Smartphone goal in tatters, Huawei looks toward smart home business

By Wei Sheng
2 min read
Huawei’s booth at CES Asia in Shanghai, on June 12, 2019. (Image credit: TechNode/Shi Jiayi)

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has had to recalibrate its goal of becoming the biggest smartphone vendor by the end of the year after the United States put the company in a trade blacklist.

Shao Yang, vice president of Huawei Consumer Business Group Strategy Marketing, said at the opening of CES Asia in Shanghai on Tuesday that Huawei had been expected to surpass South Korean smartphone maker Samsung in smartphone shipments by the fourth quarter of 2019, but the company had to revise the plan because of the US ban.

“It will surely take more time than planned to achieve the goal, but Huawei’s determination to become the number one [smartphone vendor] won’t change,” said Shao.

The Shenzhen-based firm overtook Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor by market share at the end of the second quarter of 2018. Yu Chendong, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer division, said in a press conference in April that the company was likely to become the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer this year.

The company is now betting the future of its consumer business on smart home, a centralized control system to control appliances and devices remotely from any internet-connected device. The sector that is expected to flourish, shored up by deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and the next-generation wireless network known as 5G.

Shao said Huawei believes the smartphone could potentially become an “entrance” to all smart home applications that remotely control the system. People usually use domestic appliances from different brands, which makes it difficult to connect them to a smart home system. “If there is not a ‘common language’ that connects all these devices, every one of them is isolated, speaking their own dialect,” (our translation) Shao said during the conference.

Huawei released HiLink, a smart home app that connects all domestic appliances on user smartphones in 2015, he said.

The company, however, didn’t provide details about how it would invest in the sector or enhance the development of smart home. Shao said Huawei has worked with more than 100 domestic appliance brands in China to make their products compatible with each other as of now.

Addressing an audience on Thursday at the CES Asia, Zhou Jingcai, senior director of Huawei Cloud’s strategy and business development division, said Huawei has strong technical advantages in areas such as artificial intelligence and 5G.

“Artificial intelligence and 5G will bring numerous benefits to the development of smart home by providing high-speed connection and cloud-based computing,” he said.

Shao said the number of users on Huawei consumer devices, including smartphones, laptops, and tablets, exceeded 500 million.

Revenue from Huawei’s consumer business, which includes smartphones, laptops, and wearables, reached RMB 348.9 billion (around $50.4 billion) last year, accounting for 48.4% of the company’s total revenue.