huawei

Global smartphone sales plummeted 20% in Q1, thanks to COVID-19

Posted by | Apple, coronavirus, COVID-19, gartner, hardware, huawei, Mobile, oppo, Samsung, smartphones | No Comments

More dismal numbers confirm what we already knew: Q1 2020 was real rough for an already struggling smartphone category. Gartner’s latest report puts the global market at a 20.2% slide versus the same time last year, thanks in large part to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every single one of the global top-five manufactures saw large declines for the quarter, save for Xiaomi, which saw a slight uptick of 1.4%. The Chinese handset maker got a surprise bump, courtesy of international sales. Samsung and Huawei and Oppo all saw double-digit drop-offs at 22.7%, 27.3% and 19.1%, while Apple declined 8.2%. Other companies combined for a sizable 24.2% loss for Q1.

The reasons are ones we’ve gone over several times before, nearly all pertaining to the global pandemic. Chief among them are global stay at home orders and general economic uncertainly. Issues with the global supply chain have no doubt been a factor, as well, as Asia was the first to get hit with the virus.

All of this comes in addition to an already plateauing/declining smartphone market. Analysts had expected that the arrival of 5G would help stem the tide a bit — but, well, some stuff happened in there. Notably, Apple’s slide wasn’t as bad as it might have been thanks to a strong start to the year.

“If COVID-19 did not happen, the vendor would have likely seen its iPhone sales reached record level in the quarter. Supply chain disruptions and declining consumer spending put a halt to this positive trend in February,” Gartner’s Annette Zimmermann said in a release. “Apple’s ability to serve clients via its online stores and its production returning to near normal levels at the end of March helped recover some of the early positive momentum.”

Overall, I suspect that recovery won’t be instantaneous for the market. The future of COVID-19 still feels largely uncertain as countries have begun the process of reopening, and a pricey investment still may not be in the cards for many who are struggling to make ends meet. 

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Huawei admits uncertainty following new US chip curbs

Posted by | Android, Asia, huawei, integrated circuits, operating system, Qwant, semiconductor, shenzhen, smartphones, telecommunications, TomTom, TSMC, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. government | No Comments

Following the U.S. government’s announcement that would further thwart Huawei’s chip-making capability, the Chinese telecoms equipment giant condemned the new ruling for being “arbitrary and pernicious.”

“Huawei categorically opposes the amendments made by the U.S. Department of Commerce to its foreign direct product rule that target Huawei specifically,” said Huawei Monday at its annual analyst summit in Shenzhen.

The new curbs, which dropped on Friday, would ban Huawei from using U.S. software and hardware in certain strategic semiconductor processes. This will affect all foundries using U.S. technologies, including those located abroad, some of which are Huawei’s key suppliers.

Earlier on Monday, the Nikkei Asian Review reported citing sources that Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest contract semiconductor that powers many of Huawei’s high-end phones, has stopped taking new orders from Huawei, one of its largest clients. Huawei declined to comment while TSMC said the report was “purely market rumor”.

Decisions from TSMC point to its attempt to strengthen bonds with the U.S. though, as it’s planning a new $12 billion advanced chip factory in Arizona with support from the state and the U.S. federal government.

At the Monday conference, Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping admitted that while the firm is able to design some semiconductor parts such as integrated circuits (IC), it remains “incapable of doing a lot of other things.”

“Survival is the keyword for us at present,” he said.

Huawei stated the latest U.S. ban would not only affect its own business in over 170 countries, where it has spent “hundreds of billions of dollars,” but also the wider ecosystem around the world.

“In the long run, [the U.S. ban] will damage the trust and collaboration within the global semiconductor industry which many industries depend on, increasing conflict and loss within these industries.”

Huawei has announced a raft of contingency measures ever since the Trump administration began slapping technology sanctions on it, including one that had cut it off certain Android services from Google.

Huawei said at the summit that it had doubled down on investment in overseas developers in an effort to lure them to its operating system. Some 1.4 million developers have joined Huawei Mobile Services or HMS, a 150% jump from 2019. For comparison, iOS in 2018 counted 20 million registered developers, who collectively made about $100 billion in revenues. The question for Huawei is how much money app makers can generate from its ecosystem.

In its search to identify alternatives to Google’s app suite in Europe, it has partnered up with navigation services TomTom and Here, search engine Qwant and news app News UK. 

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Fitbit’s Chinese rival Amazfit mulls a transparent, self-disinfecting mask

Posted by | Asia, biotech, China, Gadgets, GoPro, huami, huawei, shenzhen, smartwatch, TC, wearable devices, Xiaomi | No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of Chinese companies with manufacturing operations to produce virus-fighting equipment: Shenzhen-based electric vehicle giant BYD quickly moved to launch what it claims to be the world’s largest mask plant; Hangzhou-based voice intelligence startup Rokid is making thermal imaging glasses targeted at the US market; and many more.

The latest of such efforts comes from Huami, the NASDAQ-listed wearables startup that makes Xiaomi’s Mi Bands and sells its own fitness tracking watches under the Amazfit brand in more than 70 countries. In a phone interview with TechCrunch, the firm said it is developing a see-through plastic mask with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port. The caveat is that the lights only sanitize the inside of the mask and users still have to clean the outer surface themselves.

The Aeri concept comes with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port.

Called Aeri, the mask uses removable filters that are on par with N95 filtration capacity. If the concept materializes, each filter could last up to a month and a half, significantly longer than the average life of surgical masks and N95 respirators. The modular design allows for customized accessories such as a fan for breathable comfort, hence the mask’s name Aeri, a homophone of “airy”.

Aeri started from the premise that wearing masks could thwart the increasingly common adoption of facial recognition. That said, imaging companies have been working on biometric upgrades to allow analyses of other facial features such as irises or the tip of noses.

Aeri might still have a market appeal though, argued Pengtao Yu, vice president of industrial design at Huami. “Whether people need to unlock their phones or not, they want to see each other’s faces at social occasions,” said Yu, the California-based Chinese designer who had served clients including Nest Labs, Roku, GoPro and Huawei prior to joining Huami.

Huami’s U.S. operation, which focuses on research and development, opened in 2014 and now counts a dozen of employees.

Many companies turning to pandemic-fighting manufacturing have taken a hit from their core business, but Huami has managed to stay afloat. Its Q1 revenue was up 36% year-over-year to hit $154 million, although net income decreased to $2.7 million from $10.6 million. Its stocks have been declining, however, sliding from a high point of $16 in January to around $10 in mid-May.

Huami is in the process of prototyping the Aeri masks. In Shenzhen, which houses the wearables company’s headquarters, the development cycle for hardware products — from ideation to market rollout — takes as short as 6-12 months thanks to the city’s rich supply chain resources, said Yu.

Huami hasn’t priced Aeri at this early stage, but Yu admitted that the masks are targeting the “mass consumer market” around the world, not only for protection against viruses but also everyday air pollution, rather than appealing to medical workers. Given Huami’s history of making wearables at thin margins, it won’t be surprising that Aeri will be competitively priced.

The Aeri project is part of Huami’s pivot to enter the general health sector beyond pure fitness monitoring. The company has recently teamed up with a laboratory led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the public face of China’s fight against COVID-19, to track respiratory diseases using wearables. It’s also in talks with the German public health authority to collaborate on a smartwatch-powered virus monitoring app, the company told TechCrunch.

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Top members of Google’s Pixel team have left the company

Posted by | Android, computing, Google, Google Pixel, hardware, huawei, imaging, Mobile, mobile phones, Motorola Mobility, nexus 5x, Personnel, PIXEL, Pixel 2, pixel 3, rick osterloh, Samsung, smartphone, TechCrunch | No Comments

Key Pixel team members Marc Levoy and Mario Queiroz are out at Google. The departures, first reported by The Information, have been confirmed on the pages of the former Distinguished Engineer and Pixel General Manager, respectively.

Both members were key players on Google’s smartphone hardware team before exiting earlier this year. Levoy was a key member of the Pixel imaging team, with an expertise in computational photography that helped make the smartphone’s camera among the best in class. Queiroz was the number two on the Pixel team.

The exits come as the software giant has struggled to distinguish itself in a crowded smartphone field. The products have been generally well-received (with the exception of the Pixel 4’s dismal battery life), but the Android-maker has thus far been unable to rob much market share from the likes of Samsung and Huawei.

The Information report sheds some additional light on disquiet among the Pixel leadership. Hardware head Rick Osterloh reportedly voiced some harsh criticism during an all-hands late last year. It certainly seems possible the company saw fit to shake things up a bit, though Google declined TechCrunch’s request for comment.

Breaking into the smartphone market has been a white whale for the company for some time. Google has explored the space through its Nexus partnerships, along with its short-lived Motorola Mobility acquisition (2012-2014). The Pixel is possibly the most successful of these projects, but Google’s struggles have coincided with an overall flattening of the market.

The company did find some success with last year’s budget Pixel 3A. The followup Pixel 4A was rumored for a late May launch, though the device has reportedly been delayed.

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China’s smartphone shipments are reportedly up for April, following COVID-19-fueled decline

Posted by | Apple, articles, Asia, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, Europe, hardware, huawei, Mobile, north america, pandemic, smartphone, telecommunications, United States | No Comments

Smartphone shipments are reportedly beginning to see signs of life in China, after a sizable dip from the COVID-19 pandemic. New numbers from China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (a government-connected agency) point to a 17% rise in shipments for April, pointing to some recovery for the market.

The figure, from the China state-supported group, is virtually a mirror reflection of the 18% dip Canalys reported for Q1. COVID-19 was the primary culprit for those figures, through a combination of decreased spending among China’s phone-buying public and sizable supply chain constraints, as many Asian nations were on lockdown to slow the spread.

Both Huawei and Apple benefited from the rebound, though Reuters notes that the firm opted not to include an OS breakdown for the first time in a while, making it more difficult to parse market share.

Smartphone shipments have suffered across the board, along with countless other industries. A rebound for China’s market could be a bellwether for positive numbers for the industry moving forward — especially given the country’s close ties to the global supply chain. In spite of being the first country hit, China’s official figures for COVID-19 deaths have remained low, compared to countries in Europe and North America.

That’s likely due in part to some draconian measures used to stop the spread. Other countries (the U.S. in particular) may not be so likely to rebound from the pandemic, leading to a more protracted impact on the global market. 

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Smartphone shipments dropped 13% globally, and COVID-19 is to blame

Posted by | Apple, canalys, coronavirus, COVID-19, hardware, huawei, Mobile, Samsung, smartphones | No Comments

We knew it was going to be bad — but not necessarily “lowest level since 2013” bad. As Apple was busy reporting its earnings, Canalys just dropped some of its own figures — and they’re not pretty. After two quarters of much-needed growing, the global smartphone market just took a big hit. And you no doubt already know who the culprit is.

The mobile industry joins countless others that have taken a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with shipments dropping 13% from this time last year. Here’s a graph for those of you who are visual learners:

Analyst Ben Stanton used the word “crushed” to describe the novel coronavirus’s impact on the mobile market. “In February, when the coronavirus was centered on China, vendors were mainly concerned about how to build enough smartphones to meet global demand,” he writes. “But in March, the situation flipped on its head. Smartphone manufacturing has now recovered, but as half the world entered lockdown, sales plummeted.”

First it was impact on the global supply chain, which is centered in Asia, along with a drop in demand among consumers in China. As Europe, the U.S. and other locations continue to live under shelter in place orders, demand in those markets has taken a significant hit. People are stuck inside and many have lost jobs — it’s not really the ideal time to consider shelling out $1,000+ for what still seems a luxury for many.

Samsung regained the top spot, while still losing significant numbers. Both it and the number two company, Huawei, were down 17% for the quarter. Apple, at number three, dropped 8%. Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and Vivo saw some gains, at 9% and 3%, respectively.

There are bound to be rough times ahead as well. Per Stanton, “Most smartphone companies expect Q2 to represent the peak of the coronavirus’ impact.” Apple noted the uncertainty of its own earnings by opting not to issue guidance for next quarter.

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Huawei announces the P40 and tries to stay relevant without Google

Posted by | Gadgets, huawei, Huawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro, P40, P40 Pro, TC | No Comments

Huawei has unveiled new flagship phones today, the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+. These are beautiful phones with great specs. But it would only take you a few minutes to realize that there’s something odd with them. There is no Gmail, no Google Maps and no Google Play Store.

Last year, the U.S. government restricted U.S. firms from maintaining a business relationship with Huawei. Even though Huawei can only release Google-free phones, the company isn’t standing still. It is still releasing flagship phones at a normal pace. Some day, Huawei might be able to leverage Google’s services again, after all.

Huawei uses the open-source version of Android without all of the core features that are tied to Google services. The company has its own store of apps and tries to compensate the lack of Google apps with Huawei-branded apps.

In China, Google services are blocked by the Great Firewall anyway. But if you don’t live in China, I wouldn’t recommend buying a P40 phone. A phone without Android or iOS leads to a ton of limitations.

But let’s talk about the new phones anyway as Huawei has released some interesting phones in the past. Like previous devices in the P series, Huawei has packed some impressive camera sensors in the device.

On the P40 Pro and P40 Pro+, the display is curved around all four edges, including the top and bottom edges of the device. Last year’s P30 featured a teardrop notch at the center of the device. This year, Huawei relies on a new hole-punch design in the top left corner. In some ways, it reminds me of recent Samsung phones.

There are three different devices — the P40, the P40 Pro and the P40 Pro+. Huawei has yet to talk about pricing and availability. The P40 has a 6.1-inch display while the two “pro” models have a 6.58-inch display. That display has a 90 Hz refresh rate.

As always, Huawei offers plenty of colorful options for the back of the device. Some finishes are matte just like on the iPhone 11 Pro. You can also get a black or white matte ceramic back on the P40 Pro+.

It is powered by Huawei’s own system on a chip, the Kirin 990, and it works on 5G networks. Compared to last year, the CPU is 23% faster and the GPU is 39% on that new system on a chip.

When it comes to cameras, the P40 Pro+ has four different camera modules and a time-of-flight sensor — an ultra-wide lens (18mm), a normal lens (23mm), a 3x lens (80mm) and a super periscope lens with a 10x optical zoom. That last camera is the equivalent of a 240mm lens.

The Huawei P40 Pro has three different camera modules and a time-of-flight sensor. In addition to the ultra-wide and normal lens, there’s a 5x camera lens (125mm equivalent).

The Huawei P40 has three camera modules — ultra-wide (17mm), normal (23mm) and 3x zoom (80mm). The main camera sensor produces 50-megapixel photos.

Smartphone cameras also require a ton of software processing to produce good shots. While I haven’t been able to play with the P40 devices due to the lockdown in Europe, Huawei is usually a bit too heavy-handed with post-processing. If you use your camera with the Master AI setting, colors are too saturated.

But Huawei says that you can expect improvements across the board when it comes to image processing — better HDR processing, better night mode, better hardware and software image stabilization, better portrait photography, etc. The P40 also tries to eliminate reflection from windows in post-processing.

The company has also added a new mode called AI Best Moment. Your phone automatically recognizes when it should capture a photo — it can be when everybody is jumping at the same time or when a basketball player is going for the slam dunk.

The P40 will be available in Europe on April 7 for €799 (8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage). The P40 Pro will cost €999 (8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage) and will also be available on April 7. The P40 Pro+ will cost €1,399 with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It’ll be available in June.

As you can see, Huawei has a long list of big numbers to prove that the P40 Pro+ is faster and better than the P30 Pro. Just like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra, it feels a bit like excesses. Sure, it’s good to see that smartphone manufacturers can always pack more powerful components year after year.

But the smartphone industry is at a turning point. It is no longer a race for better specs. Manufacturers have to prove that there are new use cases to justify buying new models. Manufacturers with a clear focus and vision will stand out of the crowd.

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Huawei’s ill-fated foldable returns with a more robust upgrade

Posted by | 5g, foldables, hardware, huawei, Mobile, mwc 2020, smartphones | No Comments

MWC may have been canceled on account of rising coronavirus concerns, but the party still went on for Huawei (albeit to what appears to have been a mostly empty room). A year after wowing crowds with the Mate X, the company is introducing the Mate Xs.

Rather than a proper successor, the device appears to be the result of Huawei’s decision to go back to the drawing board, following Samsung’s very public problems with its own original foldable.

The design looks nearly identical to the original version of the phone — which is a pro. Honestly, the one major downside of the device (aside from a lofty price tag) is the fact that it never fully arrived, outside of what appears to be a relatively small batch offering in China.

Like Samsung, Huawei’s update focused a lot on the hinge; with increased mechanical components, the product should be more rugged than the original. Keep in mind that, while we were able to play around with the original Mate X, that was about it. Personally, I saw one at MWC and had an opportunity to try one for a few minutes during lunch, between meetings at Huawei HQ in Shenzhen.

Now that foldables have arrived, it seems Huawei is finally ready to take the leap. Of course, one ought not forget the company’s ongoing issues here in the States that will not only make it more difficult to procure here, but also blocks access to Android apps and services. That will continue to be a major issue for the company’s products, going forward.

Price, too, will continue to be an issue, at around $2,700 when it goes up for sale in certain markets next month. That extremely inflated price gets you a 6.6-inch display, 5G, a beefy 4,500 mAh battery, the latest Kirin 990 chip, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. Go big and/or go home, right?

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Russia’s push back against big tech has major consequences for Apple

Posted by | Android, Apple, Column, Developer, donald trump, Google, hardware, huawei, LinkedIn, Messenger, Moscow, Pavel Durov, Policy, pornhub, privacy, russia, smart device, Tim Cook, Turkey, Twitter | No Comments
Josh Nadeau
Contributor

Josh Nadeau is a Canadian journalist based in St. Petersburg who covers the intersection of Russia, technology and culture. He has written for The Economist, Atlas Obscura and The Outline.

Last month, Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize Apple for not unlocking two iPhones belonging to the Pensacola shooter, another volley in the struggle between big tech and the world’s governing bodies. But even the White House’s censure pales in comparison to the Kremlin’s ongoing plans. Apple, as the timing would have it, also happens to be in Vladimir Putin’s sights.

The company’s long-running policy of not preloading third-party software onto its devices is coming up against a new piece of Russian legislation requiring every smart device to be sold with certain applications already installed, many of which are produced by the government. Inside the country, the policy has even been called the zakon protiv Apple, or the “law against Apple,” for how it disproportionately affects the tech giant. While the law was passed last November, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service released the full list of apps only last week.

These regulations form the latest move in what’s turning out to be one of the largest national campaigns for digital control outside of Asia. These laws have been steadily accumulating since 2014 and are described as a way of consolidating sovereignty over the digital space — threatening to push companies out of the country if they fail to comply. Apple, for instance, will have to choose by July 1 whether maintaining access to the Russian market is worth making a revolutionary change in their policy. The same choice is given to any company wishing to do business in the country.

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No pan-EU Huawei ban as Commission endorses 5G risk mitigation plan

Posted by | 5g, Asia, computer security, Europe, european commission, european union, huawei, Internet of Things, Mobile, mobile network operators, network management, telecommunications, telemedicine, Trump administration, UK government, United Kingdom, United States | No Comments

The European Commission has endorsed a risk mitigation approach to managing 5G rollouts across the bloc — meaning there will be no pan-EU ban on Huawei. Rather it’s calling for Member States to coordinate and implement a package of “mitigating measures” in a 5G toolbox it announced last October and has endorsed today.

“Through the toolbox, the Member States are committing to move forward in a joint manner based on an objective assessment of identified risks and proportionate mitigating measures,” it writes in a press release.

It adds that Member States have agreed to “strengthen security requirements, to assess the risk profiles of suppliers, to apply relevant restrictions for suppliers considered to be high risk including necessary exclusions for key assets considered as critical and sensitive (such as the core network functions), and to have strategies in place to ensure the diversification of vendors”.

The move is another blow for the Trump administration — after the UK government announced yesterday that it would not be banning so-called “high risk” providers from supplying 5G networks.

Instead the UK said it will place restrictions on such suppliers — barring their kit from the “sensitive” ‘core’ of 5G networks, as well as from certain strategic sites (such as military locations), and placing a 35% cap on such kit supplying the access network.

However the US has been amping up pressure on the international community to shut the door entirely on the Chinese tech giant, claiming there’s inherent strategic risk in allowing Huawei to be involved in supplying such critical infrastructure — with the Trump administration seeking to demolish trust in Chinese-made technology.

Next-gen 5G is expected to support a new breed of responsive applications — such as self-driving cars and personalized telemedicine — where risks, should there be any network failure, are likely to scale too.

But the Commission take the view that such risks can be collectively managed.

The approach to 5G security continues to leave decisions on “specific security” measures as the responsibility of Member States. So there’s a possibility of individual countries making their own decisions to shut out Huawei. But in Europe the momentum appears to be against such moves.

“The collective work on the toolbox demonstrates a strong determination to jointly respond to the security challenges of 5G networks,” the EU writes. “This is essential for a successful and credible EU approach to 5G security and to ensure the continued openness of the internal market provided risk-based EU security requirements are respected.”

The next deadline for the 5G toolbox is April 2020, when the Commission expects Member States to have implemented the recommended measures. A joint report on their implementation will follow later this year.

Key actions being endorsed in the toolbox include:

  •     Strengthen security requirements for mobile network operators (e.g. strict access controls, rules on secure operation and monitoring, limitations on outsourcing of specific functions, etc.);
  •     Assess the risk profile of suppliers; as a consequence,  apply relevant restrictions for suppliers considered to be high risk – including necessary exclusions to effectively mitigate risks – for key assets defined as critical and sensitive in the EU-wide coordinated risk assessment (e.g. core network functions, network management and orchestration functions, and access network functions);
  •     Ensure that each operator has an appropriate multi-vendor strategy to avoid or limit any major dependency on a single supplier (or suppliers with a similar risk profile), ensure an adequate balance of suppliers at national level and avoid dependency on suppliers considered to be high risk; this also requires avoiding any situations of lock-in with a single supplier, including by promoting greater interoperability of equipment;

The Commission also recommends that Member States should contribute towards increasing diversification and sustainability in the 5G supply chain and co-ordinate on standardization around security objectives and on developing EU-wide certification schemes.

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