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5G, AI application the next goal for smartphone firms

By Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-22 09:57
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The stand of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Feb 26, 2018.[Photo/Agencies]

Chinese smartphone makers are scrambling to work on 5G and artificial intelligence technologies, in the hope of quickly applying these cutting-edge technologies to their products.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, the world's third largest smartphone vendor, unveiled its first 5G chipset compatible with global telecom standards at the Mobile World Congress, the biggest annual industry gathering in Barcelona, Spain, in late February.

The move is part of Huawei's broad strategy to differentiate its smartphones from those of competitors as handsets now look and work increasingly the same way.

Known as Balong 5G01, Huawei claimed that the chip was the world's first commercial chipset to meet 5G standards. It can deliver an internet speed of up to 2.3 gigabits per second-far faster than the speeds currently reached on 4G networks. However, it is considerably slower than the industry promises of 20 gigabits per second when 5G matures.

Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, said the company aims to launch a 5G phone powered by the new chipset in the third or fourth quarter of this year.

The move represents a broader trend among Chinese smartphone vendors. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, a body that governs global cellular standards, agreed late last year on the technical specifications of how 5G should work. The decision has accelerated companies' steps to develop 5G-powered handsets.

Chen Mingyong, CEO of Oppo Electronics Corp, which has emerged as the second largest smartphone vendor in China in just a few years, said the company is working closely with US chip giant Qualcomm Inc on the superfast 5G technology.

"We were (arguably) the first to transfer to 4G smartphones when 3G-enabled handsets were selling extremely well. We are keeping the same first-mover strategy amid the transition to 5G," Chen said.

When it comes to AI, a technology deemed to reshape both hardware and software of smartphones, Chinese companies are also engaged in constant trials.

Shen Wei, CEO of Vivo Mobile Communication Technology, the third biggest player in China's smartphone market, said the company sees AI as a fundamental tool to change how human beings interact with machines, not only just for mobile devices.

"We are using AI to upgrade almost every aspect of smartphones, such as photo-taking and battery-charging capabilities," Shen said. "But I think AI is still overhyped at this moment."

In October 2017, Huawei unveiled its AI-powered handset Mate 10 series in China to challenge Apple Inc in the premium segment.

The device, enabled by its AI Kirin 970 chips, can identify 13 sorts of objects, such as people and plants, when consumers use the handsets to take pictures.

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