microsoft Kin and the HTC First which were based on Facebook’s doomed Home OS, it still feels like its too early to write off a TikTok phone just yet.
[Update 12:40 PM] A spokesperson for ByteDance disputed the idea that this will be an official “TikTok phone.” Here is ByteDance’s official statement:
Reports of our smartphone development strictly refer to a continuation of plans that were in place before ByteDance began working with Smartisan. The product has no connection with TikTok and the focus is on meeting the needs of Smartisan’s existing customer base.
In less than five years, TikTok (which is known as DouYin in China) has grown at an astonishing rate to become the fourth largest social media platform behind Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. TikTok has been investing in new tech to improve its content creation tools, like with the company’s recent purchase of AI music startup Jukedeck. Furthermore, TikTok is one of the few Chinese-made social media apps that have more users outside of its home country thanks to rapid user adoption in countries like India and the U.S.
Sadly, there aren’t a lot of other details or specs about ByteDance’s upcoming phone, but with seven months of development and a former Smartisan exec now reportedly at the helm, I wouldn’t be surprised if this phone gets released sooner rather than later.