Happy 10th anniversary, Android

Happy 10th anniversary, Android

It’s been 10 years since Google took the wraps off the G1, the first Android phone. Since that time the OS has grown from buggy, nerdy iPhone alternative to arguably the most popular (or at least populous) computing platform in the world. But it sure as heck didn’t get there without hitting a few bumps along the road.

Join us for a brief retrospective on the last decade of Android devices: the good, the bad, and the Nexus Q.

HTC G1 (2008)

This is the one that started it all, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the old thing. Also known as the HTC Dream — this was back when we had an HTC, you see — the G1 was about as inauspicious a debut as you can imagine. Its full keyboard, trackball, slightly janky slide-up screen (crooked even in official photos), and considerable girth marked it from the outset as a phone only a real geek could love. Compared to the iPhone, it was like a poorly dressed whale.

But in time its half-baked software matured and its idiosyncrasies became apparent for the smart touches they were. To this day I occasionally long for a trackball or full keyboard, and while the G1 wasn’t pretty, it was tough as hell.

Moto Droid (2009)

Of course, most people didn’t give Android a second look until Moto came out with the Droid, a slicker, thinner device from the maker of the famed RAZR. In retrospect, the Droid wasn’t that much better or different than the G1, but it was thinner, had a better screen, and had the benefit of an enormous marketing push from Motorola and Verizon. (Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch, but this doesn’t affect our coverage in any way.)

For many, the Droid and its immediate descendants were the first Android phones they had — something new and interesting that blew the likes of Palm out of the water, but also happened to be a lot cheaper than an iPhone.

HTC/Google Nexus One (2010)

This was the fruit of the continued collaboration between Google and HTC, and the first phone Google branded and sold itself. The Nexus One was meant to be the slick, high-quality device that would finally compete toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It ditched the keyboard, got a cool new OLED screen, and had a lovely smooth design. Unfortunately it ran into two problems.

First, the Android ecosystem was beginning to get crowded. People had lots of choices and could pick up phones for cheap that would do the basics. Why lay the cash out for a fancy new one? And second, Apple would shortly release the iPhone 4, which — and I was an Android fanboy at the time — objectively blew the Nexus One and everything else out of the water. Apple had brought a gun to a knife fight.

HTC Evo 4G (2010)

Another HTC? Well, this was prime time for the now-defunct company. They were taking risks no one else would, and the Evo 4G was no exception. It was, for the time, huge: the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and most Android devices weren’t much bigger, if they weren’t smaller.

The Evo 4G somehow survived our criticism (our alarm now seems extremely quaint, given the size of the average phone now) and was a reasonably popular phone, but ultimately is notable not for breaking sales records but breaking the seal on the idea that a phone could be big and still make sense. (Honorable mention goes to the Droid X.)

Samsung Galaxy S (2010)

Samsung’s big debut made a hell of a splash, with custom versions of the phone appearing in the stores of practically every carrier, each with their own name and design: the AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. As if the Android lineup wasn’t confusing enough already at the time!

Though the S was a solid phone, it wasn’t without its flaws, and the iPhone 4 made for very tough competition. But strong sales reinforced Samsung’s commitment to the platform, and the Galaxy series is still going strong today.

Motorola Xoom (2011)

This was an era in which Android devices were responding to Apple, and not vice versa as we find today. So it’s no surprise that hot on the heels of the original iPad we found Google pushing a tablet-focused version of Android with its partner Motorola, which volunteered to be the guinea pig with its short-lived Xoom tablet.

Although there are still Android tablets on sale today, the Xoom represented a dead end in development — an attempt to carve a piece out of a market Apple had essentially invented and soon dominated. Android tablets from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others were rarely anything more than adequate, though they sold well enough for a while. This illustrated the impossibility of “leading from behind” and prompted device makers to specialize rather than participate in a commodity hardware melee.

Amazon Kindle Fire (2011)

And who better to illustrate than Amazon? Its contribution to the Android world was the Fire series of tablets, which differentiated themselves from the rest by being extremely cheap and directly focused on consuming digital media. Just $200 at launch and far less later, the Fire devices catered to the regular Amazon customer whose kids were pestering them about getting a tablet on which to play Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds, but who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad.

Turns out this was a wise strategy, and of course one Amazon was uniquely positioned to do with its huge presence in online retail and the ability to subsidize the price out of the reach of competition. Fire tablets were never particularly good, but they were good enough, and for the price you paid, that was kind of a miracle.

Xperia Play (2011)

Sony has always had a hard time with Android. Its Xperia line of phones for years were considered competent — I owned a few myself — and arguably industry-leading in the camera department. But no one bought them. And the one they bought the least of, or at least proportional to the hype it got, has to be the Xperia Play. This thing was supposed to be a mobile gaming platform, and the idea of a slide-out keyboard is great — but the whole thing basically cratered.

What Sony had illustrated was that you couldn’t just piggyback on the popularity and diversity of Android and launch whatever the hell you wanted. Phones didn’t sell themselves, and although the idea of playing Playstation games on your phone might have sounded cool to a few nerds, it was never going to be enough to make it a million-seller. And increasingly that’s what phones needed to be.

Samsung Galaxy Note (2012)

As a sort of natural climax to the swelling phone trend, Samsung went all out with the first true “phablet,” and despite groans of protest the phone not only sold well but became a staple of the Galaxy series. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before Apple would follow on and produce a Plus-sized phone of its own.

The Note also represented a step towards using a phone for serious productivity, not just everyday smartphone stuff. It wasn’t entirely successful — Android just wasn’t ready to be highly productive — but in retrospect it was forward thinking of Samsung to make a go at it and begin to establish productivity as a core competence of the Galaxy series.

Google Nexus Q (2012)

This abortive effort by Google to spread Android out into a platform was part of a number of ill-considered choices at the time. No one really knew, apparently at Google or anywhere elsewhere in the world, what this thing was supposed to do. I still don’t. As we wrote at the time:

Here’s the problem with the Nexus Q:  it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of hardware that’s being let down by the software that’s supposed to control it.

It was made, or rather nearly made in the USA, though, so it had that going for it.

HTC First — “The Facebook Phone” (2013)

The First got dealt a bad hand. The phone itself was a lovely piece of hardware with an understated design and bold colors that stuck out. But its default launcher, the doomed Facebook Home, was hopelessly bad.

How bad? Announced in April, discontinued in May. I remember visiting an AT&T store during that brief period and even then the staff had been instructed in how to disable Facebook’s launcher and reveal the perfectly good phone beneath. The good news was that there were so few of these phones sold new that the entire stock started selling for peanuts on Ebay and the like. I bought two and used them for my early experiments in ROMs. No regrets.

HTC One/M8 (2014)

This was the beginning of the end for HTC, but their last few years saw them update their design language to something that actually rivaled Apple. The One and its successors were good phones, though HTC oversold the “Ultrapixel” camera, which turned out to not be that good, let alone iPhone-beating.

As Samsung increasingly dominated, Sony plugged away, and LG and Chinese companies increasingly entered the fray, HTC was under assault and even a solid phone series like the One couldn’t compete. 2014 was a transition period with old manufacturers dying out and the dominant ones taking over, eventually leading to the market we have today.

Google/LG Nexus 5X and Huawei 6P (2015)

This was the line that brought Google into the hardware race in earnest. After the bungled Nexus Q launch, Google needed to come out swinging, and they did that by marrying their more pedestrian hardware with some software that truly zinged. Android 5 was a dream to use, Marshmallow had features that we loved … and the phones became objects that we adored.

We called the 6P “the crown jewel of Android devices”. This was when Google took its phones to the next level and never looked back.

Google Pixel (2016)

If the Nexus was, in earnest, the starting gun for Google’s entry into the hardware race, the Pixel line could be its victory lap. It’s an honest-to-god competitor to the Apple phone.

Gone are the days when Google is playing catch-up on features to Apple, instead, Google’s a contender in its own right. The phone’s camera is amazing. The software works relatively seamlessly (bring back guest mode!), and phone’s size and power are everything anyone could ask for. The sticker price, like Apple’s newest iPhones, is still a bit of a shock, but this phone is the teleological endpoint in the Android quest to rival its famous, fruitful, contender.

The rise and fall of the Essential phone

In 2017 Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, debuted the first fruits of his new hardware startup studio, Digital Playground, with the launch of Essential (and its first phone). The company had raised $300 million to bring the phone to market, and — as the first hardware device to come to market from Android’s creator — it was being heralded as the next new thing in hardware.

Here at TechCrunch, the phone received mixed reviews. Some on staff hailed the phone as the achievement of Essential’s stated vision — to create a “lovemark” for Android smartphones, while others on staff found the device… inessential.

Ultimately, the market seemed to agree. Four months ago plans for a second Essential phone were put on hold, while the company explored a sale and pursued other projects. There’s been little update since.

A Cambrian explosion in hardware

In the ten years since its launch, Android has become the most widely used operating system for hardware. Some version of its software can be found in roughly 2.3 billion devices around the world and its powering a technology revolution in countries like India and China — where mobile operating systems and access are the default. As it enters its second decade, there’s no sign that anything is going to slow its growth (or dominance) as the operating system for much of the world.

Let’s see what the next ten years bring.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Huawei bags Apple’s 2nd place spot in global smartphone sales: Gartner

Huawei bags Apple’s 2nd place spot in global smartphone sales: Gartner

Another analyst has Huawei overtaking Apple in the global smartphone rankings for the second quarter this year. The latest figures from Gartner put Huawei ahead on sales to end users in Q2.

Overall, Gartner says sales of smartphones to end users grew 2% in the quarter, to reach 374 million units.

The analyst pegs the Chinese smartphone maker with a 13.3% marketshare, saying it sold ~49.8M devices in the quarter, up from 9.8% in the year before quarter — ahead of Apple, which it calculates took an 11.9% marketshare (down from 12.1% in Q2 2017), selling ~44.7M iPhones.

According to Gartner’s figures, Samsung also lost share year-over-year — declining 12.7% in the quarter.

The Galaxy smartphone maker retained its no.1 spot in the rankings, with 19.3% in Q2 (vs 22.6% in the equivalent quarter last year) and ~72.3M devices sold. Though Gartner notes it’s being squeezed by “ever-growing competition from Chinese manufacturers”, while slowing demand for its flagships are squeezing its profitability. Not a happy combination.

In recent years Huawei has been one of a handful of Chinese OEMs bucking the trend of a slowing global smartphone market. And Gartner’s data suggests Huawei’s smartphone sales grew 38.6 per cent in the second quarter.

As we noted earlier this month, when other analysts reported Huawei outstripping Apple on smartphone shipments in Q2, the handset maker has built momentum for its mid-range Honor handset brand while performing solidly at the premium end too, with devices such as the P20 Pro (albeit while copypasting Apple’s iPhone X ‘notch’ screen design in that instance.)

“Huawei continues to bring innovative features into its smartphones and expand its smartphone portfolio to cover larger consumer segments,” said research director Anshul Gupta in a statement. “Its investment into channels, brand building and positioning of the Honor devices helped drive sales. Huawei is shipping its Honor smartphones into 70 markets worldwide and is emerging as Huawei’s key growth driver.”

For Apple the quarter was a flat one (0.9% growth), though that’s to be expected given Cupertino structures its mobile release cycle around a big-bang annual smartphone refresh in the fall, ahead of the holiday quarter, rather than releasing devices throughout the year.

Even so, Gupta noted that Apple is also facing growing competition from Chinese brands, which in turn is amping up pressure on the company to innovate its handsets to keep increasingly demanding consumers happy by delivering “enhanced value” in exchange for the iPhone’s premium price.

And recent reports have suggested Apple is prepping a number of iPhone design changes for fall, including a splash of color.

“Demand for the iPhone X has started to slow down much earlier than when other new models were introduced,” he added, sounding another note of concern for Apple.

Fourth placed Chinese OEM Xiaomi is one device maker putting pressure on longer term players in the smartphone market. In Q2 Gartner reckons the company sold ~32.8M devices, carving itself an 8.8% marketshare — up from 5.8% in the year ago quarter.

The analyst’s data also shows Google’s Android operating system further extending its lead over Apple’s iOS in Q2, securing 88% market share vs 11.9% for iOS.

While the smartphone market is no longer a simple duopoly on the device maker front, with Huawei elbowing past Apple to bag the second spot in the global rankings, it remains very much the opposite story where smartphone operating systems are concerned.

And Gartner’s data now records the ‘other’ category of smartphone OSes at a 0.0% marketshare, down from 0.1% in the year ago quarter…

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Huawei overtakes Apple in smartphone shipments

Huawei overtakes Apple in smartphone shipments
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is now the second biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world according to new reports from IDC and Canalys, as The Verge initially spotted.
In IDC’s latest report, the firm says that the overall market has shrunk by 1.8 percent in Q2 2018. But the biggest surprise is that Huawei now has a 15.8 percent market share with 54.2 million smartphones shipped in Q2.
It doesn’t mean that Apple is performing poorly. The company is shipping slightly more smartphones this year compared to last year. Apple also has a slightly bigger market share with 12.1 percent of the market.
Samsung is shipping 10.4 percent less smartphones but still remains the leader with 20.9 percent market share, or 71.5 million smartphones. In other words, many Samsung buyers are now buying Huawei devices, or other Android devices.

Canalys confirms this trend with the same order — Samsung, Huawei and then Apple. But the firm also highlights that Apple suffers from seasonability compared to its competitors.
Samsung and Huawei sell many different devices and release new phones all year long. Apple usually releases new devices in September, which creates a huge spike during the last quarter of the year. Apple will likely overtake Huawei and maybe even Samsung in a couple of quarters.

It’s interesting to see that Huawei is performing so well while the company has had issues with the U.S. government. If you browse the smartphone category on Amazon, Honor devices usually appear near the top of the list — Honor is Huawei’s brand for cheaper devices. The Huawei P20 Pro is also a solid device for those looking for a premium device.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Light is building a smartphone with five to nine cameras

Light is building a smartphone with five to nine cameras
Light, the company behind the wild L16 camera, is building a smartphone equipped with multiple cameras. According to The Washington Post, the company is prototyping a smartphone with five to nine cameras that’s capable of capturing a 64 megapixel shot.
The entire package is not much thicker than an iPhone X, the Post reports. The additional sensors are said to increase the phone’s low-light performance and depth effects and uses internal processing to stick the image together.
This is the logical end-point for Light. The company introduced the $1,950 L16 camera back in 2015 and starting shipping it in 2017. The camera uses 16 lenses to capture 52 megapixel imagery. The results are impressive, especially when the size of the camera is considered. It’s truly pocketable. Yet in the end, consumers want the convenience of a phone with the power of a dedicated camera.
Light is not alone in building a super cameraphone. Camera maker RED is nearing the release of its smartphone that rocks a modular lens system and can be used as a viewfinder for RED’s cinema cameras. Huawei also just released the P21 Pro that uses three lenses to give the user the best possible option for color, monochrome and zoom. Years ago, Nokia played with high megapixel phones, stuffing a 41 MP sensor in the Lumia 1020 and PureView 808.
Unfortunately, additional details about the Light phone are unavailable. It’s unclear when this phone will be released. We reached out to Light for comment and will update this report with its response.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Xiaomi is bringing its smart home devices to the US — but still no phones yet

Xiaomi is bringing its smart home devices to the US — but still no phones yet
Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker that’s looking to raise as much as $10 billion in a Hong Kong IPO, is continuing to grow its presence in the American market after it announced plans to bring its smart home products to the U.S..
The company is best known for its well-priced and quality smartphones, but Xiaomi offers hundreds of other products which range from battery chargers to smart lights, air filter units and even Segway. On the sidelines of Google I/O, the company quietly made a fairly significant double announcement: not only will it bring its smart home products to the U.S., but it is adding support for Google Assistant, too.
The first products heading Stateside include the Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb and Mi Smart Plug, Xiaomi’s head of international Wan Xiang said, but you can expect plenty more to follow. Typically, Xiaomi sells to consumers in the U.S. via Amazon and also its Mi.com local store, so keep an eye out there.

Xiaomi just announced during #io8 that our smart home products will work with the Google Assistant. The initial selection of compatible products includes Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb and Mi Smart Plug, which will be coming to the U.S soon! https://t.co/f65lj2jNej pic.twitter.com/nEXMiIyyZ8
— Wang Xiang (@XiangW_) May 10, 2018

Smartphones, however, are a different question.
Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun — who stands to become China’s richest man thanks to the IPO — previously said the company is looking to bring its signature phones to the U.S. by early 2019 at the latest.
There’s no mention of that in Xiaomi’s IPO prospectus, which instead talks of plans to move into more parts of Europe and double down on Russia and Southeast Asia. Indeed, earlier this week, Xiaomi announced plans to expand beyond Spain and into France and Italy in Europe, while it has also inked a carrier deal with Hutchinson that will go beyond those markets into the UK and other places.
You can expect that it will take its time in the U.S., particularly given the concerns around Chinese OEMs like Huawei — which has been blacklisted by carriers — and ZTE, which has had its telecom equipment business clamped down on by the U.S. government.
Hat tip Android Police

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

Review: Huawei’s P20 Pro is a shiny phone with a strong personality

Review: Huawei’s P20 Pro is a shiny phone with a strong personality
It’s been a month since Huawei unveiled its latest flagship device. I’ve played with this phone for a few weeks and it’s one of the most interesting Android phones currently available.
The P20 Pro is a solid successor to the P10 and a good alternative to other flagship phones, such as the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9.
But it isn’t the perfect phone either. Some features are missing for no apparent reason. Some of Huawei’s choices are also questionable.
Looking for the perfect Android phone
A few years ago, many Android phones paled in comparison with the latest iPhone. Most of them were made out of plastic. And Android was simply too clunky back then.
2018 is a completely different story as you have a lot of options. Maybe you like Samsung devices or the pure Android experience of the Pixel 2. And maybe you’ve been looking at Huawei devices from afar. But if you live in the U.S., you won’t be able to buy the P20 Pro any time soon.
Let’s start with the overall design of the phone. It features a gigantic 6.1-inch OLED display with a now familiar notch at the top. It’s not as prominent as the one in the iPhone X, but it’s clear that Apple has started the next trend in smartphone design.
The frame of the design is made out of polished aluminium. It’s shiny and looks like stainless steel — but it’s lighter than steel. It feels good in your hand and is a great indication of what an iPhone X Plus could be.
The glass back comes in multiple colors. My review device had the twilight back. It’s a nice gradient from purple to blue that makes the P20 Pro stand out from the crowd. It’s much more distinctive than unified (boring) colors.
You can also use the P20 Pro as a portable mirror to fix your makeup or your hair when you’re on the subway. But the back of the device is so shiny that it was covered in fingerprints most of the time. That’s increasingly the case when you have a smartphone with a glass back.
Below the display, you’ll find a good old fingerprint sensor. In my experience it works well and I like having it on the front of the device when my phone is resting on a table. Unfortunately, it makes the phone quite tall overall.

Why stop at two when you can have three cameras
Everybody laughed when smartphone manufacturers started putting two camera sensors at the back of their devices. And yet, many people upgrade their phone to get a better camera. Some people even choose their next phone based on the camera exclusively.
And Huawei went a bit crazy on this front as the company integrated three cameras at the back of the device. There’s a 40 megapixels lens combined with a 20 megapixels monochrome lens and an 8 megapixels telephoto lens. And the phone supports super slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second.
On paper, it sounds like a bit too much. But it’s true that those three cameras are the most important and remarkable feature of the P20 Pro.
I used both an iPhone X and the P20 Pro on my last vacation to Cambodia. And here’s a gallery of some sample photos:

Let’s be honest, I’m not a great photographer. So I wanted to use the P20 Pro in the most normal use case. The P20 Pro has so many options and manual triggers that it feels a bit overwhelming for a normal user. But Huawei keeps saying that the P20 Pro is smart and can automatically capture the best shot for you.
If you use the normal photo mode, the camera tries to detect the content of the photo and adjust the settings automatically. For instance, if you’re shooting a portrait of a person, the P20 Pro automatically switches to Portrait mode. If you’re shooting at night, the phone will take a night mode photo by capturing multiple under- and overexposed photos and recompositioning the scene.
In my experience, the camera performed extremely well. It was quite hard to get a blurry, unfocused shot. But it was also something completely different from the iPhone X camera.
Colors are oversaturated in most cases. It looks too bright, too shiny and quite far from reality. And that wasn’t just the case on the smartphone itself (by default, the color profile of the display is quite saturated too). It was particularly true with nature shots. And I prefer the more natural tone of iPhone X photos.

When it comes to night photos, the P20 Pro is the best performing smartphone I’ve used. It performed incredibly well and it’s quite impressive that you can shoot these photos with a smartphone.

You can feel the strong personality of the P20 Pro when you’re taking selfies too. The camera app has a built-in beautifying effect that makes you look better. It is enabled by default, and you can’t disable it completely. Even when you set it to 0, it’ll make your skin smoother.

Overall, I’m impressed with the P20 Pro camera. But that doesn’t mean I like it better than the iPhone X. In some ways, it feels too complicated to get the perfect shot. In other ways, it corrects photos with software features that make them look a bit fake.
Many people will love the P20 Pro camera. It just depends on what you’re looking for.
Fine prints
Let’s go through some miscellaneous items. The P20 Pro doesn’t feature wireless charging. While it’s not a dealbreaker, it’s hard to go back to plugging a cable if you were already using wireless charging.
The system-on-a-chip is a Kirin 970 made by Huawei. Instead of boring you with benchmarks, let’s just say that it was perfectly fine and I didn’t feel limited at any moment. The P20 Pro is on par with other flagship Android devices. But it was particularly well optimized for power consumption. Battery life on the P20 Pro was very good.
The P20 Pro doesn’t have a microSD slot, but comes with 128GB of internal storage by default. There’s a single USB Type-C port (no headphone jack) and you’ll find both USB Type-C earbuds and a USB Type-C to headphone jack adapter.
My device had two SIM slots, but be careful if you plan on buying the P20 Pro. Huawei said that some versions of the device will only have one SIM slot.
When it comes to software, the P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom skin. I’m not a fan of EMUI as the company regularly pushes you to create a Huawei account. The company has also developed its own version of many of Google’s apps.
It can be confusing if you’re just looking for Google’s own apps. But this is understandable as all Google services are still blocked in China. Chinese users need Huawei’s alternatives.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the P20 Pro. It ticks all the right boxes to become a strong Samsung Galaxy S9 contender.
But more importantly, Huawei didn’t just build a safe phone. The P20 Pro has a strong personality and the company made some polarizing choices. You can see it across the board, from the back of the device to the beautifying effect when you’re taking selfies.
Huawei has been using the camera as the main element of its advertising campaign for the P20 Pro. The company is right to brag about its camera as it performs incredibly well. But software correction and saturated colors sometimes go too far, depending on your taste.
For years, most people looked at the new Samsung Galaxy S phone and the new iPhone to see what’s next in the smartphone world. But Huawei is now also pushing the needle forward with this phone.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

The 5G wireless revolution will come, if your city council doesn’t block it first

The 5G wireless revolution will come, if your city council doesn’t block it first

The excitement around 5G is palpable at the Brooklyn 5G Summit this week, and for good reason. Once the province of academic engineers, there is increasingly a consensus emerging among technology leaders that millimeter-wave technology is ready for prime time.

Yet there remain large barriers to a successful rollout, particularly at the local government level. Those challenges could prevent the U.S. from aggressively competing with other nations like China, which are investing massive resources to lead this next generation of wireless technology.

The Summit, now in its fifth year and organized by NYU Wireless, Nokia and IEEE, is designed to showcase New York’s technology leadership in the space. New York has been at the forefront of wireless for many years, with the first mobile phone call taking place in Midtown Manhattan.

That was 45 years ago though. This month, New York learned that it had been selected as one of two initial sites for a 5G testbed by the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation in concert with a consortium of wireless companies.

Through a program called COSMOS, researchers will deploy a total of 249 large, medium and mostly small cell nodes to West Harlem (including Columbia University’s Morningside Heights main campus) in order to investigate the performance of 5G in an urban setting. New York was awarded an initial grant of $3.6 million to execute the initiative.

This sort of testbed model is quite progressive in the wireless industry. While the notion of a minimum viable product and constant test feedback is a hallmark of software startups, that mentality has not been translated well into the wireless world. The hope for this testbed is that as new equipment is invented in the coming years, the West Harlem network can be continuously upgraded, serving as a model for potential deployments onto operators’ networks across the country.

It’s also critical because the network architecture of wireless is expected to change drastically in the years ahead. More computing will be done at the “edge” in order to reduce network latency and power the internet of things. In order to handle that traffic, new machine learning algorithms are going to have to be deployed that can actively manage traffic and ensure that applications have reliable performance. A realistic testbed provides key training data and analytics that can improve those algorithms and ultimately deliver better services to customers.

The good news is that the U.S. has conceived and launched this test program. The bad news is that we may still be too slow to win the competition for this generation of wireless tech.

The wireless industry’s trade association, the CTIA, has declared the rollout of 5G a “race” between the United States and the Asian nations of China, Korea and Japan. The U.S. widely won the competition for 4G technologies, but the rise of Huawei as a dominant force in the wireless equipment space means that competition for technological leadership has never been more keen.

The White House and the federal government have made a 5G rollout a national security priority, but getting 5G wireless into the hands of consumers is likely to be stymied by opposition from local city councils and mayors around the issue of site access.

In order to provide reliable cell service, operators need to deploy cell sites near consumers. While they don’t need direct line of sight for the spectrum used in 4G, buildings and other objects can interfere with signals, making it critical to have a dense mesh of sites in urban environments.

Concerns about cancer, historical preservation and fees for renting space have slowed the expansion of wireless services to communities across the country. Permits for erecting a new cell site can easily take a year or more.

In the 4G world, that was somewhat manageable, since the network architecture was built with large cell sites as the core of the network. With 5G though, technologists are pushing for greater decentralization through deployment of microcells that would be closer to street-level, improving quality of service while lowering power requirements. The fear is that if permits continue to take so long for every new site, the burden of that process could kill 5G in the United States.

The FCC is investigating how to reduce the burden of siting requirements, and one option is to exempt from review the kinds of small cells that are at the heart of 5G. That plan though has faced significant pushback from environmental and historical preservation activists, who don’t want the federal government overruling local government decisions on wireless rollouts.

One attendee of the Summit this morning joked that “It takes 18 months to review a permit, and one hour to install” a small cell. Others noted that it takes just a few short weeks to deploy cell sites in South Korea and China, one reason those countries are in many ways leading the race for 5G.

As with any summit, there were buzzwords galore, but the reality is that the U.S. has an incredible opportunity to win this critical space. But we will need to fight in jurisdictions across the country if we ever want to see this technology actually arrive in our hands.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Report: Chinese smartphone shipments drop 21% to reach lowest level since 2013

Report: Chinese smartphone shipments drop 21% to reach lowest level since 2013

Analysts have long-warned of a growth crunch in China’s smartphone space, and it’s looking like that’s very much the case right now.

China’s smartphone growth has been the feel-good story for domestic OEMs who have clocked impressive figures as the billion-plus population has rushed online via mobile devices. However, the market reached saturation point in 2017 — when sales stopped growing for the first time — and the first quarter of this year is already showing savage results.

In a report released today, Canalys claimed that shipments across the industry fell by 21 percent year-on-year in Q1.

The total number of mobile devices shipped in China dropped below the 100 million mark in a quarter for the first time since late 2013, the firm added.

“Eight of the top 10 smartphone vendors were hit by annual declines, with Gionee, Meizu and Samsung shrinking to less than half of their respective Q1 2017 numbers,” the report read.

Ouch.

Of the field, only Xiaomi the firm tipped for an IPO at a $100 billion valuation — was able to post positive momentum as its numbers grew by 37 percent to reach 12 million. That was enough to see it overtake Apple into fourth place, but Xiaomi numbers are still heavily reliant on its $150 Redmi range, which isn’t as lucrative as its higher-end products.

Huawei, Oppo and Vivo led the market. Somewhat incredibly, those three firms plus Xiaomi now account for a very dominant 73 percent of all shipments, which Canalys believes is bad for consumers and smartphone aficionados in China.

“The level of competition has forced every vendor to imitate the others’ product portfolios and go-to-market strategies,” analyst Mo Jia said in a statement. “While Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi must contend with a shrinking Chinese market, they can take comfort from the fact that it will continue to consolidate, and that their size will help them last longer than other smaller players.”

There might be a bright spark coming soon. Canalys anticipates growth in the second quarter as Oppo, Vivo and Huawei trot out new flagship devices. But China’s once-booming industry is now having to contend with the same issue as the U.S.: consumers don’t upgrade their phone as frequently as carriers would like.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Huawei refocuses on existing markets amid U.S. woes

Huawei refocuses on existing markets amid U.S. woes

Huawei is readjusting its approach the the U.S. In an annual meeting in Shenzhen, the company asserted its commitment on existing customers and markets. It’s a shift in focus for a company that has been aggressively targeting new territories, looking to expand its position as the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer.

It’s understandable, of course. There are some opponents not even a behemoth like Huawei is likely to overtake, the United States government chief among them. This year has been a succession of rained on parades for Huawei. At CES in January, the company had a long-awaited carrier deal pulled out from under it, just before taking the stage. That left mobile chief Richard Yu fuming in off-script remarks as the event drew to a close.

Late last month, as the company was planning to announce a new high power flagship, news got out that Best Buy was planning to phase out its Huawei stock. The timing of the two announcements led to some fairly awkward press briefings in both cases. Best Buy and AT&T’s cold feet are understandable, of course, as top U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned against buying the company’s products over spying concerns.

Huawei, for its part, is clearly positioning this as the story of a company that’s caught in the crossfires of escalating tensions between two global superpowers — a point of view that likely contains at least a kernel of truth. As rhetoric ramps up between the U.S. and China through trade tariffs and angry tweets, this whole is likely to get worse before it gets any better.

Eric Xu, who is one a trio of rotating CEOs that make up the company’s unique upper echelons, said in the meeting, “It is beyond myself to clearly explain what is going on between the two countries.”

As The Wall Street Journal notes, Huawei recently laid off five U.S.-based employees, including a senior spokesperson who repeatedly and regularly went to bat for the company. We’ve reached out to Huawei for comment, and will update as soon as we hear back.

For now, it seems like a stark contrast to Yu’s reaffirmation of the company’s commitment to the U.S., when he told the press, “We are committed to the U.S. market and to earning the trust of U.S. consumers by staying focused on delivering world-class products and innovation.”

This latest comment sounds a bit more bleak — understandably so. The U.S. is a tough market to conquer, even when the government isn’t actively working to dissuade people and agencies from buying your product.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Huawei says it’s still committed to the U.S., in spite of, well, everything

Huawei says it’s still committed to the U.S., in spite of, well, everything

A funny thing happened the last couple of times I was briefed on a Huawei flagship product: news was breaking about some major roadblock for the company’s U.S. distribution plans. First it was AT&T backing out in the midst of CES and then it was Best Buy’s decision to drop the company just ahead of the big P20 launch (though a rep for the company told me the States were never part of its plans for that handset). 

It’s been one thing after another as the Chinese hardware maker has worked to establish a meaningful presence here in the States. In spite of all of this fallout from government pushback, however, the company insists that it’s not going anywhere.

In an email to CNET, the company’s consumer CEO reaffirmed that commitment. “We are committed to the U.S. market and to earning the trust of U.S. consumers by staying focused on delivering world-class products and innovation,” Yu writes. “We would never compromise that trust.”

The sentiment echoes statements Yu made on-stage at CES in the wake of the AT&T deal implosion — albeit much more measured this time around. Most of Yu’s followup reinforced his earlier assertions that, in spite of multiple warning from various US security departments, this whole thing is blow entirely out of proportion.

“The security risk concerns are based on groundless suspicions and are quite frankly unfair,” Yu adds. ”We welcome an open and transparent discussion if it is based on facts.”

Even if the company’s intentions are as stated, Huawei’s got an epic uphill climb if it’s going to make any sort of dent in the world’s third-largest mobile market. The company’s carrier play is non-existent in a country where most phones are purchased through telecoms. And abandonment by the biggest big box store in the States was insult to injury.

And if the company does manage to reverse those trends, it will still be a hard sell for U.S. consumers after several warnings from the country’s defense departments. 

Source: Mobile – Techcruch