Alibaba has partnered with China’s biggest telecom operator to sell low-cost smartphones to people in rural areas for prices as low as 299 RMB ($48).
The deal with China Telecom, which has 186 million users, is part of a two-pronged strategy for the e-commerce giant, which sees smaller cities as key to its growth plans for its e-commerce business and operating system YunOS.
A line of eight inexpensive smartphone models from obscure brands like Uniscope, Ctyon, and Kingsun will come loaded with YunOS, the operating system developed by Alibaba to compete with Android. Six pricier models from better-known makers like Coolpad, Hisense, and TCL, on the other hand, will have Alibaba’s shopping app Mobile Taobao pre-installed.
The smartphones will be sold in China Telecom stores. The telco had 15,000 retail outlets in rural China at the end of 2015 and is planning to add more locations.