Fiercely competitive smartphone market shifts focus from hardware features to virtual brainpower
Many commentators have deemed 2017 to be year one for the artificial intelligence smartphone as iPhone X and Honor V10 launched into the highly competitive but uniform cellphone market. So will an intelligent phone be the next great breakthrough?
The smartphone competition battlefield has shifted from pursuit of super-slimness, dual-cameras, fast-charging to full screen, yet none of these hardware features lies at the core of phone manufacturers』 competitiveness, explained Zhao Ming, president of Honor – a phone brand of Huawei.
According to a China Academy of Information and Communications Technology report, cellphone shipments by domestic brands reached 3.19 million in October, down 15.4 percent year on year. Similar features and designs make domestic smartphone players swim in the highly competitive, margin-eroding 「Red Ocean」.
The smartphone market’s future lies in the prospect that an intelligent handset can serve as a personal assistant for users’ daily lives, taking care of their needs and letting amateurs become masters, empowered by state-of-the-art AI technology.
Last month Honor launched its full-screen V10 smartphone with AI-enabled chipset in Beijing. The new handset promises fresh, exciting AI features; it supports face-unlock technology – the screen will light up automatically when the owner gazes at it.
The phone can identify 13 kinds of scene and improve parameters in photo shooting and video recording. The more consumers use the AI-empowered phone, the more data it collects. The handset in your pocket will know you better and function in a more nuanced way to make your life easier.
Honor, launched four years ago in 2013, has thrived by taking advantage of its parent company Huawei’s well-established name.
The brand, which sells its products primarily online, has issued several flagship phones which have been well-received by the market; it has become a pioneer in the intelligent phone field.
「We give unique identities to Huawei and Honor. Huawei Mate are our flagship phones that boast upscale business style, while many of the functions we put in Honor are appealing to young people,」 noted Zhao.
Highlights of the latest model include 30 sets of mobile phone WLAN co-broadcast music and optimizing performance when the users play the smash-hit game King of Glory.
The cost-effective internet business model has let the brand sell models to younger consumers at 1,000 yuan ($151) to 3,000 yuan.
Honor V10 is priced at 2,699 yuan for the 4GB RAM/64GB internal storage variant and 3,499 yuan for 6GB RAM/128GB internal storage variant.
AI speed revolution
The AI smartphone became a buzzword when iPhone launched its latest gadget, iPhone X. The iPhone X’s 「original deep camera」 achieves facial recognition by sensing the depth of the user’s face and modeling it with 300,000-point clouds to achieve high precision.
There is at present no consensus on defining an AI smartphone. But the growing consensus among researchers is that AI smartphones should have end-to-end capability from AI chips that can conduct AI processing on the mobile devices; an AI algorithm that enables deep learning; cloud services and an AI system.
Honor V10’s Kirin 970 AI chip is designed to be used in smartphones. The Kirin 970 is custom-made to conduct such tasks as sorting images, translating text and understanding speech.
「It’s a game with very few players,」 Zhao said.
In 2012, Honor began its AI research. Last year it released the first AI cellphone, Honor Magic. Honor V10 AI is a complete upgrade to Magic. Zhao said years of accumulation in this field had given Honor first-mover advantage.
「The Honor V10 we launched today has functions and capacity that no other phone can even achieve in half year,」 Zhao said with confidence in the launch.
Honor V10 uses EMUI8.0 AI system which based on AI 2.0. It switches context with homogenous multi-core. With revolutionary system, the fluency can be much improved.
「AI knows you better」, 「AI speed revolution」 is integrated into Honor’s campaign; Zhao thinks AI phones comprise the future market.
「For the past years, when we talk about the speed of smartphones, we are thinking about hardware. Yet the improvement in hardware has reached a bottleneck; even when the processing speed doubled, it brought negligible differences of fractions of seconds to users.
「The moment we had an idea in mind, we are already operating our phone, if we respond to such a request from the users』 minds we can streamline the process significantly,」 Zhao said.
Taking the parameter camera setting as an example – using AI, people who have no knowledge of photo-shooting can snap pictures that mirror those taken by professional photographers.
「I think that is the beauty of AI smartphone, that you can be more engaged in many facets of life effortlessly,」 Zhao said.