Insight
Domestic smartphone makers gaining momentum in innovation
Last Updated: 2016-12-08 10:15 | CE.cn
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By Chen Jing

Recently, a new round of competition has started among the domestic mobile phones. Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, Nubia or even Smartisan have released flagship models in succession in order to grasp the gold sales seasons of New Year and Lunar New Year. The impact of Samsung Note7's battery blast is still continuing that gives domestic mobile phone an excellent opportunity to enter the high-end markets unceasingly.

Serious attitude for every "pore"

After continuous technological innovation, domestic mobile phones have gained certain advantages in the form of appearance, the integrated carry of some functional parts and the development of application software.

In October 19th, Huawei released a new generation of mobile terminal chip, Hisilicon Kyrin 960, and announced that the number of Hisilicon Kyrin chip users has exceeded 100 million, while the number in June was just 80 million. In just four months, the number of "Chinese Chip" (Kyrin chip) users has increased by about 20 million.

At the same time, Xiaomi, who has always claimed to be ecological, also broke the news that its brand new products will be equipped with the Pinecone series processor developed independently. Last January, Xiaomi set up a joint venture company Pinecone Electronics jointly with Leadcore Technology, a chip designer, and acquired the SDR1860 platform technology held by the latter with RMB 103 million yuan. In June last year, Xiaomi announced the joining of Wang Xiang, former present of great China zone of the United States' Qualcomm Corp, who will lead the development of Xiaomi's integrated circuit business.

"Domestic mobile terminal chips were focused in recent years. Huawei's Hisilicon Kyrin series chips have gradually entered into the ranks of the high-end chips, while Xiaomi and ZTE are also actively deploying. This indicates that the domestic mobile phone manufacturers are trying to get out of their own way to make breakthroughs in the core technology," said Wen Xiaojun, deputy director of CCID think tank Electronic Information Industry Research Institute.

In the competition with the international giants, the technical reserves represent the core competitiveness and make the domestic mobile phone manufacturers take serious attitude for every "pore". Huawei has adhered to take more than 10 percent of the annual sales revenue for R&D. It had about 79 thousand people engaging in R&D last year, accounting for 45 percent of the total number of people of the company, and its R&D expenses accounted for 15.1 percent of its total revenue. The president of Xiaomi Technology Lin Bin also said that in 2016 the patent reserves of the company will exceed 10 thousand items.

The efforts of domestic mobile phone manufacturers in R&D can be found just from the function of taking pictures. OPPO began to take the "face beautifying" as a selling point very early, and now, Huawei, Meizu, LETV, Lenovo and other manufacturers are also beginning to work on the camera with "face beautifying" function.

"Domestic mobile phones have gained certain advantages in the form of appearance, the integrated carry of some functional parts and the development of application software, such as OPPO's fast charge technology. This year, cases like Huawei charged patent fees to Apple and sued Samsung's infringement of intellectual property rights have reversed the traditional concept that domestic mobile phones could only blindly imitate the foreign mobile phones. This is a huge progress for mobile phones made in China," said Wen Xiaojun.

New growth points found

Domestic mobile phone manufacturers are boldly exploring the way of strategic layout and finding new points of growth for the future. Some domestic mobile phone manufacturers are even looking abroad.

On October 14 this year, the chairman of Technical Committee of Alibaba Group Wang Jian announced in the Yunxi Conference that Alibaba has entered a strategic cooperation with HP and Intel to develop innovative solutions for Chinese market based on Alibaba's YunOS intelligent operating system. Foxconn also announced that SHARP will launch its smart TV equipped with YunOS operating system for the first time.

With the help of YunOS, Alibaba is connecting many smart home hardware and devices at the bottom layer. In a live demonstration, when a user is unlocking his/her door with a fingerprint, YunOS can automatically identify the user and match the brightness and color of the lamp and the air temperature according to the user's habit. The refrigerator can detect the food stock in real-time and remind the user for supplement of the foods on the basis of the user's behavior habit intelligently. Watches and cars can be added as well. Data from the market research institute Sino Market Research show that YunOS has now become the third mobile operating system besides Android and Apple and the number of IOT terminals equipped with this system has exceeded 100 million units.

In addition to the technical innovation based on mobile phone products, manufacturers are also boldly exploring the strategic layout to find the new growth points for the future. Zhang Chunhui, president of the OS Business of Alibaba Group, said: "In the future, intelligent hardware is no longer just hardware, but production goods that can generate the valuable data when interact with the users in real-time. With the advent of the era of "Everything on the Internet", the next wave of innovation for manufacturing and service industry is coming."

Other domestic mobile phone manufacturers are looking abroad. On October 18, chairman of Xiaomi Company Lei Jun said in an internal letter that the sales volume of Mi phone in India has broken 1 million units in 18 days in October. Just like Mi phone, the shipment volumes of smart phones of OPPO and Vivo in the second quarter of this year have all broken the checkpoint of 1 million units in India. Data show that the shipment volume of China's mobile phone manufacturers in India has risen as high as 28 percent quarter-on-quarters.

Domestic mobile phone manufacturers take the overseas markets not only as an "outlet" of selling products. Vivo, Meizu and Xiaomi all have set up factories in India. In August this year, Xiaomi announced that it will build two new plants in India with their capacity reaching likely 2 million units per quarter. At the same time, Huawei also announced it has obtained manufacturing license in India and will soon announce its plan of "Made in India" as well as put forward the target of "getting 10 percent share of the India mobile phone market with its two own brands by the end of next year". While LETV wants to shift in parallel its ecosystem to Russia.

Exploring the future shape of mobile phones

VR and artificial intelligence may be the direction of the future development of mobile phones. Domestic mobile phones have started their R&D on related products to seize the commanding heights of innovation and development.

One of the two visible directions which are the most significant and the most sought-after is VR. By means of their VR glasses, Samsung and HTC have become the most important VR device manufacturers. Domestically, LETV and Xiaomi have launched their own VR products, while Huawei, ZTE and ASUS have released VR products but not yet officially launched.

Another direction is artificial intelligence. Over the past six years, Apple has acquired at least 15 artificial intelligent companies involved in the research fields of speech recognition, natural language processing, image recognition, face recognition, motion capture, machine learning, etc. While Google has released a new generation of smart phone products, Pixel series. Pixel is also the first mobile phone with built-in Google artificial intelligence and centered by it. LETV's first artificial intelligence phone is also about to launch.

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