Bytedance acquires smartphone maker on heels of expansions

The move will bring two of WeChat’s challengers under one umbrella.

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Bytedance acquires smartphone maker on heels of expansions

Chinese tech unicorn Bytedance has reportedly acquired beleaguered local smartphone maker Smartisan. The company made the move as it continues to diversify its services to confront the domination of Tencent’s WeChat.

Relatively unknown outside China, Smartisan was founded in 2012 by Luo Yonghao, a former English tutor and serial entrepreneur. The firm designs and sells middle-market smartphones with sleek bodies and a highly customised operating system that is based on Android.

Luo’s firm is also the developer behind Bullet Messaging, which was recently renamed Chat Bao. It is one of three messaging apps that are attempting to unravel WeChat’s supremacy in China’s mobile communications. Bytedance’s own video-based messaging app Duoshan is one of the other challengers.

According to Chinese media accounts, a portion of Smartisan’s staff have signed employment contracts with Bytedance, effectively transferring their employment to Smartisan’s new owner. In response to our request for comment, Bytedance said that it acquired the smartphone maker to adapt some of its patents for hardware used in education products and services, and declined to comment further.

At the time of publication, Smartisan and Bytedance have not released information about the number of employees who have been transferred.

Editor: Brady Ng