People say that if you haven’t been to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, you never quite understand the craziness — and they’re right. Nonetheless, we still wanted to know, “What is CES really like,” so we sent Racepoint Global Account Executive Agnes Zhao to be the eyes and ears for those who didn’t attend.
Although as predicted, not many big names took CES as an opportunity to unveil new flagship models, the smartphone area was not completely devoid of excitement. Announcements of smartphones from Chinese manufacturers in particular made a splash at the show.
Huawei announced its Ascend Mate 2 4GLTE smartphone, which did not reinvent the wheel in terms of design. Of course, we know that it comes equipped with Gorilla Glass and quad-core SoC; this is not big news for smartphone announcements. What’s new about the Ascend Mate 2 is that the phone can be used as a portable charger for other devices. Apart from this, as a smartphone, it is nothing groundbreaking.
The cover of Huawei’s Ascend Mate 2 reminds me of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, only in a vertical layout. A test-drive of the phone and the “smart” cover didn’t feel very smart, in fact the sensing reaction was quite slow. It also seems that Huawei is ambitiously aiming to sell their Ascend Mate 2 on the U.S. market, but at this stage, they haven’t managed to secure a deal with any US carriers.
There is an abbreviation used to refer to the top mobile phone manufacturers in China: “Zhong Hua Ku Lian” (ZTE, Huawei, CoolPad, and Lenovo). While these four monoliths still dominate the domestic market, innovative young companies like Xiaomi—which overtook Apple’s market share in China last year—are catching up fast.
At CES, a who’s-who of mobile brands, I was inclined to wonder whether Xiaomi’s absence indicated that the high-spec, low-cost model wasn’t ready to compete in an international market. But Xiaomi still have plenty of tricks up their sleeve—having hired Hugo Barra, Google’s former VP of Android, to coincide with the launch of the higher-spec Mi 3 last September, I believe it’s only a matter of time before they start making waves in the global arena. (See our previous blog entry featuring Xiaomi)
Compared with the mediocre launches on mobile ends, Chinese TV companies have made every effort to demonstrate their competitive edge at CES 2014. The booth locations alone were proof of that: Hisense was strategically positioned next to Intel and Qualcomm (I can’t imagine how much they spent), while TCL was not far from Samsung. In addition to TCL’s 110” UHD TV (which I touched on in Part 1[LINK]), these Chinese companies created a full experience in advanced home entertainment systems to let viewers to enjoy the capabilities of the TVs.
Other than a fantastic turnout in terms of consumer electronics, one banner located on the 3rd floor at the South Hall caught my attention at the show. On the banner, it says “We are from Beijing, Zhongguancun Science Park”.
The Zhongguancun Science Park is China’s first hi-tech state-level science park. It is currently home to over 10,000 enterprises focusing on new technology development, most of whom hold independent intellectual property rights. Zhongguancun is the birthplace of many Chinese companies, from big names like Lenovo and Baidu, to small start-ups like the ones on the banner. In my view, it is remarkable to see the technology, innovation and identity of companies from Zhongguancun, from Beijing and from China, showcased halfway across the globe at the world’s biggest consumer electronics event. We can definitely look forward to witnessing many more of Zhongguancun’s start-ups becoming leaders in their fields.