2019 could be the beginning of the end for Huawei

Over the years we’ve seen quite a few smartphone markers quickly rise into the spotlight and then fade away. Palm, Nokia, RIM, Motorola, HTC and others all enjoyed tremendous success, followed by a dramatic fall. The interesting thing is that the stories behind the successes and failures of these companies are all different. They bet on the wrong platform, moved too slowly, got lost in the shuffle or simply lost their identity. 

But since each company faced unique difficulties, it’s been hard for other companies to learn from their mistakes. While it’s easy to spot a company that’s a few years into a decline, it’s harder to predict which company will be the next to fall from grace. Because of that, you likely wouldn’t believe us if we told you that #2 smartphone maker on the globe will be the one facing an uncertain future. 

Huawei surpassed Apple on the charts back in 2017, moving from being the #3 smartphone maker to the #2 spot, positioning itself nicely behind Samsung. The company is expected to ship more than 200 million devices in 2018, up from 153 million units in 2017. Huawei has been on an unprecedented growth spurt, overtaking its competitors one by one by delivering cutting-edge smartphone like the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and budget-friendly devices with competitive specs with its Honor brand. 

The most surprising aspect of Huawie’s growth has been that it’s managed to capture 15% of the global smartphone market share without breaking into the North American market. That point was to be Huawei’s main focus for 2018, but it’s also where things started to go wrong as well.

Back in January of this year, Huawei’s CES press conference was where the company was planning to announce its official entry into the US market. Huawei had worked out deals to bring the Huawei Mate 10 Pro to AT&T and Verizon, putting its best phone on thousands of stores across the US. But those deals fell through at the last minute. According to the rumors, AT&T and Verizon backed out at the last minute due to pressure from the US Senate and House committees which insisted that Huawei would be “a security threat” if it managed to secure a firm foothold in the US market. 

Huawei pushed forward with the Mate 10 Pro announcement, choosing to sell the device unlocked through Best Buy and its own website. In February, the US’ offensive went one step further with the heads of multiple US intelligence agencies warning Congress about the threat posed by Huawei’s close ties with the Chinese government. 

“We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,”

While no specific threats of espionage were shared, the US government’s anti-Huawei stance was enough for Best Buy to rethink it’s relationship with Huawei, announcing that it would phase out sales of unlocked Huawei devices. 

Since then, the US government has been putting pressure on its allies across the globe to limit their use of Huawei networking equipment. So far, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and Australia appear to have taken a stance against Huawei as well, citing security concerns with Huawei’s equipment. 

Just this week, we learned that the Sprint and T-Mobile merger in the US was given a security approval based on the agreement from Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile’s parent company) and SoftBank Group (Sprint’s parent company) to not use Huawei network equipment to build out their 5G networks. This is a huge blow for Hauwei as SoftBank Group and Deutsche Telekom operate the largest networks in Japan and Germany. 

On top of that, Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1st. The arrest is related to Huawei’s supposed violation of international sanctions on Iran. While the exact details of the violation are still being kept under wraps, the US is hoping to have Meng extradited to the US to face trial. Making matters worse, Wanzhou Meng also serves as vice-chair of Huawei’s board and is the daughter of the company’s founder.

So where does all this leave Huawei?

While Huawei’s smartphone business is bigger than ever, its network infrastructure business will be facing tough times in 2019 and beyond. For those who don’t know, Huawei’s network equipment business if far bigger and dramatically more lucrative for Huawei than its smartphone business. It’s also the reason why the company’s smartphones have become so popular across Asia and Europe.

Huawei has used sales of its network equipment to service providers across the globe as a bargaining chip to get them to also sell its smartphones to their customers. That’s one of the reasons why Huawei’s smartphones hadn’t yet established a foothold in the US. Huawei has been banned from bidding on US network builds in the US since 2011, essentially freezing out any relationships between Huawei and US service providers. 

If more countries ban Hauwei equipment from their 5G network build outs, the relationship that Huawei has with service provider around the globe will suffer. There’s a very good chance that customers will start seeing fewer Hauwei devices in carrier shops in Europe, forcing the company to retreat to Asia and more friendly markets. This would inevitably lead to a dramatic decline in the sales of Huawei smartphones, resulting in a drop in market share. 

The good news is that none of this is set in stone. Huawei is currently trying to work with the UK to address the security concerns they have. The company could also make significant changes to distance itself from the Chinese government, adding independent oversight of certain portions of its business. At this point, Huawei’s fate is still in its own hands. They can choose to play defense and try to fend off the attacks on its businesses or go on the offensive and present a plan which will change the narrative in 2019. 

[Update: Granted bail] Canada arrests Huawei's Chief Financial Officer, China warns 'grave consequences'

Update 1: 2018/12/11 7:17pm PST

CNN reports that Meng Wanzhou has been released on a $10 million bail ($6.7 million USD) while her extradition hearings continue. She has agreed to surrender her passports, live

Two days ago, Canadian police arrested the chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, following an extradition request by the United States government. Wanzhou was arrested for allegedly covering up Huawei’s links to a company that tried to sell equipment to Iran — a country under trade sanctions by the United States. Read More[Update: Granted bail] Canada arrests Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, China warns ‘grave consequences’ was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

The future of glass smartphones may have a bit less slip

Let’s face it, glass backs are not going anywhere. A glass back on a smartphone is synonymous with premium and high end, even when budget phones are long using glass backs. We can’t deny that they feel great.
A metal back is also premium, but there’s one issue: the ability to support wireless charging. A metal back won’t allow for wireless charging to work, but glass and plastic will. But plastic is so 2012.
Plastic is seen as cheap, and we can’t blame people for thinking so. Many budget phones with plastic construction definitely feel the part. And we can’t forget how awful Samsung products felt back in the day. The Galaxy S3 was a strangely slick, plasticky mess. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was even worse, with more flex in the back panel than a party balloon. It doesn’t have to be that way, as plastic can be made to feel good, but glass is definitely the better feeling material.
Now that we’re stuck with glass, we get to see the disadvantages. The main one is that it’s slippery. Unlike a textured plastic or aluminum finish, regular glass tends to slip out of the hand easier. Not only that, but it also likes to slide off angled surfaces. Sometimes you’ll only realize the surface isn’t level by your phone slowly sliding off.
To make matters worse, glass is also fragile (but I don’t have to tell you that). Being brittle, it’ll crack and shatter easily from drops. A soft aluminum frame and poor buffer between aluminum and glass makes this even more likely. Not all phones are built alike, but if it has a glass back, it’ll likely shatter after only a few drops. Fragile and hard to hold is a dangerous combination.

While manufacturers can design a device with a higher chance of surviving drops, glass will still remain the weak point. But glass doesn’t have to be so slippery! And manufacturers are finally catching on.
The Google Pixel 3 duo have some strong frosting on the rear glass, creating a texture that avoids a bit of the slipperiness of regular glass. OnePlus took a similar route with their Midnight Black color, which is just black glass with a light frosted texture across the entire thing. This is a step in the right direction, but it does have one downside. Frosted glass is far easier to scratch, leaving marks on the frosted surface even when treating it as delicately as possible.
Huawei took it in a different direction with the Mate 20 Pro. The rear glass has a fine grid of raised dots, creating a fine texture that’s not easy to see outside of direct light. It still looks like glass and reflects like glass, but it adds a bit of much-needed grip and makes a nice sound when you run a fingernail across it. It also doesn’t suffer any of the downsides that frosting does, as keys don’t leave any marks. Unfortunately, like most polished glass surfaces, it doesn’t stop fingerprints.
This is likely only the beginning. Now that we’re seeing manufacturers starting to experiment with various textures on glass, we should see new and interesting ways to get a grip on our wildly expensive glass smartphones. Of course, you could (and probably should) use a case or skin, but some of us love the feel of a naked phone, experienced as it’s designed to be. It’s a risky way of life to be sure, but a rewarding one.

Huawei CFO arrested, facing US extradition for alleged Iran sanctions violation

At the request of the US government, Huawei CFO Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Vancouver on December 1st. According to the Globe and Mail, the arrest is related to Huawei’s violation of international sanctions on Iran. While the exact details of the violation are still being kept under wraps, the US is hoping to have Meng extradited to the US to face trial, but nothing will be decided until her bail hearing which is scheduled for December 7th. 
Wanzhou Meng also serves as vice-chair of Huawei’s board and is the daughter of the company’s founder. Huawei has not released an official comment regarding Meng’s arrest, but we expect the company will have something to say following the bail hearing which will take place later this week.
While Huawei has been on an unprecedented growth trajectory for the past few years, the company has faced increased opposition from the US government. Multiple US security and intelligence agencies have issued warnings regarding the US of Huawei devices due to the company’s close ties to the Chinese government. It is still legal to buy and use Huawei products within the United States, but government workers have been banned from using them and US service providers are not able to use Huawei network equipment.
If Meng and Huawei are found to be guilty of violating sanctions against Iran, the US may slap Huawei with a steep fine and impose sanctions on the company, prohibiting it from purchasing products built from US companies. The outcome could be similar to what ZTE faced when convicted of violating sanctions against Iran.
Source: Globe and Mail

Huawei poised to launch a phone with a hole in the screen instead of a notch

Display notches are, to put it kindly, an inelegant solution to a vexing design problem. How can you get as much screen as possible in a phone while still offering a front-facing camera? Most OEMs are going to notch route, but Huawei is about to try something different: a hole. Huawei is teasing a device believed to be the Nova 4, which could beat Samsung’s hole-punch phone to market.

So far, the device has appeared in a promo image as well as part of a live Chinese web broadcast. Read MoreHuawei poised to launch a phone with a hole in the screen instead of a notch was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Huawei to introduce smartphone with ‘punch hole’ display before Samsung

A few weeks ago we learned that the Samsung Galaxy S10 will be one of the first devices to market featuring the company’s new Infinity-O display which features a “punch-hole” cutout for the front-facing camera. Since then, Samsung Galaxy A8s leaks have surfaced which suggest that it would introduce the new Infinity-O display to the world before the end of the year. The new display technology would allow the despised display notch’s real estate to be reduced significantly and allow it to get lost in the notification bar more easily.
Unfortunately for Samsung, it looks like Huawei is planning to beat them to the punch. According to an image shared by @UniverseIcem Huawei is planning to unveil a device in December which will also feature a punch-hole cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. As shown in the image below, the front-facing camera hole would be located in the top left corner of the display. While Samsung’s Infinity-O display technology has gotten a lot of attention these past few weeks, we were first introduced to the technology concept this past summer when a Huawei patent surfaced which showed a punch-out hole for the front-facing camera in phone’s display.
We do not know the name of the Huawei device which will feature the punch-hole camera cutout, but with its launch scheduled for December, we should know more soon. Based on what we know so far, do you think a punch-hole display is a better option than the notched displays we’ve seen this year?

Huawei will release the world’s first hole-screen mobile phone before the Samsung Galaxy A8s, which will be released in December, but the A8s may also be released in December, so who will start, it will wait and see.Huawei’s offensive against Samsung has never weakened. pic.twitter.com/MqefEgK7j0
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) November 26, 2018

 

Google's ARCore additions for October include the Pixel 3, LG V40, and more

Augmented Reality may not yet be the game-changer some of its proponents would hope it to be, but little by little it’s been coming into its own. AR’s been in the spotlight this month thanks to the launch of the Pixel 3 and Google’s re-branding of its AR Stickers app as Playground, but that’s just the half of it — we’ve also seen a number of new devices join the list of official AR Core-supporting hardware. Read MoreGoogle’s ARCore additions for October include the Pixel 3, LG V40, and more was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: Sweet cameras, sour software

Despite being frozen out of the US market due to political opposition, Huawei still managed to surpass Apple this summer to become the world’s second largest phone maker behind Samsung. The Chinese manufacturer was the first to market with triple rear cameras in the P20 Pro this Spring, and many lauded its photos as the best produced by any smartphone.
Huawei’s latest flagship effort is the Mate 20 Pro, with a similar camera setup and innovations such as an in-display fingerprint sensor and 3D laser depth sensing for secure face unlock. Read MoreHuawei Mate 20 Pro review: Sweet cameras, sour software was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Huawei's EMUI 9.0 promises more AI, better performance, and new gestures

Huawei’s EMUI Android skin used to be a real mess, but it’s gotten much better over the last few years. EMUI 9 is the latest version, which Huawei pre-announced a few months ago. Now, we have all the details, and it’s shipping on the Mate 20.EMUI 9.0 is based on Android 9 Pie, so some of the new features won’t be a surprise. Others are pure Huawei.

Huawei has several suspiciously precise measurements of average performance increases. Read MoreHuawei’s EMUI 9.0 promises more AI, better performance, and new gestures was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X spec comparison

Huawei has released its Mate 20 flagship lineup which features three new smartphones — the Huawei Mate 20, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and the Huawei Mate 20 X. These three devices are powered by the same Kirin 980 SoC and have 6GB of RAM, but they also have their differences.
The main thing that sets these devices apart are their display sizes/resolution, battery capacity, and cameras. Take a look at the details specification list below to see exactly where the differences are between these three phones.
 

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Huawei Mate 20
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
Huawei Mate 20 X

Screen size
6.53 inches
6.39 inches

7.2 inches

Resolution
1080 x 2244
1440 x 3120
1080 x 2244

Density
381ppi
538ppi
346ppi

Processor
Kirin 980
Kirin 980
Kirin 980

RAM
4 / 6GB
6GB
6GB

Storage
128GB
128GB
128GB

Battery
4,000mAh
4,200mAh
5,000mAh

OS
Android 9.0
Android 9.0
Android 9.0

Rear camera
Triple cameras: Standard 12MP, f/1.8, 27mm, Wide-angle 16MP, f/2.2, 17mm, Telephoto (2x) 8MP, f/2.4, 52mm
Triple cameras: Standard 40MP, f/1.8, 27mm, Wide-angle 20MP, f/2.2, 16mm, Telephoto (3x) 8MP, f/2.4, 80mm
Triple cameras: Standard 40MP, f/1.8, 27mm, Wide-angle 20MP, f/2.2, 16mm, Telephoto (3x) 8MP, f/2.4, 80mm

Front camera
24MP, f/2.0, 26mm
24MP, f/2.0, 26mm
24MP, f/2.0, 26mm

Bluetooth
v5.0
v5.0
v5.0

NFC
Yes
Yes
Yes

Dimensions
158.2 x 77.2 x 8.3mm 
157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6mm
174.6 x 85.4 x 8.2mm

Weight
188g
189g
232g

Water Resistance
IP53
IP68
IP53

Wireless Charging
No
Yes
No

Special features
3.5mm headphone jack, Fingerprint Scanner
3D Face Unlock, Reverse Wireless Charging, In-display Fingerpring Scanner

3.5mm headphone jack, Fingerprint Scanner, Vapor Chamber & Graphene Film cooling system