Huawei honors its pledge to the smartphone mid-market

Despite all the pressures facing Huawei, it has still managed to pay attention to the often-overlooked mid-price smartphone market with the launch of the Honor 20 Series.

Launched in London, the Honor 20 Series promises much for half the price many consumers would expect to pay. €599 for the Honor 20 Pro, 8GB RAM and 256GB Storage, and €499 for the lesser Honor 20, 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, the series is swimming against the tides of market trends; as everyone else shuns the mid-price range, Huawei is embracing it.

“Honor will continue to grow and continue to grow with young people,” said George Zhoa, President of the Honor business unit.

This is perhaps the key for Huawei. Despite all the political turmoil, the anti-China rhetoric and the obsession with charging more for less, the firm is persevering with its Honor brand. It is a brand which is more accessible, more price-accommodating and a brand image more associated with the younger generations. Perhaps this is a lesson learned from the Apple playbook; capture them young and keep them.

There is not necessarily any reason consumers persist with the Apple brand aside from the idea of loyalty. Some might suggest the operating system is more in-tune with their lifestyle, though your correspondent came name countless colleagues, friends and acquaintances who have made the switch the Android and remained content.

The one consistent theme which has remained throughout the Apple journey has been a remarkable attention to crafting a fruitful culture and sense of loyalty. Perhaps this is the reason Huawei is persisting with the allegedly unprofitable mid-price segment.

Irrelevant to the rationale, Huawei has produced a worthy product. Your correspondent hasn’t had a chance to play with the device, but it all looks promising from afar.

A 4000mAh battery, which supposedly lasts all day and gives you 50% power after a 30-minute charge. A pro-grade quad camera to answer all the narcissistic needs which plague Generation Z. The Kirin 980 7nm chip promises 43% faster tap response, 59% faster app launch and 57% faster UI operation. Graphene cooling sheet technology which Huawei claims increases cooling efficiency by 27%. GPU Turbo 3.0, promising frame-per-second rates of 59.69 for the most hardened gamer.

It all sounds very glorious.

The mid-range market might not be the most commercially attractive from a P/L perspective, but it can act as a very effective stepping stone to the more lucrative customers of tomorrow. Many seem to be turned-off by this idea, choosing to break the bank accounts of tomorrow’s critical demographics, but Huawei seemingly believes there is some value in the mid-price range segment.

Huawei’s in-house mobile OS is a very long shot

This story includes additional reporting from Jamie Davies.

In response to the threat of an imminent Android ban Huawei has started banging on about its own mobile OS, but who would want to use it?

Huawei’s mobile business boss Richard Yu was reported by the South China Morning Post as saying “The Huawei OS is likely to hit the market as soon as this fall, and no later than spring next year.” From the report this seems more like a fork of the open source Android core OS, with novel apps and a Huawei app store, much as Amazon has done with its Fire devices range.

While this is pretty much the only option available to Huawei if Google does withdraw access to licensed parts of Android, such as the Play Store, it’s hard to see it as a viable solution. The Amazon Fire phone offers perhaps the best precedent to draw upon. The premium device ticked all the hardware boxes but used a forked version of Android without the Play Store and as a result found a new use as a paperweight across Washington state.

Huawei will be able to continue using Android, it is open source after all, though technical support is only supplied to licenced partners, while any updates are rolled out through the open source much later than for the licenced one. This will have notable impacts not only on performance, but security. The most recent WhatsApp spyware issues were corrected through such an update, though unlicensed partners would still be exposed to the risk.

The issue Huawei faces is in the ecosystem. Wang Chenglu, President of the software engineering segment of the consumer business, told media in September developing the OS wasn’t a particularly complicated issue, but getting apps, services and products into the ecosystem is.

Smartphones are no-longer communications devices. These devices, which are millions of times more powerful than the computers which sent spacecraft to space in the 60s, are the focal point of our lives. If calling and texting was all we did, there would not be an issue, but asking for directions, collecting loyalty points, watching movies, playing games, signing into work, paying bills… everyday more functionality is being put onto the devices, and all these apps will have to be migrated to the Huawei OS.

Without apps smartphones are no longer smart. Yes, you can use the internet browser to access most services that also have an app but the user experience is significantly diminished. Huawei has the resources to ensure a lot of the top apps are ported to its own OS, but not all of them. Ultimately, in a largely undifferentiated Android smartphone market, there’s no reason for consumers to accept any compromise whatsoever.

There have also been numerous reports that Huawei was shocked by the Google decision but, in hindsight, that was an inevitable consequence of being put on the entity list, which in turn followed from US President Trump’s executive order. Maybe it was the Trump decision that surprised Huawei but since the US has been steadily increasing its hostility towards it for months that too seems a tad naïve.

Appropriately enough for something that could be Huawei’s last hope this OS is reportedly called Project Z. This has apparently been on the back-burner for a while, but largely designed for the Chinese market where a lot of Android features are blocked anyway. While we can safely assume it has now been given top priority, Project Z is reportedly still miles away from completion.

Even if Huawei completed the development of its own OS today, that wouldn’t make much difference for the reasons previously stated. Chinese smartphone vendors have benefitted enormously from having access to Android, but their reliance on a third party operating system and platform was always a precarious position. The likes of Xiaomi and Oppo will be watching Huawei’s struggles carefully.

US supply ban threatens to cripple Huawei’s global business

Another day, another escalation as Google heads a stampede of US companies apparently refusing to do business with Huawei.

As escalations go, however, this is a pretty big one. Reuters was the first report that Google has suspended some business with Huawei in response to the company being put on the US ‘entity list’, which means US companies need explicit permission from the US state before they’re allowed to sell anything to them. It seems that permission has been denied.

For Google this means denying access to those bits of Android Google licenses – mainly the Play Store and Google’s own mobile products such as the Gmail and Maps apps. Huawei can still access the core Android operating system as that has an open source license but, as companies such as Amazon have discovered, that’s pretty useless without all the other Google goodies.

We recently wrote that Huawei’s addition to the entity list is the most significant consequence of Trump’s executive order and here we have an immediate illustration of that. It looks like pretty much all other US companies are also rushing to comply with the new regulations, with Bloomberg reporting that Qualcomm and Intel are among others cutting of business with Huawei and others will presumably follow. Nikkei even reckons German chip-maker Infineon has joined the stampede.

Huawei already has an extensive chip-making operation of its own, so arguably it can cope without the likes of Qualcomm, but what about the millions of other bits and bobs that get crammed into a smartphone such as screens, cameras, memory, sensors, etc? A lot of these could be supplied by non-US companies like Samsung and, of course, Chinese ones, but there must surely be some areas in which Huawei is entirely reliant on the US supply chain.

But Google’s licensed mobile products and services are unique. An Android phone that doesn’t provide access to the Play store is massively diminished in its utility to the end user and Google Maps is the market leader. Google also has a near monopoly with YouTube and millions of people are reliant on things like Gmail, Google Pay, Play Movies. When there are so many great alternative Android smartphone vendors, why would anyone now buy a de-featured Huawei one?

In response to these reports Android moved to stress that it will continue to support existing Huawei Android phones in the following tweet.

Meanwhile Huawei issued the following statement. “Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those have been sold or still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”

Huawei has reportedly been working on its own smartphone OS in anticipation of this sort of thing happening but, as Microsoft, Samsung and others have found, there seems to be little public appetite for alternative to Android and iOS. Huawei may be able to sell a proprietary platform in China, where the Play Store is restricted anyway, but internationally this move will surely see Huawei smartphone sales fall off a cliff.

“If the US ban is permanent, we predict Huawei’s global smartphone shipments will tumble -25% in 2019,” Neil Mawston of Strategy Analytics told Telecoms.com. “If Huawei cannot offer Android’s wildly popular apps, like Maps or Gmail, Huawei’s smartphone demand outside China will collapse.

“If the US ban is temporary, and lifted within weeks, Huawei’s global smartphone growth will return to positive growth fairly swiftly. Huawei offers good smartphone models at decent prices through an extensive retail network, and it should recover reasonably well if it is allowed to compete.”

“We still don’t have a clear understanding of what Google has told Huawei and what elements of the Android operating system may be restricted, so it remains unclear what the ramifications will be,” said Ben Wood of CCS Insight. “However, any disruption in getting updates to the software or the associated applications would have considerable implications for Huawei’s consumer device business.”

There have been very few official statements on the matter from US companies, so Wood is right to tread carefully at this stage, but it’s hard to see this news as anything other than catastrophic for Huawei. Its consumer business, which is the most successful unit in the company, relies largely on Android to run its products and will surely be severely diminished by the Google move.

And there’s no reason to assume the damage will be contained there. Last year Huawei’s contemporary ZTE was almost driven out of business by a ban on US companies doing business with it. Huawei may have hedged its position regarding networking components suppliers more effectively than ZTE but it will presumably suffer greatly once those companies follow suit.

Huawei is one of the biggest companies in the world and has become so in spite of being largely excluded from the US market. The Chinese state will do everything it can to support Huawei, but at least some of its US suppliers offer unique products. At the very least this puts Huawei in a weak negotiating position with potential replacement partners and international customers, but the implications of this latest development are potentially existential.

Samsung confirms UK launch-date for Galaxy S10 5G

Although it is easy to get lost in the 5G hype, this is an important announcement to take note of; Samsung’s 5G device will be available in the UK from June 7.

According to the latest statistics from Strategy Analytics, Apple is leading the smartphone market share rankings, while Samsung sits in second place. The duo has created a clear gap between everyone else, collecting just over 60% of all smartphone shipments over the final quarter of 2018.

Samsung and Apple are the two most trusted and popular brands in the UK. There might be other 5G smartphone buzz floating through the news, but Samsung has the weight of credibility in the eyes of the UK consumer; people might start paying much more attention to 5G now.

“The Galaxy S10 5G unlocks an entirely new mobile experience to prepare consumers for a world of possibilities: a larger 6.7-inch Dynamic amoled display; a new 3D Depth Camera with Live focus video; and the biggest battery available in the Galaxy S range, the Galaxy S10 5G is a visionary, ultra-premium device for those looking to stay ahead of the curve,” said Kate Beaumont, Director of Innovation, Technology and Services at Samsung.

Featuring enhanced display, upgraded camera features and an improved 4,500mAh3 battery, the traditional play on hardware is present to justify the price, though tribute has been paid towards the usecases of tomorrow. A 3D depth sensor has been introduced for the benefit of augmented reality.

Pricing for the handset has not been released just yet, though customers will be able to pre-order through Samsung experience stores from May 22. The devices will also be made available through EE and Vodafone, the later of which has confirmed the launch of its 5G network on July 3. EE is yet to announce a date to launch its own 5G network, though we suspect the Vodafone news will spur some activity before too long.

Although much of the 5G news will appear as somewhat of a blur for consumers in many markets, this Samsung announcement could cut through the noise. Apple and Samsung hold very trusted positions in the UK and also have the marketing budgets to make an impact. With Apple not launching its own 5G device until 2020, and other available devices having little credibility in the eyes of the consumer, Samsung could make the 5G euphoria real.

What is worth noting is that initial experiences are unlikely to meet the lofty expectations. The device might not be up to scratch, nothing is perfect first time around, while the coverage offered by EE and Vodafone will be incredibly limited. During the first phase of the launch, nine cities will be covered by both of the operators, though this will not be city-wide coverage. The likely scenario is going to be small pockets of busy traffic and transport hubs.

We’ve been waiting for quite a while and now it seems 5G is finally becoming real.

Smartphone trafficking: have we finally cracked it?

Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Ben Cade, CEO of Trustonic, gives us an overview of the black market in stolen smartphones.

Trafficking of fraudulently obtained and sold-but-not-activated smartphones has been a thorn in mobile network operators’ (MNOs) sides for almost as long as there have been smartphones. This is no surprise – wherever there is value, thieves will follow.

What did send shockwaves through the wider telecoms ecosystem recently, though, was Verizon and the GSM Association (GSMA) exposing the extent of the problem.

The GSMA conservatively estimates that over 4 million prepaid devices are trafficked in the United States each year, at a cost of $900 million. Verizon alone lost $190 million in 2018 – a huge increase from the $115 million that smartphone theft and fraud cost the carrier in 2017.

This criminal activity is occurring at all stages of the device lifecycle. Currently, between 5-25% of smartphone theft is committed during supply chain shipments, and in-store robberies are increasing dramatically. In 2017, Verizon reported a 200% year on year increase in store robberies. This impacts much more than the company’s bottom line, as employees and customers are put at risk of physical danger and fraud. Verizon also estimates that more than 7,000 customers have their identity stolen each month by thieves who use these identities to fraudulently order new smartphones and sell them on the black market.

With the figures and impact laid bare, it becomes clear that resolving this issue must be a priority. To do that, we must review the two solutions used by carriers until now, why they didn’t work, and what that can teach us about how to effectively reduce, and even prevent, smartphone trafficking.

Manual unlock codes

This is the most common approach currently in place, with most carriers leveraging software locks on active devices that prevent them from being used on other MNOs’ networks. This approach is reasonably straightforward to implement, but comes with many downsides.

First, it’s important to note that there are millions of consumers that would like to unlock their smartphone for legitimate reasons once the device finance has been settled. For these customers, receiving and inputting the unlock code manually involves phoning their operator’s customer service helpdesk, confirming their identity (usually through passwords), requesting and writing down the unlock code, attempting to input the code, and, usually, discovering they have made a mistake when either writing down or inputting the code and needing to go through the whole process again. It is time-consuming, error-prone, and deeply frustrating for the consumer, and creates high CARE costs for the mobile operator.

Historically, user and device authentication was a balancing act between customer experience and strong security (although thankfully, new technologies like biometrics are breaking this cycle). The uninitiated would be forgiven for thinking that the poor UX of manual unlock codes must be caused by strong security working in the background. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Not only are manual unlock codes open to abuse by unscrupulous carrier employees, which is why they can be bought and sold in black markets on the dark web, but they don’t protect devices until after they have been activated.

And, if the frustrating UX and limited security wasn’t enough, the manual unlock process is expensive to maintain for carriers, requiring large expenditure in contact centre systems and staffing.

Carriers have attempted to improve this process, but with limited results. Verizon, for example, is in the process of implementing a temporary lock period of 60 days to prevent customers from fraudulently switching to another operator. After the 60 day period has elapsed the smartphones can then be unlocked. While this does address the issues around poor user experience, therefore also reducing CARE costs, it still does not protect devices pre-activation.

Kill switches

‘Kill switches’ give consumers the power to deactivate devices remotely if stolen. In areas where this functionality is required by law it has been a successful theft deterrent. The state of California, for example, experienced a 22% decrease in smartphone related thefts within a year of the legislation being enacted.

Despite its successes, many mobile operators remain opposed to kill switches. Carriers have concerns about a negative impact on revenue, and the solution shares an issue with manual unlock codes – a large proportion of smartphone theft happens pre-activation. As kill switches do not remove the incentive for thieves to steal devices in transit, the risk is simply moved from consumers to supply chain employees and revenue is still lost.

So, with legacy solutions insufficient, where do we go from here?

Hardware-based device protection

The most recent development in this space differs from other solutions because it is rooted in device hardware, rather than being purely software based. Lock / unlock technology is embedded into devices during manufacture and does not require consumer activation. This means that the device is protected from the moment it leaves the production line and throughout its lifecycle, resolving a key problem left unanswered by post-activation manual unlock codes and kill switches. This means devices cannot be used if stolen, removing the incentive for fraudsters.

The use of a secure hardware “Root of Trust” means that manual unlock codes are unnecessary, the lock/unlock process is impossible to hack, even if the smartphone is re-flashed, and, crucially, that the mobile operator can lock the smartphone again at any point in the future if a subscriber does not fulfil their contractual obligations.

Already used by two of the world’s largest operators due to the ease with which the solution can be deployed at scale, the process is also smooth and simple at the consumer level. Customers only need to launch the secure, pre-loaded app on the device and press the “request unlock” button. If they meet the carrier’s eligibility criteria (for example if they have been a paying customer for a specific period of time), the phone is then automatically unlocked. The improved user experience is better for carriers’ customer relations and their bottom line, as much less investment in contact centres is required.

Removing the incentive

The combination of embedded hardware protection and software-based kill switches remove the incentive for smartphone trafficking by protecting devices throughout their lifecycle. Until the device is in a consumer’s hands, and even after, carriers can leverage the secure hardware to render devices unusable. The addition of kill switch technology enables consumers to de-activate their own smartphones if they are targeted individually, further reducing the opportunities for smartphone thieves to profit from their criminal activity.

The cost and process efficiencies are further benefits of a solution that is already protecting revenue, individuals throughout the supply chain and consumers from the dangers posed by organized smartphone theft and trafficking rings.

This is a small but significant change in the value chain that could have a huge impact globally – enabling carriers to crack smartphone crime once and for all.

 

Ben Cade TrustonicBen has a proven track record in establishing and scaling businesses. Prior to Trustonic, Ben founded Linaro the Open Source Software venture backed by IBM, Samsung, ARM and other key industry stakeholders. During his tenure at ARM he established and led the Security Division, helped scale the Infrastructure Business Unit from zero revenue to eight figures in under 18 months, and helped establish the ARM M&A and Corporate Venture Capital function. Over his career Ben has worked in major Asian and European blue chip companies as well as at the front line in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operating globally. His passion lies in taking bold ideas and great people and turning them into businesses. He holds an Executive MBA from the London Business School and a Masters in Engineering from Southampton University.

Global smartphone shipments plunge to lowest level since 2014

The decline of the global smartphone market continues but nobody sent Huawei the memo as it raced past Apple into second place.

According to Strategy Analytics, from which we derive the majority of our smartphone numbers below, 330.4 million smartphone units were shipped in Q1 2019. This represented a year-on-year decline of 4% and marked the lowest quarterly total since Q3 2014. Among the vendors Apple was the biggest loser and was easily overtaken for second place by Huawei thanks to remarkable 50% year-on-year shipment growth.

“The global smartphone market has declined again on an annual basis, but the fall is less severe than before, and this was the industry’s best performance for three quarters,” said SA’s Linda Sui. “Global smartphone shipments are finally showing signs of stabilizing, due to relatively improved demand in major markets like China. The outlook for later this year is improving.”

“Huawei surged 50% annually and outgrew all major rivals to ship 59.1 million smartphones worldwide during Q1 2019, up from 39.3 million in Q1 2018,” said Neil Mawston of SA. “Huawei captured a record 18 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q1 2019. Huawei is closing in on Samsung and streaking ahead of Apple, due to its strong presence across China, Western Europe and Africa.”

“Apple iPhone shipped 43.1 million units to capture 13 percent global smartphone marketshare in Q1 2019, dipping from 15 percent a year ago,” said Woody Oh of SA. “Apple lost ground in China during the quarter and is struggling to make headway in price-sensitive India. However, decent price cuts in China and India during recent weeks indicate the iPhone will bounce back slightly in those two countries in the next quarter.”

While shipments might be going down the toilet, the total value of those shipments seems to be stable thanks to increasing average selling prices. “By revenue, the situation is healthier, due to higher average prices (like expensive iPhones),” said Mawston. “Global revenue today is broadly around the same level as the average quarter last year.”

smartphone shipments q1 2019

Samsung’s profit crashes on weak semiconductor sales

Samsung Electronics reported a net profit decline of 57% in Q1, with total revenue going down by 14%. The semiconductor unit suffered the worst.

Samsung’s quarterly revenue went down from KRW60.56 trillion ($52 billion) a year ago to KRW52.39 ($45 billion) in Q1. The gross margin level came down from 47.3% to 37.5%. The operating profit dropped to KRW6.23 trillion ($5.3 billion) from KRW15.64 trillion ($13 billion), a decline of 60.2%. The net profit came down by 57% to KRW5.04 trillion ($4.4 billion).

 Samsung 2019_1Q_income

On business unit level, Device Solutions reported a 27% drop in revenue, the sharpest decline among all the business units. Inside the unit, Memory chips declined by 34%. Samsung attributed the weakness to “inventory adjustments at major customers”, indicating its customers including other smartphone makers, have been selling slower than expected.

IT & Mobile Communications, Samsung’s largest business unit by sales, the business was more stable. Revenue from the handset business dropped by 4% from a year ago, but grew sequentially by 17%. Samsung saw strong demand for its Galaxy S10 products, but the de-focus of mid-range and lower products limited the volume growth. The recent debacle of S10 fold, high profile as it may be, should not have had any material impact on Q1 as it was scheduled to launch in Q2. Samsung’s network business, though small in comparison to its competitors, reported a strong revenue growth of 62% to reach KRW1.28 trillion ($1.1 billion), benefiting from the “accelerating commercialization of 5G in Korea”.

Samsung 2019_1Q_BU

Samsung gave cautious lift to its outlook for Q2 but more optimistic with the second half of the year. It foresees the memory chip market stabilising in Q2 and stronger growth in the second half due to seasonality and product line refreshing. On the mobile side, Samsung sees growth in shipment in Q2 thanks to continued demand for the S10 products and positive market response to its new mid-range A series. It sees the 5G products and the fold form-factor making material contribution in the second half.

A weak France overshadowed Orange’s Q1

The telecom operator Orange reported a flat Q1, with a weak performance in its home market partially compensated by the strength in Africa and the Middle East.

Orange reported a set of stable top line numbers in its first quarter results. On Group level, the total revenue of €10.185 billion was largely flat from a year ago (-0.1%), and the EBITDAaL (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation after lease) improved by 0.7% to reach €2.583. Due to the 8% increase in eCAPEX (“economic” CAPEX), the total operating cash flow decline by 10.2% to €951 million.

Orange 2019Q1 Group level numbers.pdf

Commenting on the results, Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of the Orange Group, said that “the Group succeeded in maintaining its high quality commercial performance in spite of a particularly challenging competitive context notably in our two principal countries of France and Spain. Our strategy is paying off since EBITDAal is continuing to grow while revenues remain stable, allo wing us to reaffirm our 2019 objectives”

On geography level, France, its home and biggest market is going through a weak period. Despite registering net gain in the number of customers, the total income dropped by 1.8% to €4.408 billion, the first quarterly decline in two years. The company blamed competition, a one-off promotion of digital reading offer towards the end of the quarter, and “a weaker performance on high-end equipment sales in the 1st quarter of this year”. The move to “Convergence” was positive, but not fast enough to offset the lose in narrowband customers. The competition pressure is still visible. The Sosh package (home broadband + mobile) Orange rolled out to combat Free is gaining weight among its broadband customers, which resulted in a decline of revenues despite the growth in customer base.

Orange’s European markets, including Spain and the rest of Europe, reported modest growth, with strength in Poland (+2.6%) and Belgium & Luxembourg (+3.8%) offset by a weaker Central Europe (-1.9%). The bright spot was Africa and Middle East, which registered a 5.3% growth to reach €1.349 billion revenue, taking the market’s total revenue above Spain and just marginally behind the rest of Europe. The company’s drive to extend its 4G coverage in Africa is paying off, with mobile data service contributing to 2/3 of its mobile growth. Orange Money also saw strong enthusiasm, with the revenue up by 29% and total number of monthly active users totalling 15.5 million.

Both the Q1 results and outlook to the rest of the year spelled mixed messages for the wider telecom market and Orange’s suppliers, but negatives look to outweigh positives. On the consumer market side, the slowdown of high-end smartphone sales and prolonged replacement cycle has once again been demonstrated in the weak numbers in France. On the network market side, Orange predicts more efficiency. This includes both the network sharing deal signed with Vodafone Spain, which is expected to deliver €800 million savings over ten years, and an overall reduction in CAPEX this year.

As the CEO said, “while the level of eCapex for this quarter is higher, it should reduce slightly for 2019 as a whole, as predicted, excluding the effect of the network sharing agreement with Vodafone in Spain announced on 25 April.” This means, to achieve the annual target of reduced CAPEX, the spending will drop much faster in the rest of year. There is no timetable to start 5G auction in France yet, but it will be safe to say that any expectations of 5G spending extravaganza will be misplaced.

On the positive side, Orange has seen its efforts to diversify its business gaining traction, especially in IoT and smart homes. But these areas, fast as the growth may be, only make a small portion of Orange’s total business.

Apple is facing complaints from developers for removing competing apps

Apps that help users control screen time have been removed or been demanded to curtail their features after Apple rolled out similar features.

Many app makers have claimed that their parental control and screen time alert apps have either been removed by Apple or have been asked to change the features, shortly after Apple rolled out similar features on iOS, reported The New York Times. 11 out of the 17 most downloaded apps of this category have been taken down, according to the research by the app analytics firm Sensor Tower and the NYT.

Apple included screen time control tools when iOS 12 was unveiled at the WWDC event in June last year, integrated in the Settings menu when the new OS was officially launched. They enabled parents to control how much time their kids can spend on iPhones and iPads, as well as alert users the time they spend on their iOS devices. But they are not as feature rich as some specialised 3rd party apps, the developers told the NYT. They were also not terribly robust. Only a few days after the new iOS was released to the public, many kids already found ways to bypass the control, according to the parents who shared their experiences on Reddit.

Apple’s official response claimed that these apps were removed to help “protect our children from technologies that could be used to violate their privacy and security.” Its spokesperson also denied that the apps were removed for competition reasons, saying, “we treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services.”

However, both the timing and the reasons given by Apple would raise some eyebrows. While its defence of limiting the device management features for enterprise use is plausible, as was detailed in the response to MacRumor by Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP for Worldwide Marketing, some other key features that have been in place for years and have been repeatedly approved by Apple are being asked to be removed, some developers told the newspaper. For example, these apps support device level blocking of certain content while Apple’s tool only blocks content inside the Safari browser.

At least three of the app developers, Kidslox, Qustodio, and Kaspersky Lab have filed complaints at the EU’s competition commission.

It is less likely that Apple purges the competing apps for the revenue. On one hand, Apple does not directly get revenue from their screen time apps, it is included in the phone price. On the other hand, by taking down these apps Apple is losing its share of the payment the apps receive (30%). A more plausible reason to trigger the Apple action is these apps can be used cross-platform, which means parents on iPhone can control their kids’ screen time on Android. It is not entirely out of the question that Apple may be using some feeble excuses to lock in as many users as possible.

This is another example that Apple is taking its role as platform and curator of apps too far, and inadvertently lending support to the rhetoric of Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, when she said, without naming Apple, that “either they run the platform or they play in the store. They don’t get to do both at the same time.” These complaints also sound similar to Spotify’s accusation that Apple is being both the referee and a player.

Verizon expands 5G supported by Samsung 5G phone

US operator Verizon will switch on 5G in 20 more cities and has opened pre-orders of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G smartphone.

Verizon announced that it will switch on 5G Ultra Wideband service within this year in: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Washington DC. That will take the total number of cities to offer 5G Ultra Wideband to at least 22 by the end of the year, with the networks in Chicago and Minneapolis already live since March. Verizon stands by its plan to deploy 5G network in about 30 cities across the country during the year, so a few more cities may still join the club later.

Meanwhile, all Verizon users can start pre-ordering the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, though only those in the 22 cities and on Verizon’s Above and Beyond Unlimited plans will be able to enjoy 5G service. The S10 5G will be exclusive to Verizon for a limited period, and will arrive at Verizon stores on 16 May.

“The Galaxy S10 5G on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will give our customers access to incredible speeds and the latest and greatest streaming, augmented-reality, gaming, and consumer and business applications that bring us into a future powered by 5G,” said Ronan Dunne, EVP of Verizon and president of Verizon’s consumer group. “With the rollout of 5G in more than 30 markets by the end of 2019 and the upcoming launch of Samsung’s first 5G Galaxy smartphone, we are pulling further ahead of the competition in 5G.”

When Verizon first launched 5G at the end of last year in four cities, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Indianapolis, and Houston, the service was limited to fixed wireless access, due to the lack of smartphones in the market. Consumers in Chicago and Minneapolis, the first two cities to go live on 5G Ultra Wideband in March were supported by the 5G Moto Mod attached to the LTE Moto Z3.

In addition to just fast internet, which Verizon promised to reach “typical” download speeds of 450 Mbps when the Chicago and Minneapolis service was switched on, Verizon’s group-level partnership with YouTube TV will also give the new 5G users plenty of content to fill the bandwidth with, similar to what SK Telecom does with its own 5G service.