Huawei: the king of the incremental gain

Despite having some nifty 5G features to shout about, a tsunami of incremental upgrades dominated the launch of the Mate 30 series in Munich.

Many commentators have been suggesting the 5G euphoria will lead the smartphone segment into a new refreshment cycle, however the headlines will likely be dominated by any one of the numerous incremental upgrades Huawei has been boasting about in Germany.

A lack of innovation might be one of the reasons smartphone shipments are decreasing but hasn’t scared the Chinese manufacturer. This device looks to be the same but better than previous iterations, but to be fair to Huawei, there are enough incremental gains to perhaps turn some heads.

Firstly, lets start with the 5G plug. Richard Yu, CEO of the consumer business unit at Huawei, pointed to a few interesting elements of the device. Firstly, Yu is claiming this is the first device on the market which will work with both non-standalone and standalone 5G architectures. To the general consumer, this will mean very little, though it will be of interest to the technology enthusiasts.

“This is not only for today, but to support the community of tomorrow,” Yu said.

Inside the device, Yu has pointed to a total of 21 antennas, 14 of which are 5G. This is an impressive number, especially consider the most any rival has current is 6. With this much antennae technology inside the device, the Mate 30 Pro can support 8 different 5G frequency bands.

Engineering a product of this nature can lead to some serious download speeds. A video was shown demonstrating the device can reach speeds up to 1.5 Gbps. This of course sounds very impressive, and while there is no need for download speeds this high just yet, that will not deter any of the marketers in the technology and telco world.

A final 5G element of the device which is worth paying attention to is the dual SIM capabilities. This is where the technology enthusiasts will also be paying attention, as there is not currently support for VoLTE on 5G. With dual SIM support, one could be a SIM dedicated to 5G data, while the other could be for VoLTE and data on 4G.

What is worth noting is this was a very small part of the overall presentation.

Another element which will surprise few is the omission of Google. It has been widely reported that Huawei is in a tricky situation thanks to the US Entity List, and today confirmed that there will not be any Google apps installed on the device as default. Huawei’s own products will be the default, and Yu has also plugged a $1 billion fund designed to attract app developers to the Huawei ecosystem.

The operating system will be EMUI 9.1, Huawei’s custom mobile operating system that is based on Android 9. Note, this is not the latest version of Android, though this should have perhaps been expected.

This is the biggest challenge which Huawei will face moving forward, a future without Android. Despite all the flashy features, which we are about to discuss, Huawei will have to lure consumers away from the trusted and market-leading Android product, and onto its own, which is based on an older, opensource version of Android.

So, let’s start on the incremental gains this device offers. Despite consumers craving genuine innovation, the mobile industry is yet to be able to offer anything novel. Incremental upgrades have arguably led to longer refreshment cycles for devices, but that has not deterred Huawei here.

The introduction of 5G components will certainly can some attention, though for mass marketing purposes, Huawei needs something ‘sexier’ to talk about, even if these features aren’t really new.

The design of the device has undertaken somewhat of a rethink, with the cameras being shifted towards the centre of the device, making it look more like a traditional camera. The edges are once again rounded off and new materials have been worked into the back cover to reduce ‘slippage’. “Sleek” was the word often used by Yu during the presentation, and if that is your thing, it does look like an attractive device.

The battery is slightly bigger, with the Mate 30 Pro now 4500 mAh. An AI power management feature has been introduced to improve battery life and efficiency. Tweaks have also been made to the wireless charging elements to decrease charging time. These are nice features, but only incremental gains.

Then there is the camera. Much of the advertising will likely be based around the functionality and performance of the camera, so this is an important element. When taking a photo, the shutter button can be moved for personal preference, while there have been gains in the slow-motion features and general performance of the camera. It is a good camera, but again, incremental gains from previous devices.

The gesture control is a very useful perk of the device, a new user interface which will gradually become more apparent as the voice user interface gains more prominence. Smart rotate is another for those who get irritated by the auto-rotate feature. The software has been taught to follow the user’s eyes, meaning the angle of the phone does not necessarily dictate the orientation of the screen. Useful features, but incremental gains.

The multi-screen element is attractive, allowing devices to be more seamless (and wirelessly) linked with PCs, though we suspect all phones will have this functionality in the very near future. The Mate 30 Pro also pays homage to the connected car, with software designed to allow the user to control in-car functionality through the phone. A step-forward to the inter-connected digital economy, but an incremental gain.

There were of course other features, elements and components which we haven’t discussed here, but you get the idea. Incremental gains, not revolutionary strides into the future. The only two aspects which were genuinely new, 5G and the omission of Google, were briefly mentioned or completely ignored.

But then again, enough incremental upgrades could justify the cost if there enough of them. This is perhaps the issue many consumers have been facing over the last few years; do new devices justify the expenditure? Smartphone shipments numbers would suggest not. With the prices of the devices ranging from €799 for the Mate 30, €1199 for the Mate 30 Pro 5G and €2095 for the Porsche designed device, the same question will be asked again.

Huawei reportedly reckons it has an Android ban workaround

At a recent trade show a Huawei exec indicated that there may be a way to enable its future smartphones to access Android apps despite Google being banned from working with it.

The goss comes from Android Authority, which attended the launch of the Huawei P30 Pro at IFA in Germany. At the launch the head of Huawei’s consumer business group Richard Yu apparently told reporters he has a cunning plan to get around the catastrophic consequences of not longer having google support for Android.

While Android itself is open source and anyone is free to install their own take on it, the Play Store and Google apps such as Gmail. Maps, etc are all licensed from Google and can’t be installed on a phone without that license. If and when the US stops suspending the sanctions that come with Huawei being put on its entity list, Google will be barred from entering into further licensing agreements with Huawei.

An Android phones without Google apps and the Play Store is not worth having. There are already signs of Huawei having to adapt to that eventuality, with the P30 Pro featuring the EMUI 10 user interface that is ‘based’ on Android 10. The extent to which it deviates from Android 10 to the detriment is unclear.

In reference to the imminent launch of the flagship Mate 30 smartphone, Yu said Huawei is working on a way of letting users install Google apps on the non-official version of Android. He even went so far as to say that the process would be quite easy for users, without going into details. Even if that’s true, however, with there being so little to choose between flagship Android smartphones when it comes to hardware specs, there would still be little incentive for punters to accept any user experience compromise, so even this hope may be forlorn.

LG doubles down on games and multi-tasking with new dual-screen

LG first started touting its smarts with a dual screen at Mobile World Congress in February, but at IFA it has launched the LG G8X ThinQ, an updated version of the concept.

Although this is not a product which will be applicable to everyone, its an idea which we like. There aren’t too many updates here, but the fact LG is persisting with this form factor indicates there is appeal to the niche audiences it has been targeting. Perhaps this is the step-change in form factor the industry has been searching for.

“LG Dual Screen is now a proven form factor, highly regarded for its practicality and the world of multitasking possibilities it opens up,” said Brian Kwon, President of LG’s Mobile Communications and Home Entertainment business units. “We’ll continue to expand the LG Dual Screen ecosystem through strategic partnerships and upgrade our innovation in meaningful ways to bring consumers a differentiated user experience.”

The concept is relatively simple. Thanks to a connectable module, the LG device folds open into two, separate and potentially independent screens. One device can be removed from the module, to take phone calls for example, and a smaller screen has been introduced to the outside of the module so users can see messages, battery charge and the time without opening the device, similar to notifications which pop-up when screens are locked nowadays.

This device will have its critics. Some will question the point, the size, weight and bulkiness, and also the price. However, this device has not been designed for those naysayers. Instead, it has been produced with multi-taskers and gamers in mind. And we like it.

The mobile space has been crying out for something new for years. Some might suggest one of the reasons smartphone shipments have been slowing recently is down to a lack of innovation. Manufacturers are asking for more money off cash-strapped consumers without offering anything new to shout and scream about.

Each time the launch of a new flagship device approaches, there seems to be more of a focus on creating a sense of brand. This is of course a reasonable approach to marketing and engagement, though it might also be explained by the fact there are no new features to shout and scream about. At the launch events, it becomes tedious to listen to executives plug incremental gains on cameras, battery or screen size; it’s boring.

Like the foldable phone, this is genuine innovation. It is a slightly different twist on the foldable devices, but it perhaps does address some of the issues which the manufacturers have been facing.

If there are problems with the joint in foldable devices, the separation of screens will address this. If it is too bulky, you can pop-out one of the screens in the LG device to take phone calls. It also has independent screens.

This is a genuine USP will creates a talking point and will appeal to a niche audience. Those who like to watch content on their commute to work while also answering emails. Multi-taskers are a niche, but they are becoming increasingly more common, just have a look at how many people are on their phone while watching TV. It also puts a new twist on gaming, with developers now able to separate the control and gameplay functions onto two separate screens.

And it couldn’t have been launched at a better time.

Huawei has recently unveiled the details of its new flagship device, and it will be functioning without any of the Google applications and services. There will be numerous smartphone users around the world who will turn their back on Huawei now, customers without a cause. This void will create opportunities for the Android smartphone manufacturers. Huawei’s loss is of course a gain for rivals.

This is an interesting device, and while it will not be for everyone, perhaps the days of mass market innovation to drive new appeal are over.

Samsung unveils its first 5G integrated chipset for smartphones

Samsung Electronics introduced Exynos 980, its first 5G integrated mobile chipset for the mainstream market. Mass production will start by the end of the year.

Samsung’s 5G devices have so far been using separate modem and APE solutions, including its own Exynos 9820 and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 chipsets teamed up with the Exynos 5100 and Snapdragon X50 modems. The new 5G integrated chipset announced today is Samsung’s first. With an 8nm footprint, the chipset combines the 5G modem and APE processors using 8nm FinFET process.

“With the introduction of our 5G modem last year, Samsung has been driving in the 5G revolution and paved the way towards the next step in mobility,” said Ben Hur, VP of System LSI marketing at Samsung Electronics. “With the 5G-integrated Exynos 980, Samsung is pushing to make 5G more accessible to a wider range of users and continues to lead innovation in the mobile 5G market.”

The chipset’s key specifications include:

  • Modem: supports 5G NR Sub-6GHz with max 2.55Gbps downlink and 1.28Gbps uplink speeds. It is also backward compatible with LTE, 3G, and 2G.
  • CPU: one 2.2GHz Dual-core based on Cortex-A77, and one set of 1.8GHz Hexa-core based on Cortex-A55. It may be worth noting that Samsung’s high-end Exynos 9820 can go up to a max speed of 2.73 GHz.
  • Camera support: single-camera up to 108Mp, or dual-camera 20MP+20MP. Samsung also stresses the integrated AI capability to support photo taking.
  • Video support: 4K UHD 120fps encoding and decoding with HEVC(H.265), H.264, VP9

Samsung said in the announcement that the mass production of Exynos 980 is expected to start by the end of this year, indicating Samsung 5G smartphones and tablets based on this new chipset will hit the market in the first half of 2020, if not the first quarter.

One day earlier, Samsung announced Galaxy A90 5G, a mid-range 5G smartphone, based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 platform, which is aimed at taking 5G to the mainstream users. The new Exynos 980 is likely to power the next generation of mid-range devices.

The 5G momentum in South Korea, Samsung’s home market, has been going strong. After registering 1 million subscribers by the beginning of June, government data showed that by the end of July the total number of 5G subscribers, from all three operators combined, already topped 2 million.

Here is Exynos 980’s promotion video:

 

Nokia found to be best brand for prompt Android updates

There is significant variation in the performance of the leading Android smartphone makers when it comes to updating Android, according to new research.

Counterpoint has crunched the numbers and concluded that among all Android handset brands Nokia (manufactured by HMD Global) is the quickest and best at rolling out new versions of Android to its users after Google has issued them. Samsung Xiaomi and Huawei also do a decent job of serving their customers on this matter, but after them there’s a significant drop off.

Counterpoint android update chart

“Operating system and security updates are an aspect of Android smartphones that get relatively little attention,” said Peter Richardson of Counterpoint. “In our experience researching the industry, we have seen a few brands focusing on this. And perhaps because manufacturers are not talking about it, consumer awareness is also low. It doesn’t appear among the ten features consumers say they care about most, in our research.

“Unsurprisingly, therefore, little effort is expended by the top manufacturers in focusing on regular updates to the operating system and device security, despite it being a critical element in the continued safe performance of the smartphone. Many of the key features including battery life, processor, camera and memory are linked to the performance of the underlying operating system. We believe it is important to the overall consumer experience and is likely to become more widely recognized as such.”

This is a good point – what incentive is there for Android smartphone makers, who already operate on very thin margins and see Google and other OTTs hoover up most of the subsequence service revenue, to invest in something that has little apparent effect on sales? The main commercial answer would have to be brand reputation and things like NPS. Presumably prompt updates to yield some ongoing brand benefits and at least increase customer loyalty to some extent.

“High-priced devices are often updated first, but having the latest software is as important to mid- and low-priced products as it is to flagship devices,” said Abhilash Kumar of Counterpoint. “We, therefore, looked at manufacturers’ performance at updating software across all price tiers. By this analysis, Nokia stands out, again, as the brand most likely to update its full portfolio quickly.

Xiaomi and Lenovo also rank high in this metric. Brands like Alcatel and Tecno are the laggards. This is because these brands have broad portfolios, mostly in the sub-US$200 segment, and the lifecycle of their models tends to be short. Their products often transition from launch to end-of-life in as little as six months, which means they have less incentive to provide long-term updates.”

It seems likely that most brands are fairly prompt in updating their flagship devices but many drag their feet when it comes to the cheaper ones. As well as the reasons detailed above there’s the fact that the cheaper a device the more commo0ditised it is, making anything other than the core hardware feature set even less of a factor in purchasing decisions. That makes Samsung’s performance especially impressive since it has such a large device portfolio across all price tiers.

Apple given golden opportunity to crack India with relaxed rules

Apple has struggled to gain any sort of traction in the Indian markets to date, but new Government rules could perhaps open the door a crack.

India is a market which represents a significant opportunity for the major players in the digital economy. It has the second-largest population globally and a smartphone penetration rate of roughly 24%, but one of the few markets worldwide where smartphone shipments are increasing quickly. Thanks to certain market disruptions, India is currently under-going its own digital revolution, with the increasingly wealthy middle-class easing into the digital euphoria Western consumers have been accustomed to as the norm.

Year Smartphone penetration1 Average income (US $)2
2018 23.9% 2,020
2017 21.9% 1,830
2016 20.4% 1,690
2015 18.6% 1,600

1Statista 2World Bank Group

The evolution of India and the surge of the digital economy in the country is moving at a dramatic pace. The opportunity for profit is monstrous, but this is a tricky market to crack.

This is the conundrum which Apple is currently facing. It currently has less than 2% of market share across the country (which isn’t increasing), and premium prices are stifling any genuine ambition to increase this.

Indian consumers are gradually spending more on devices, though by the time Apple’s prices would be deemed palatable, other brands might have already developed a strong sense of loyalty; do not underestimate the power of the Android/iOS divide.

Brand Market share
Xiaomi 31%
Samsung 26%
Vivo 6%
Oppo 6%
Realme >1%
Apple >1%

Figures curtesy of Counterpoint Research – Q2 2019 shipments

However, there is a glimmer of hope. The Indian Government has this week announced it will relax rules which dictate how foreign companies can operate in the country. Fortunately for Apple, the easement will allow it to sell directly to customers through its eCommerce channels.

In by-gone years, a foreign company had to source 30% of its production locally to create a retail presence in India. This presence includes online channels. With such reliance on China for the manufacturing elements of the supply chain, Apple has always struggled to meet these requirements. As a result, Apple’s devices have been sold through local partners, who add a premium to an already premium product; it has struggled to gain a foothold in the market.

Another element tied to this is the brand story. The Apple Store is a presence in 25 countries around the world, not only presenting a direct-selling opportunity, but a chance to offer an experience to current and potential customers. This is a fundamental building block in the Apple strategy, which is all about creating a brand and an identity to cultivate customers into the loyal iLifers you see around the world today.

Thanks to new elements being considered by the Indian Government, Apple now meets the requirements and will allegedly begin selling products through its own eCommerce channels in the coming months. These new considerations take into account more iPhones will be manufactured in India, not only for Indian consumers, but for export to Europe as well. This is massive win for Apple.

In short, there are two massive benefits for Apple. Firstly, it can own the purchasing relationship with the customer, dictating the messaging and reducing the price while maintaining profit margins. Secondly, it can begin to create the Apple experience for customers to nurture the sense of loyalty which is so critical to the Apple success over the years.

Apple is an incredibly successful smartphone manufacturer because it creates excellent devices, but the work which has been done to build loyalty with its customer base should never be underestimated.

Think back to the 90s and 00s when you saw Apple adverts on TV. None of these adverts ever really discussed products in the way you would expect but talked about the Apple experience. A huge proportion of advertising today is designed around story-telling and brand experience, but Apple was arguably one of the first to do it and remains one of the best at building this experience.

The result of these campaign was an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality which persists today. Whether it pins iOS versus Android, or Mac versus PC, the split is very apparent, and crossover is very rare. Not only does this segmented approach maintain loyalty for the individual products, it presents significant cross-selling opportunities. How many iPhone users have an iWatch, an iPad or a Mac also? We suspect a high percentage.

Shifting people into, and keeping them in, the Apple universe can partly be attributed back to the brand marketing campaigns, the closed ecosystem and ownership of sales channels and brand experience. And now, it presents another massive opportunity moving forward; software and services revenues.

Period Net sales Software and services revenue Percentage of total
Q3 2019 53,809 11,455 21.2
Q2 2019 58,015 11,450 19.7
Q1 2019 84,310 10,875 7.7
Q4 2018 62,900 9,981 15.8
Q3 2018 53,265 10,170 19
Q2 2018 61,137 9,850 16.1
Q1 2018 88,293 9,129 10.3

Figures taken from Apple financial reports – USD ($) in millions

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a big deal about software and services, and he is very right. It attracts recurring revenues without the R&D and manufacturing price tag. There will of course still be R&D, but smartphones are very expensive products to produce at the level Apple customers demand.

Generating revenues through AppleCare, iTunes, Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, Apple Books, Siri, maps, search or TV subscription services becomes substantially more profitable once people are bought into the ecosystem. And as you can see from the table above, it is becoming an increasingly important facet of the financial spreadsheets.

With many users persisting with the OS they have become accustomed to, if Apple wants to make India a profitable market, it will have to start embedding itself in the minds and lives of Indian consumers today.

The Indian market is one which offers great prospects and profits for those who play their hands wisely. Up to now, Apple would have been written off by many industry commentators, but will changes to the rules, the door is slightly ajar. But that is all it is right now.

Apple will have to convince smartphone users it is a better alternative than the Android ecosystem, while also justifying the premium it traditionally charges for products. This will be a very difficult battle, but Apple is in a better position today than it was yesterday.

Google writes opening line of Huawei smartphone obituary

Huawei’s next flagship smartphone will not feature official Google applications as the weight of the US ban finally hits home.

Speaking to reporters in the US, and first reported by Reuters, a Google spokesperson said the Huawei Mate 30 rumoured to be launched in October, cannot be sold with licensed Google apps and services. This is a significant setback to Huawei’s consumer division and begs the question as to whether anyone would now consider the devices without the Android OS and supporting app ecosystem.

The blow from Google of course leads back to the White House. In entering Huawei and its affiliate companies on the Entity List, US suppliers are banned from supplying any products, components or services to the Chinese vendor. This includes Google, with its horde of popular applications and platforms.

There has of course been a moment of reprieve for some US suppliers. President Trump said there will be an extension on the ‘grace period’ afforded to Huawei and its US supply chain, though Google has now stated this only applies to devices which are already on the market. As long as the conflict between Beijing and Washington persists, it looks like the new Huawei devices will have a Google-shaped hole in them.

Although Google has not confirmed whether it has applied for an exemption from the ban, it has said in previous months it wishes to continue working with Huawei. Of the 130 applications sent to the US Commerce Department to seek a special licence to continue working with Huawei, none have been accepted thus far.

This is of course not as simple a situation as one might expect. Google owns Android, the open-sourced operating system. Huawei is not banned from using Android, it can’t be, but it is banned from being an official Android partner of Google. This means it will not be entitled to security and performance updates as soon as there are available. It can use the basic Android building blocks, but it will effectively have to build its own OS, which it has pretty much already done, but it will be a completely different product.

The confirmation from Google here is the news many Huawei fans will not want to have heard. The Mate 30 will not feature popular applications such as Google Maps, or the Goole Play Store where users can download other apps. These are only two examples, though they are critical elements of any Android smartphone.

The question which remains is whether anyone will buy a Huawei smartphone now?

We suspect not, assuming they have kept up-to-date with developments or done the slightest bit of research. There will of course be a market for Huawei in China, there is a sense of patriotism there propping up the business, though this could be the beginning of the end for Huawei in Western (perhaps all international?) markets.

A Google-less future is the new status-quo for Huawei, and unless this changes quickly, we suspect its smartphone business will be a shadow of its former-self in a very short period of time.

For those who have been plotting and scheming the downfall of Huawei, this is the first sign of success. For months, the Chinese vendor seemed to be immune to the collateral damage from the US/Chinese trade-war, though now it has finally hit home.

The consumer business unit has been very kind to Huawei executives over the last couple of years. Thanks to the creation of consumer devices which performed well and were reasonably-priced, and an extensive above-the-line advertising campaign to drive the Huawei brand, Huawei has become one of the most popular consumer electronics brands worldwide. It has consistently been the number two smartphone brand for shipments globally in recent years, while the consumer business group is now the largest contributor to group revenues at the firm.

In its recent financial statement, Huawei reported another year-on-year revenue increase, though it did appear growth in the smartphone business was driven by domestic smartphone sales. Research from Canalys suggests smartphone sales in Western Europe were down for the second quarter by 16%, with Samsung and Xiaomi benefitting. Unless the situation changes, we cannot see anything but a dramatic decline in Huawei smartphone sales in Western markets, and perhaps this misery will spread to all of Huawei’s international market.

This is currently an incredibly profitably and valuable business to Huawei executives and shareholders, though now it appears it has been cut-down at the knees by the White House and the Trump administration.

Q&A with Chong Siew Loong, CTO at StarHub

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece the 5G Asia team interviewed Chong Siew Loong, CTO at StarHub who oversees the Network Division, ahead of the show to gain a sneak peek for what we can expect at their upcoming conference.

1. In a recent article, you mentioned that 5G cannot be servicing only smartphone devices. Can you expand on this further and tell us more about StarHub’s 5G vision?

The new world of 5G is beyond just smartphones and infrastructure. StarHub’s 5G vision is to deliver smart applications and services so as to serve customers better and in more personalised ways than ever before. To do this, a vibrant ecosystem is essential. We are nurturing a 5G ecosystem of technology and business partners with the objective of co-developing new mobility services and enterprise applications infused with data analytics and artificial intelligence. 5G, with its high-speed, low-latency and network slicing capabilities, provides an opportunity for StarHub to redefine its role in this enhanced value chain.

2. Which industries do you expect to drive 5G adoption in Singapore? What new 5G enterprise services should we expect StarHub to bring to the market and why?

StarHub aspires to be a forerunner in 5G to serve our customers’ needs better than anyone else. As a telco, we have a front seat view of the positive impact mobile evolution is having on people, businesses and the society. From 2G to 4G, speeds and service reliability soared, and so did the pace of innovation. We strongly believe that 5G will play a critical role in the fourth industrial revolution. We are therefore engaging in trials and proof-of-concepts with enterprise customers to discover digital innovation and automation never thought to be possible. At the outset, we expect 5G to appeal to sectors that require ultra-reliable low-latency communications, massive Internet of Things and network slicing capabilities for time- and mission-critical activities.

3. Can you tell us more about how StarHub is gearing up for 5G?

5G is critical to Singapore’s Smart Nation development, and StarHub is ready to be one of the leading companies to support the government, businesses and consumers in this innovation drive. We have dedicated people and resources to our 5G Centre of Excellence, which is a business unit tasked with developing a partner ecosystem and co-creating innovative 5G services for the unique Singaporean market. A portion of StarHub’s network is 5G-ready today. To facilitate ongoing trials and industry engagement, we are broadcasting ‘live’ 5G signals from our headquarters and will expand 5G coverage into more areas. We will also upgrade our cellular-on-wheels vehicle with 5G, to allow us to showcase the benefits of 5G island-wide.

4. What have the main (market, technology, business, regulatory or other) challenges in achieving 5G rollout been? What needs to be done to unlock 5G innovation in Singapore?

Singapore’s measured approach to 5G is encouraging as it gives time and space for ongoing industry discussions and localised use case research and development. For 5G to succeed, the entire ecosystem, from technology to talent and regulation, needs to develop. Given the nascency of 5G, we believe onerous regulatory obligations on 5G services should not be implemented too soon, to allow for adequate research and development. In addition, concerns about public health and safety would need to be addressed in order to facilitate smooth rollout.

5. You will be joining the Keynote Panel on Defining the 5G killer app in Asia at 5G Asia (10-12 September, Singapore). Could you give us a sneak peek of what the audience should expect to hear from you? What are you looking forward to at the show?

10 years ago, we could not have imagined where we are today with Mobile. 10 years from now in a 5G world, we will again look back and marvel at the ingenuity of the human mind. 5G may seem shapeless at this moment, but I believe our collective imagination and creativity will see the birth of many innovative use cases. 5G offers promise and challenge, and the StarHub team has been hard at work distilling what would work well for customers on this side of the globe. I look forward to sharing our Singapore-centric experience and lessons to spark new ideas and conversations. Forums such as 5G Asia are excellent opportunities for knowledge sharing, and I hope to also glean insights from other international trailblazers in the 5G ecosystem. In the lead up to 5G commercialisation, our priority is to develop innovative and sustainable business models and explore exciting new ways of meeting our customers’ needs.

Chong Siew Loong 2019 (with tie)
It’s your chance to hear from Chong Siew Loong directly at 5G Asia 2019 which is taking place on 10-12 September at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre in Singapore.

Are you an Operator or Enterprise? If so, click here to register for your free pass now! 

HMD Global joins the 5G surge with new Nokia phone

HMD Global is the latest to join the surge in device manufacturers to enter the 5G fray, with the Nokia brand set to deliver a more reasonably-priced device.

Although Apple is steering clear of the surge to capture the attention of early adopters, it does traditionally like to take its time, HMD Global will attempt to cut through the 5G noise with its Nokia-branded device. And like its previous device launches, the phone will be cheaper than others on the market.

According to Digital Trends, HMD Global’s device will be launched in 2020, aiming to cost roughly half of what is available on the market. Although that statement does leave some wiggle-room, it might attract attention from the more cash-conscious consumer.

Device Cost
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G $1,299
Huawei Mate X $2,600 (unconfirmed)
LG V50 ThinQ 5G $1,152
OnePlus 7 Pro 5G c.£550-650
Oppo Reno 5G $835
Apple ??? but presumably it will be eye-watering expensive to bleed the iLifers dry

There is an opportunity to undercut the market on price, but it will have to compete on performance. Like anything in the technology world, performance is becoming increasingly important. Will the HMD Global device dance good? Can it take home the trophy?

“We see a particular opportunity for us in bringing 5G to a more affordable segment as we enter the market,” said Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer for HMD in the Digital Trends interview. “I would say affordable in relation to what’s available today. I would love to see us at half of the price where you have 5G today.”

Of course, it matters very little how many people have the devices unless there are the networks to support them, however, as 5G becomes more of a reality it is important all demographics are catered for. Currently, 5G looks like a product designed for the wealthy. There might be more accessible data tariffs hitting the market, but the devices remain out of the financial reach of many.

HMD has built a reputation on capturing attention through nostalgia, though the launch of smartphones in recent months is taking the firm into what more would consider the norm of today. If HMD Global can manage to product a product which performs to the expectations of today’s consumer, while also being friendlier to the wallet, it could be a game-changer.

Interestingly enough, this could present a new challenge to the telcos; an over-subscription on the 5G networks.

This is a challenge which was faced at the beginning of the 4G era. Because the service was so much better than internet services offered before, adoption of 4G was incredibly rapid. One would hope network loading is a consideration of the telcos, assuming lessons have been learnt, however they might have believed there would be a bit more breathing room.

This is a difficult equation to balance, though it will be needed to ensure a mass rollout of 5G. This pricing disruption might be coming sooner than many of the mainstream device manufacturers were hoping for.