Alibaba has partnered with China Telecom to sell low-cost smartphones to people in rural areas. The move is intended to target increasing e-commerce in smaller cities.
The phones, dubbed Tianyi Taobao Shopping Handsets, will feature either an app for easy access to Alibaba’s Taobao online shopping platform or its YunOS mobile operating system.
They will be sold in China Telecom stores. Buyers will also get free 2G data for a period of four months.
Six handsets manufactured by Coolpad, Hisense and TCL will feature the Mobile Taobao shopping app.
Another eight models made by Uniscope, Ctyon and Kingsun will run on YunOS and give buyers Alibaba accounts as well as cloud storage. These phones will cost between RMB299 ($48) to RMB699 ($113).
A report from Alibaba’s affiliate Alipay has found that shopping via smartphones has became popular in rural China due to the underdeveloped broadband telecommunications infrastructure and the high cost of computers.
China Telecom is expanding its network of retail outlets in regions that are less-developed. The company had 15,000 retail outlets in rural parts of the country at the end of 2014.
A report from iResearch has revealed that mobile shopping in China increased by about 240% in 2014.
The research firm predicts that consumers will buy more goods with mobile devices rather than PCs in 2016, and mobile commerce gross merchandise volume will reach RMB4 trillion ($644bn) in 2018.
Alibaba currently has a 86% share of China’s mobile commerce market.