Not even a week after Apple’s botched mainland delivery of its flagship 4S smartphone, two of China’s leading internet firms, Sina Corp and Shanda Interactive Entertainment Ltd, announced their plans to develop their own Android-backed smartphones.In recent years, both of these firms have risen to become two of the most recognisable names in the Chinese technology world. Sina, of course, is well-known for its popular microblogging platform Weibo, which currently boasts 250 million users according to the company’s own data; a substantial figure compared to recent Analysys International estimates, which placed the country’s active microblogging population at 254 million as of the end of last year. Shanda, arguably the less internationally recognisable of the two companies, is a popular online gaming and media operator which offers, among its many entertainment products, some of the country’s top multi-player role playing games, as well as a wide selection of online literature through its Shanda Literature platform.
Currently, the proposed handsets from both Sina and Shanda are still in the early stages of development; with release dates, pricing and technical specification likely still months away. Yet, in their initial announcements, both companies mentioned that their smartphones will feature specially designed features for their respective online products.
With the explosive growth seen in the country’s mobile market in recent years, Sina and Shanda are not the first major Chinese internet firms to have set their sights on the lucrative domestic smartphone market. Last year, for example, Baidu, operators of the country’s popular search engine, announced a partnership with Dell to deliver a handset called the Streak Pro, a smartphone which utilizes Baidu’s Yi platform, sometime around the upcoming Chinese New Year. Similarly, Alibaba, operators of several of the country’s top e-commerce platforms; and Tencent, the company behind QQ, one of the country’s most widely-used instant messaging services; have each in recent years taken steps towards entering the mobile market with smartphones and localised apps.
As demand for smartphones declines abroad, growth in the Chinese market is expected to lead the world in the years to come, with inexpensive handsets priced under RMB 2000 ($315 USD) expected to draw the most attention from local consumers. China is currently the world’s top smartphone marketplace, with 24 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter of last year, exceeding the 23 million units shipped in the US during the same period according to the Wall Street Journal, citing data from research firm Strategy Analytics.