Market Insight

Honor Magic & Huawei Mate 9 innovate with AI-driven features

January 17, 2017

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Announced in mid-December 2016 Honor Magic is currently only available in China. With a retail price of CNY 3699 (USD 530), Honor Magic features -

  • Octa-core Huawei Kirin 950 processor; 4GB RAM/non-expandable 64GB storage;
  • 5.09-inch AMOLED display; curved screen;
  • 12MP dual rear camera with an f/2.2 aperture; 8MP front camera with an f/2.0 aperture;
  • 2900mAH battery capacity; fast charging; USB Type C connection;
  • Android 6.0 marshmallow OS; Honor Magic Live UI;
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven features:
    • WiseScreen – Uses a sensor built in the frame and an eye-tracking system from Tobii on the front to automatically switch on the screen when the owner picks up the phone and looks at it.
    • FaceCode – An intelligent face recognition feature, enabling full message visibility only to owners when notifications appear on the lock screen. Others can see the notification only.
    • DeepThink – Configures the screen and provides additional information on key words on a second screen, triggered by long pressing the home button. Currently DeepThink identifies key words only from certain topics including films, tourist attractions, music, well-known people, etc.
    • Magic Live – An assistant integrated into the UI design that displays real-time recommendations based on the information on the screen, location or user habits. Examples include (but not exhaustive):

(a) Offering price comparisons from different vendors when users browse on a shopping app.
(b) Showing taxi plate number on lock screen after booking via Didi, China’s biggest ride-sharing company.
(c) Displaying app icon shortcut on bottom left of lock screen at certain times adapted to owner’s user habits, such as book reading app at bedtime, music streaming app at commute time.
(d) Suggesting current location in written input text if being asked “where are you” in WeChat, China’s biggest mobile messaging app.
(e) Showing parcel tracking number and pin code when the owner approaches the parcel collection lockers.

At CES 2017, Huawei launched Mate 9 for the US market with Amazon Alexa pre-installed. Its Honor brand division launched Honor 6X for the US market. Both models are not new- Mate 9 debuted in Berlin in November and Honor 6X was released in October in China.

Our analysis:

With both its smartphone brands Huawei is keen to innovate, including the cheaper Honor sub-brand. In China, the company is able to offer deeper AI integration than internationally where it must work with global technology brands.

In the US, a difficult market for Huawei, the company is smart to be the first smartphone maker to offer Amazon’s Alexa because it raises the visibility of Huawei to US consumers familiar with Amazon’s brand and products.

Honor Magic offers deeper AI for China only

Honor Magic is so far only available in China and some of its intelligent features only work within China context. For instance, real-time recommendations are associated with local Apps, such as Ctrip- a Chinese provider of travel services, and Dianping, which is a popular Chinese group buying and restaurant reviewing app. Huawei chooses to launch Honor Magic in China to test the water market where it has better partnerships with local Chinese mobile apps and service providers.

It’s also noteworthy that Magic is an Honor brand smartphone. While aimed at a more cost conscious market, Honor remains competitive on price while offering leading innovations.

In November 2016 Xiaomi launched the bezel-less MIX and boasts technological advancement in bezel-less display ahead of Apple, Samsung and other players. Xiaomi has a similar market appeal to Huawei’s Honor. IHS believes Honor Magic can be a good marketing campaign against Xiaomi.

Smartphone software becomes more crucial because it’s increasingly hard to differentiate with hardware

Huawei is showcasing its latest software innovations on Honor Magic. The Magic Live functionalities and DeepThink are clearly based on machine learning and deep learning algorithms. Mate 9 has also adopted machine learning techniques to increase performance by prioritizing CPU and storage resources based on user habits. The launch of Mate 9 and Honor Magic has demonstrated Huawei is catching up on software innovations. Powerful algorithms will boost the user experience.

Huawei is a beginner in artificial intelligence

Some of the intelligent features on Honor Magic are premature. The device comes with two software options: a “stable” version and an “evolution” version. Default is the stable version which has less AI-driven features and receives updates monthly. The evolution version has more AI-driven features such as FaceCode, and receive updates fortnightly. Users can switch freely between the versions. Huawei has dedicated a helpline to give guidance on these intelligent features. Offering early access to test features matches one of Xiaomi’s previous differentiators.

However, Huawei has the option to collaborate with local tech giants on AI such as Tecent, Baidu and Alibaba, or with non-Chinese tech giants such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and Google. Huawei could also engage with the wider community as AI thrives on a big user base and vast amounts of training data.

IHS believes Honor Magic is a positive move for Huawei as the company has been trying to progress in the high-end market and aims to be an industry leader. By setting foot in AI, Huawei is demonstrating it is innovating not following. And, by using the Honor brand for cutting edge features, the company increases its appeal for younger and more technology-focused buyers.

Geography
China
Organization
Huawei
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