huawei

September’s Mate 30 launch could be a major test for Huawei

Posted by | Android, Google, hardware, huawei, Policy, smartphones, U.S. China trade war | No Comments

Apple isn’t the only smartphone manufacturer planning a big September launch. Huawei’s got a big event on the books as well, set for September 18 in Munich, just over a week after the new iPhones are unveiled. For Huawei, however, the Mate 30 announcement is about more than just smartphones.

The event is effectively the first big handset launch since the embattled Chinese manufacturer was added to the U.S. trade blacklist. The move had seemingly been a longtime coming, after years of allegations ranging from spying to sanctions violations, but with the ban in place, the move will mark a key moment of truth for a company that has so far been dependent on offerings from U.S. companies like Google.

The Mate 30, which also marks a push into 5G, could potentially launch without Google apps. The recent U.S. government reprieve only applied to already announced products, according to a statement Google gave to Reuters. Trump has suggested the ban on Huawei products could be lifted with a new U.S.-China trade deal, further clouding the suggestion that the move was made purely out of concerns for security.

The smartphone maker gave its own comment to Reuters, noting, “Huawei will continue to use the Android OS and ecosystem if the U.S. government allows us to do so. Otherwise, we will continue to develop our own operating system and ecosystem.”

That last bit is a clear allusion to HarmonyOS. The recently unveiled operating system is largely limited to low-end handsets and IoT devices, but Huawei is also certainly readying itself for a long-term life after Google.

Meanwhile, CNBC is citing a source that suggests the phone will launch with or without Google apps, depending on how things shake out over the next few weeks. That would likely amount to a minor nuisance, requiring users to download them after purchase, while a full-out Android brand would prove far more harmful to its bottom line.

It seems quite unlikely at the moment, however, that the company would attempt to launch such a high-end device with its own partially baked operation system.

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Huawei pushes back launch of 5G foldable, the Mate X

Posted by | Android, Asia, foldable smartphone, huawei, huawei mate x, Mobile, Samsung, samsung galaxy fold, shenzhen, smartphone, tablet computer | No Comments

If you were desperately ripping days off of your calendar until you could get your hands on Huawei’s $2,600 5G foldable, the Mate X — which was originally slated to launch next month — it sounds like you’re going to have to wait a bit longer, per TechRadar which attended a press event at Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters today. 

It reports being told there is no possibility of a September launch. Instead Huawei is now aiming for November. But the company would only profess itself certain its first smartphone that folds out to a (square) tablet will launch before 2020. So it seems Mate X buyers may need to wait until circa Christmas to fondle this foldable.

It’s not clear exactly why the launch is being delayed. But — speculating wildly — we imagine it’s something to do with the fact that the screen, er, folds.

We’ve reached out to Huawei for official comment on the delay.

Huawei’s Mate X date slippage suggests Samsung will still be first to market with its (previously) delayed Galaxy Fold — which was itself delayed after a bunch of review units broke (because, well, did we tell you the screen folds?).

Last we heard, the Galaxy Fold is slated for a September release — Samsung seemingly confident it’s fixed the problem of how to make a foldable phone survive actual use.

Of course survival in the wild very much remains to be seen with any of these foldable. So expect TC’s in house hardware guru, Brian Heater, to put all of these expensively hinged touchscreens through their paces.

Returning to Huawei’s Mate X, potential buyers may not be entirely reassured to learn the company appeared to dangle rather more information about a planned sequel in front of reporters at the press event.

A sequel which may or may not have even more screens, as Huawei is apparently considering putting glass on the back. Yes, glass. (The gen-one Mate X will have a steel back.) Glass panels which it says could double as touchscreens. On the back. As well as the front. We have no idea if that means the price-tag will double too.

This theoretical quad (?) screen foldable follow-up to the still unreleased Mate X might even be released as soon as next year, according to TechRadar’s reportage. Or — again speculating wildly — it might never be released. Because, frankly, it sounds mental. But that’s the wacky world of foldables for ya.

There may be method in this madness too. Because, since smartphones turned into all-screen devices — making it almost impossible to tell one touch-sensitive slab from another — plucky Android device makers are trying to find a way to put more screen on the slab so you can see more.

If they can pull that off it might be great. However sticking a hinge right through the middle of a smartphone’s primary feature and function without that simultaneously causing problems is certainly a major engineering challenge.

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Huawei employees reportedly aided African governments in spying

Posted by | africa, Government, huawei, Mobile | No Comments

A new report from The Wall Street Journal could be another damning piece of evidence for a company already under a good deal of international scrutiny. The paper is reporting that technicians working for Huawei helped members of government in Uganda and Zambia spy on political opponents.

The report cites unnamed senior surveillance officers. The paper adds that an investigation didn’t confirm a direct tie between the Chinese government or Huawei executives. It did, however, appear to confirm that employees for the tech giant played a part in intercepting communications.

The list includes encrypted messages, the use of apps like WhatsApp and Skype and tracking opponents using cellular data.

A representative for Zambia’s ruling party confirmed with the paper that Huawei technicians have helped in the fight against news sites with opposing stances in the country, stating, “Whenever we want to track down perpetrators of fake news, we ask Zicta, which is the lead agency. They work with Huawei to ensure that people don’t use our telecommunications space to spread fake news.”

Huawei has, naturally, denied any involvement, stating that it has “never been engaged in ‘hacking’ activities. Huawei rejects completely these unfounded and inaccurate allegations against our business operations. Our internal investigation shows clearly that Huawei and its employees have not been engaged in any of the activities alleged. We have neither the contracts, nor the capabilities, to do so.”

The company has, of course, been under international scrutiny in places like the U.S. and Europe over concerns that its telecommunications technologies could be used for spying on behalf of the Chinese government, allegations Huawei has strongly and often rebuffed.

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Huawei’s new OS isn’t an Android replacement… yet

Posted by | Android, China, Google, Government, hardware, HarmonyOS, huawei, Mobile, operating system, Policy, Tariffs, Trade war, trump | No Comments

If making an Android alternative was easy, we’d have a lot more of them. Huawei’s HarmonyOS won’t be replacing the mobile operating system for the company anytime soon, and Huawei has made it pretty clear that it would much rather go back to working with Google than go it alone.

Of course, that might not be an option.

The truth is that Huawei and Google were actually getting pretty chummy. They’d worked together plenty, and according to recent rumors, were getting ready to release a smart speaker in a partnership akin to what Google’s been doing with Lenovo in recent years. That was, of course, before Huawei was added to a U.S. “entity list” that ground those plans to a halt.

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HarmonyOS is Huawei’s Android alternative for smartphones and smart home devices

Posted by | Asia, HarmonyOS, huawei, Mobile, smartphones, U.S. China trade war | No Comments

After months of conflicting statements from Huawei executives, the Chinese networking giant on Friday officially unveiled HarmonyOS, the much-anticipated microkernel-based distributed operating system that it has developed to power smartphones, laptops and smart home devices as the company attempts to reduce its reliance on American firms.

HarmonyOS will be made available later this year for deployment in smart screen products such as TV, smart watches and in-vehicle infotainment systems, said Richard Yu, CEO of the Huawei consumer division at the company’s developer conference. In the next three years, Huawei, the world’s second largest smartphone vendor, will look to bring HarmonyOS to more devices, including smartphones, he said.

Yu said, without offering any proof, that HarmonyOS is “more powerful and secure than Android.” He said HarmonyOS’ IPC performance is five times that of Google’s Fuchsia. The top executive also claimed that HarmonyOS’ microkernel has “one-thousandth the amount of code in the Linux kernel.”

“A modularized HarmonyOS can be nested to adapt flexibly to any device to create a seamless cross-device experience. Developed via the distributed capability kit, it builds the foundation of a shared developer ecosystem,” the company said in a statement, adding that it began to explore developing its own operating system “as early as 10 years ago.”

The company said it intends to continue to use Android moving forward, but HarmonyOS is officially its back-up plan if things go south. “We will prioritize Android for smartphones, but if we can’t use Android, we will be able to install HarmonyOS quickly,” Yu said.

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Image: FRED DUFOUR / AFP / Getty Images

The availability of the mobile operating system, which is open source, will be limited to China for now, though the company has plans to bring it to international markets at a later stage, he said.

The company said it has worked on security and trustworthiness aspects of the operating system from the ground up. It said HarmonyOS uses formal verification methods to “reshape security.” Formal verification methods are an effective mathematical approach to validate system correctness from the source, while traditional verification methods, such as functional verification and attack simulation, “are confined to limited scenarios,” the company claimed.

The announcement today comes months after the U.S. government put Huawei and more than 60 affiliates in an entity list, restricting U.S. firms from maintaining a business relationship with the Chinese giant. The U.S. government has accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets, and said it poses a risk to national security. Huawei has denied these accusations and pursued legal means to fight back.

In the aftermath, Google, Intel and other U.S.-based companies that contribute much of the technology and solutions that go into a smartphone suspended their business with Huawei, thereby severely questioning the company’s future prospects.

The ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China has already started to impact Huawei’s bottom line. The company’s performance in the quarter that ended in June was weak, compared to several previous quarters.

What remains unclear is the kind of impact the U.S.’ accusations have had on the Chinese giant’s brand image worldwide. According to research firm Counterpoint, about half of all Huawei smartphones ship outside China.

Huawei was poised to become the world’s biggest vendor by shipment — something it would have achieved — “if not for the trade war,” Yu said.

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Africa’s top mobile phone seller Transsion to list in Chinese IPO

Posted by | africa, Beijing, chairman, China, Companies, e-commerce, Egypt, ethiopia, huawei, india, initial public offering, kenya, Mobile, mobile phone, Nigeria, Opera, Samsung, secretary, shanghai, Shanghai Stock Exchange, shenzhen, smartphone, smartphones, South Africa, spokesperson, Startup company, Tanzania, TC, technology, telecommunications, Transsion | No Comments

Chinese mobile-phone and device maker Transsion will list in an IPO on Shanghai’s STAR Market,  Transsion confirmed to TechCrunch. 

The company—which has a robust Africa sales network—could raise up to 3 billion yuan (or $426 million).

“The company’s listing-related work is running smoothly. The registration application and issuance process is still underway, with the specific timetable yet to be confirmed by the CSRC and Shanghai Stock Exchange,” a spokesperson for Transsion’s Office of the Secretary to the Chairman told TechCrunch via email.

Transsion’s IPO prospectus was downloadable (in Chinese) and its STAR Market listing application available on the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s website.

STAR is the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s new Nasdaq-style board for tech stocks that also went live in July with some 25 companies going public. 

Headquartered in Shenzhen—where African e-commerce unicorn Jumia also has a logistics supply-chain facility—Transsion is a top-seller of smartphones in Africa under its Tecno brand.

The company has a manufacturing facility in Ethiopia and recently expanded its presence in India.

Transsion plans to spend the bulk of its STAR Market raise (1.6 billion yuan or $227 million) on building more phone assembly hubs and around 430 million yuan ($62 million) on research and development,  including a mobile phone R&D center in Shanghai—a company spokesperson said. 

Transsion recently announced a larger commitment to capturing market share in India, including building an industrial park in the country for manufacture of phones to Africa.

The IPO comes after Transsion announced its intent to go public and filed its first docs with the Shanghai Stock Exchange in April. 

Listing on the STAR Market will put Transsion on the freshly minted exchange seen as an extension of Beijing’s ambition to become a hub for high-potential tech startups to raise public capital. Chinese regulators lowered profitability requirements, for the exchange, which means pre-profit ventures can list.

Transsion’s IPO process comes when the company is actually in the black. The firm generated 22.6 billion yuan ($3.29 billion) in revenue in 2018, up from 20 billion yuan from a year earlier. Net profit for the year slid to 654 million yuan, down from 677 million yuan in 2017, according to the firm’s prospectus.

Transsion sold 124 million phones globally in 2018, per company data. In Africa, Transsion holds 54% of the feature phone market—through its brands Tecno, Infinix, and Itel—and in smartphone sales is second to Samsung and before Huawei, according to International Data Corporation stats.

Transsion has R&D centers in Nigeria and Kenya and its sales network in Africa includes retail shops in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Egypt. The company also attracted attention for being one of the first known device makers to optimize its camera phones for African complexions.

On a recent research trip to Addis Ababa, TechCrunch learned the top entry-level Tecno smartphone was the W3, which lists for 3600 Ethiopian Birr, or roughly $125.

In Africa, Transsion’s ability to build market share and find a sweet spot with consumers on price and features gives it prominence in the continent’s booming tech scene.

Africa already has strong mobile-phone penetration, but continues to undergo a conversion from basic USSD phones, to feature phones, to smartphones.

Smartphone adoption on the continent is low, at 34 percent, but expected to grow to 67 percent by 2025, according to GSMA.

This, added to an improving internet profile, is key to Africa’s tech scene. In top markets for VC and startup origination—such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa—thousands of ventures are building business models around mobile-based products and digital applications.

If Transsion’s IPO enables higher smartphone conversion on the continent that could enable more startups and startup opportunities—from fintech to VOD apps.

Another interesting facet to Transsion’s IPO is its potential to create greater influence from China in African tech, in particular if the Shenzhen company moves strongly toward venture investing.

Comparatively, China’s engagement with African startups has been light compared to China’s deal-making on infrastructure and commodities—further boosted in recent years as Beijing pushes its Belt and Road plan.

Transsion’s IPO move is the second recent event—after Chinese owned Opera’s big venture spending in Nigeria—to reflect greater Chinese influence and investment in the continent’s digital scene.

So in coming years, China could be less known for building roads, bridges, and buildings in Africa and more for selling smartphones and providing VC for African startups.

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Trump administration bans federal agencies from buying Huawei, ZTE tech

Posted by | 5g, Congress, Gadgets, Government, Hikvision, huawei, Hytera, Policy, Security, spokesperson, telecommunications, Trump administration, United States, zte | No Comments

The Trump administration has banned U.S. federal agencies from buying equipment and obtaining services from Huawei and two other companies as part of the government’s latest crackdown on Chinese technology amid national security fears.

Jacob Wood, a spokesperson for the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, was quoted as saying that the administration will “fully comply” with the legislation passed by Congress as part of a defense spending bill passed last year.

CNBC first reported the spokesperson’s remarks.

The new rule will take effect in a week — August 13 — and will also take aim at Chinese tech giants ZTE, Hytera, and Hikvision, amid fears that the companies could spy for the Chinese government. The rule comes in a year before Congress’ mandated deadline of August 2020 for all federal contractors doing business with Huawei, ZTE, Hytera and Hikvision.

The government will grant waivers to contractors on a case-by-case basis so long as their work does not pose a national security threat.

Huawei has long claimed it does not nor can it spy for the Chinese government. Critics, including the government and many lawmakers, say the company’s technology, primarily networking equipment like 5G cell stations, could put Americans’ data at risk of Chinese surveillance or espionage. Huawei has vigorously denied the allegations, despite findings from the U.K. government that gave a damning assessment of the technology’s security.

The company first came to focus in 2012 following a House inquiry, which labeled the company a national security threat.

Huawei spokesperson Chase Skinner said the news was “not unexpected” and that it continues to challenge the ban in court.

“The NDAA law and its implementing provisions will do nothing to ensure the protection of U.S. telecom networks and systems and rather is trade barrier based on country-of-origin, invoking punitive action without any evidence of wrong doing,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be rural citizens across the U.S. that will be most negatively impacted as the networks they use for digital connectivity rely on Huawei.”

ZTE did not respond to a request for comment.

Added statement from Huawei spokesperson.

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Huawei’s in-house OS could show up on phones this year

Posted by | Apps, hardware, huawei, Mobile | No Comments

Huawei has almost certainly been working on a software contingency plan for some time now, prepping for a worst-case scenario. When the U.S. announced that it was blacklisting the Chinese hardware giant earlier this year, those plans were likely accelerated.

One of the things that’s still unclear, however, is what role the company’s Hongmeng OS will fill. Recent reports have suggested that the operating system was built for IoT and other industrial applications. However, the software may also be forked specifically to run on low-end mobile devices.

State-run media outlet Global Times this morning issued a report based on sources suggesting that Hongmeng could appear on a low-end phone later this year. The OS is clearly far less robust than Android in its current state, but could wind up on a new device priced at 2,000 yuan (~$290). The report adds that Huawei is set to reveal the operating system in full later this week at its Developer Conference in Dongguan, China.

At present, Hongmeng doesn’t appear purpose-built to replace Google’s operating system, but Huawei is getting ready for the possibility of a future that completely cuts the company off from access to U.S.-built hardware and software. For the time being, at least, the company seems focused on continuing to use Android for its high-end flagships, while potentially building out Hongmeng on more entry-level devices.

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A closer look at China’s smartphone market

Posted by | Apple, Asia, China, Government, hardware, huawei, iPhone, Mobile, mobile phone, Policy, Samsung, smartphones, Tariffs, Tim Cook, Trade war | No Comments

In February 2013, China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest smartphone market. More than half a decade on, it still proves an elusive target for international sellers. A glance at reports from the past several quarters reveals the top spots dominated by homegrown names: Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi.

Combined, the big four made up roughly 84% of the nearly 100 million smartphones shipped last quarter, per new numbers from Canalys. Even international giants like Apple and Samsung have trouble cracking double-digit market share. Of the two, Apple has generally done better, with around 6% of the market — around six times Samsung’s share.

But Apple’s struggles have been very visible nonetheless, as the company has invested a good deal of its own future success into the China market. At the beginning of the year, the company took the rare action of lowering its guidance for Q1, citing China as the primary driver.

“While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” Tim Cook said in a letter to shareholders at the time. “In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad.”

When it came time to report, things were disappointing, as expected. The company’s revenue in the area dropped nearly $5 billion, year over year. On the tail of two rough quarters, things picked up a bit for Apple in the country. This week, Tim Cook noted “great improvement” in Greater China.

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Smartphone sales expected to drop 2.5% globally this year

Posted by | 5g, gartner, hardware, huawei, Mobile, smartphones | No Comments

Smartphone sales have continued their global decline. New numbers from Gartner forecast a drop of 2.5% down to 1.5 billion. The biggest hits to the industry are Japan, Western Europe and North America, which saw drops of 6.5, 5.3 and 4.4%, respectively.

It’s all part of a continued trend we’ve highlighted several times before: slowed upgrade cycles, pricier phones, a bad economy. Even the world’s largest smartphone market, China, saw a drop for the year, as it battles its own economic headwinds.

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The Huawei ban has also impacted some of the larger numbers, though Huawei itself has continued to grow, thanks to healthy continued adoption in its home market. The company, however, is still suffering from negative connotations abroad, while cutting off access to U.S.-based companies will likely halt things further.

The good news for manufacturers in all this is a rebound set for the second half of next year, driven by 5G. The first handsets have started to arrive this year, with others (including the iPhone) not expected until next. A lot’s going to have to happen for sales to reverse the downward trends — even temporarily. That’s going to take more handsets, wider 5G availability and lower prices, with many topping out well over $1,000 here in the States.

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