Alibaba and China Telecom join forces to sell smartphones

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By Larry Banks

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and the state-owned telecom company China Telecom have joined forces to sell smartphones, aiming to increase mobile commerce in smaller cities and rural areas.

Alibaba joins forces with China Telecom

The two companies plan to sell inexpensive phones, called “Tianyi Taobao Shopping Handsets”, which will come either pre-installed with an app for accessing Alibaba’s Taobao online shopping service, or its custom YunOS mobile operating system, it said on Friday. Anyone who buys the phones will receive four months of free 2G data service.

The new partnership aims to increase Alibaba’s e-commerce base in less developed parts of China and also promote its mobile OS in a competitive handset market.

There will be six smartphone models, made by Coolpad, Hisense and TCL, and will come with Mobile Taobao pre-installed. Mobile Taobao is China’s most popular shopping app, and boasts more than 200 million monthly users.

Alibaba Mobile Taobao

Besides those six devices, there will be another eight from even less well known brands such as Uniscope, Ctyon and Kingsun, that will run YunOS, providing shoppers with an Alibaba account for cloud storage and shopping.

In China, there are 557 million people who access the Internet using mobile phones, according to the latest government figures. However, shipments in China were 389 million phones last year, down from 423 million in 2013 according to China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Thankfully for Alibaba, mobile shopping is on the rise. In January of this year, the company said it managed to nearly double the number of monthly active users in the third quarter from the same period the year before to 265 million. The company now has a whopping 86% share of China’s mobile commerce market.

And in February, Alibaba announced that it would take a $590 million stake in the relatively unknown Meizu, a domestic smartphone company, as it looks at expanding its mobile operating system.

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