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How Huawei will maintain its genius push into SA

Huawei is about to deepen the massive impact it has made in South Africa, writes BRAD EVE.

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Not long ago, Huawei announced that it will soon begin construction on a dedicated warehouse in Johannesburg. Its aim? To reduce delivery times of new devices to local retailers from three weeks to as little as three days. 

Locally, Huawei currently owns about 10% of the smartphone market. This is impressive when one considers its competition, and the amount of time that the brand has been in the local smartphone space, relative to brands like Apple and Samsung.

What is most notable about Huawei, however, is its product offering.

Although this may be unpopular with Apple aficionados, the simple fact is that the iPhone is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of South Africans. Even Apple’s “budget” iPhone XR is priced just slightly below Huawei’s flagship, the Mate 20 Pro. 

Samsung has a similar strategy to Huawei when it comes to a multi-tiered offering, but, in my opinion, unless one opts for one of Samsung’s flagship devices, one is often met with the same old hardware, the same old experience, the same old feeling.

This is where Huawei really seems to be headed in the right direction. 

I am a big believer in the fact that your smartphone should invoke a sense of joy whenever you pick it up. It should feel special to hold, special to engage with. When your smartphone is in your hand, you should have the sense that you are holding something unique, fun, immaculately crafted and technologically advanced. Huawei’s devices certainly seem to get this right.

The iPhone is a thing of beauty. It is a pleasure to hold and its user interface is clean, simple and elegant. It’s a wonderful thing, but you must be prepared to pay for this experience. And boy do you pay. Somehow though, Huawei has managed to replicate this feeling, this experience, even with its wallet-friendly P20 Lite and Honor devices. Yes, we get this experience with the Samsung Galaxy S-Series and Note devices, but, again, they come at a premium. 

It could be said that when it comes to that “special” feeling we search for in a smart device, Huawei’s devices are iPhone-esque, but at a fraction of the price. 

So, where does Huawei’s genius lie?

Huawei seems to have every corner of the market covered. Yes, Samsung operates in a similar way, but specification-wise, Huawei seems to offer devices in each category that could quite easily belong to the price point above it. 

For many South Africans, devices that offer high-end specifications and functionality have simply not been an option due to the costs associated with owning such devices. Huawei is making this a thing of the past, and adoption of the brand will no doubt continue to rise rapidly as it makes further inroads into the market by providing solutions at every price point. I think that that optimal word here is “solutions”. Huawei is providing solutions to consumers that find themselves in a country affected by a struggling economy, a lack of jobs and the world’s highest rate of youth unemployment.

Huawei is working to provide South Africans with affordable devices, as well as improved connectivity – a combination that has the potential to produce a vast array of positive results for individual South Africans and the economy as a whole. The prospects are certainly exciting. 

Many business professors will tell you to find a pain point and provide a solution. Huawei is doing this in a big way. Huawei seems to understand the South African market, and providing a wide range of devices will certainly stand it in good stead as it moves forward. Its decision to make a push into South Africa, and its strategy to do so, is brilliant. I have no doubt that Huawei’s product offerings will continue to be lapped up by the South African consumer as we discover, more and more, just how much value the brand has to offer.

The coming year will be an exciting one as we witness Huawei’s continued drive into the local market. It seems to have made the effort to understand the South African consumer, and in my book, any brand that does that deserves to win.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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