Huawei CEO on COVID-19 and Huawei Apps

Huawei CEO on COVID-19 and Huawei Apps

Today Huawei launched its smartphone focused on the latest generation photography: the P40 series. This series is composed of P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro +, starting from € 799 for the cheapest up to € 1399 for the high-end model, which features a 40 W wireless charging mode, a 6 OLED, 58 inches 90 Hz display, 10x optical zoom, zoom up to 100x, Wi-Fi 6 and a range of new photographic features to get the best shot.

After the launch, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group (CBG), invited the press to a group question and answer session. There were two main topics that dominated the session: how the prevalence of COVID-19 is affecting Huawei’s strategy, but also how the continuation of the U.S. ban on Huawei to interact with U.S. companies is affecting users and in especially the apps available on the Huawei Galleria app that cannot use Google services.

Huawei CBG CEO Richard Yu

The question and answer session lasted just over 45 minutes. Although we have been asked in advance to provide questions for the session, we have not been selected to ask our question. (I suggested to my contact Huawei that after the current situation is over, we should fly to China to have a 1 on 1 with the CEOs of Huawei CBG and Honor.) Here is an orderly transcription of the questions and answers.

You can read our coverage of the P40 series launch at the following link:

Huawei announces P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro +: a new generation of cameras

Mike Lowe, Pocket Lint: How Will COVID-19 Affect Production and Manufacturing? Will it cause delays in the production of devices such as the P40 and influence the products that go ahead, especially when they arrive on the EU markets?

Richard Yu: We have already started producing the P40 in the fourth quarter of 2019. So although China has COVID, we now see it under control and the production and supply chains have recovered. Our supply for the P40 has been simplified, so it’s ready now, because we started last year and have been producing for four months. Also in February, during the Chinese New Year and due to COVID, production decreased but recovered. We believe we can meet the needs of the market with the demand for the P40 series.

In the EU or other countries, the COVID situation is not like the Chinese one today. China (from our point of view) has recovered, but outside China there are many closed physical stores. But our products are ready to ship when the shops are ready. Even during the COVID situation, we were still producing – we had some supply chain problems, but everything has recovered and we can guarantee the offer.

Huawei P40 Pro + in ice white

Leo Kelion, BBC: How will demand change during the COVID-19 crisis? Launching a flagship smartphone family at a time when people lose their jobs or don’t have enough money, people are considering purchasing other devices for study and so on. How far do you think this will satisfy the question?

A: The smartphone is increasingly important for everyone. People spend so much time on their phones, more time than on a PC, laptop or tablet. Now, as more and more people work from home, we see that there is a high demand on PC / tablet, and also mobile broadband, home routers, mobile wifi and so on – all of these are seeing high demand. The smartphone also has a high demand, because people use multiple smartphones. Our flagship phones, with 5G, are the best performing in the world, with the best camera technology and with many new innovations and smooth operation. I think these characteristics are stimulating the market.

Due to COVID, our demand for PC / tablet has increased a lot and yes, people need more PCs or tablets for children, family or work. But we also see that the smartphone is becoming more and more important, with people spending time at home. We still feel the request to launch new flagship devices, with 5G and improved camera functions. Our devices also work together as a single seamless solution, such as PC and smartphone. We believe we still have high demand.

Furthermore, we have launched our products and our price is very competitive, starting from 799 Euros. The P40 Pro is only 999 with super high specifications. I hope the P40 series will sell very well.

Guillaume Grallet, Le Point: Do you think that while the world is fighting COVID-19, geolocation data can help fight disease or get better treatment?

A: With a smartphone with AI and all sensors, we can be honest to identify. We have software and we should help all consumers with privacy and protection. We now have a ready-made app in China that can detect your heart rate and things through AI and this is an innovative technology, such as respiration rate and stress. Artificial intelligence can learn people and is quite accurate. This functionality is available for new apps for phones with AI. Our P40 Pro + can even detect temperature using a unique algorithm – actually our global sales team said they didn’t need it, but our sales team in China wanted it! It can monitor body temperature with the rear cameras and is very precise. It is a new technology. With all these technologies it can help, but we must obtain authorization from consumers and we care about privacy. We have the technology and we have made comparisons with professional machines and it is very precise. Technology on phones, together with artificial intelligence, can work very well, that’s why technology can do many things – over time we can see the launch of some more important services.

Christopher Denbach, Deutsche Press-Agentur: What is the state of development of Huawei’s mobile services (HMS)? What is the state of the ecosystem?

A: Huawei Mobile Services started in May last year and is expanding. Progress is very good. The increasingly popular apps are now in the Huawei app gallery and integrated with Huawei Mobile Service Core. Over time it gets better and better and the P40 series is the first phone full of HMS apps.

We still want to continue our collaboration with Google, but we have no choice. This is why we have created HMS and the company is ready to offer consumers a wider choice. We make a lot of profits for U.S. companies, but they ban us, which offers consumers less choice. It’s difficult to understand. In the past 3 years we have had a good contribution to the Android ecosystem, with technology, ideas and everything else, but we also allow big profits for US companies. Google uses ideas that are Huawei’s first. But unfortunately the US ban affects us a lot.

But we are recovering well and HMS Core and HMS Services will be very successful in the future. It’s getting better every month, every week, every day. We still want to collaborate with Google. But we need the license and authorization of the United States government.

Basil Kronfli, let’s talk about technology: it is clear that Huawei is doing a lot with making HMS a more attractive offer, since it is available for all smartphones to download, but it still has a long way to go to be simple for the user average. The Mate 30 has arrived on the market and the sales staff has provided many indications to explain how the device worked. How will that messaging change for the P40 series, when ordinary users might not understand that common apps like Uber aren’t working right now?

A: I understand your concern. We provide complete retail services and packaging assistance to help the customer unpack. We want to provide a complete service to help the user clone the old phone to a new phone, but also how to download apps if they need it. At the beginning with HMS and the App Gallery, perhaps some apps are not ready, but they may download them elsewhere. Over time, most popular apps will integrate HMS Core and be in the App Gallery. This will improve very quickly. At first it may not have been so perfect, but in time it will get better. I still have confidence that it will improve rapidly. But through our service and through our retail service partners, we can help the consumer to tell them how to use all these popular apps and how to use phones and use all the features.

Daniel Bader, Android Central: this is the first year in which Huawei has divided the Pro device line into two, Pro and Pro +. What was the reason and do you think this is a long-term strategy also for the Mate series?

A: You might be curious about Regular and Pro, but now we also have Pro +. Why did we do it? We want to use more advanced technology, but it is also more expensive! It is not for everyone. That’s why we have a new high-end model to offer the consumer a wider choice. Some consumers really want these options! Like photography options, 100x zoom or active remote bird photography. We lead with this technology, but we also understand that it is not for everyone, which is why we have Pro + which can cover the most premium high-end users. This year we want to provide leading technologies, even better technology, not for everyone, but for high-end users.

David Phelan, The Independent: what are Huawei’s ambitions for P40 Pro and how does it fit the strategy? Also, is there any news for the Huawei App Maps app created with TomTom?

A: With the P40 Pro, we want to cover more volume for high-end users. Pro + is even more towards the upper end. We think that the P40 Pro will be the loudest volume, therefore the P40, therefore the Pro +. We are confident that it is the most powerful 5G smartphone, with the best Wi-Fi 6 performance and the best performing product. The design is also compact. I hope this generation of cameras with new technology and 5G can sell a lot of volume, since this is my goal. In China, the volume of each generation increases a lot, as do our retail shipments.

With TomTom, our partnership is going very well. TomTom provides location services and a Maps service with HMS Core to all apps that need location services. We want to offer consumers autonomous apps for browsing from Tomtom and it is going very well and positively. This is good news. The Google map is very good and users can still use it for navigation through the browser, but without an account you have no preferences, but navigation still works.

Ben Sin, Forbes: can you tell us about Huawei’s 1 + 8 + N strategy?

A: We started it over 2 years ago in China, and it has been very successful. This strategy is our Smart AI Life strategy for the whole scenario. We build all the devices to work together smoothly and offer the best user experience at home, on the road, at sports or in any scenario.

1 indicates the smartphone, 8 indicates the eight most common devices and N is all IoT and Smart Home, with “plus” being the connection. Huawei will design 1 (smartphones) and 8 (most common devices) and the advantage is the connection, and N is the largest ecosystem. N is for partners such as Bosch, Siemens, such as Panasonic: suppliers of domestic electronic products. We work with a wide range of products with Home AI Life. This is our strategy, to build this ecosystem with hardware, software, connection, voice, from a control panel: everything should be seamless. Here’s how devices and collaboration work for a seamless experience.

It’s a 5-year strategy, with Smart Home AI, HiLink, with Celia our new AI voice assistant, all based on HMS Core and the Gallery app. It is an ecosystem. We offer more value to local app developers, with greater revenue sharing and more support, and we want to offer the best local integration for experiences. It really is a blueprint for the next 5-10 years.

Damien Wilde, 9to5 Google: with the app gallery, what was the feedback from the transition from GMS to the HMS core?

A: From the appearance for the app developer, to the transition to the HMS core, it is very convenient, very fast. In one or two days, you can perform full integration. It is very easy. At first, app developers don’t understand Huawei, but when they know it, they say it’s very convenient. We provide a development environment and tools to help the app developer simplify and speed up the HMS core. We have a toolkit for this and an IDE.

Michaal Rahman, XDA: What kind of customer service does the App Gallery provide to developers? We’ve heard from developers that Google’s app system makes it difficult to actually contact a person, so what about Huawei?

A: We want to learn what others are doing and we want to do them better! We are improving in this sector. We are creating the hotline and services to support this. We are newcomers and in many areas we are developing our skills – we are making progress beyond and beyond. We are also investing more.

Daniel Zlatec, PhoneArena: I have been using the P40 Pro for 2 days and am surprised at the camera. When all the people from Nokia and Lumia went to work for Huawei, did they contribute to the development of this camera?

A: We have a great talent and a mobile photography team – not just from one company, but we have professional experts from many companies who will come to join us in Huawei. DSLR from Japan, from Leica, we have the best collection of Huawei’s best talents. That’s why we are leaders in mobile phone innovation. We have strong research and development in Finland, also in Sweden, in many countries around the world – also in Japan, in France. We have a very powerful team that develops our ISP, our sensors, our modules – it is distributed everywhere.

Katie Collins, CNET: How does it feel to launch a phone during COVID-19? Is it surreal to have an event like this?

A: From the Chinese program, we have strict control over COVID. At first, many Chinese were worried that this COVID would make us lose control of our product history. But the Chinese government quickly took it under control. So the situation is good, people go back to work, go back to the mall and other public areas – it’s very good. Other countries can learn this. We have moved the online launch, we believe it is still OK because China is OK. To avoid any risk, we have moved the launch to online and offline as more stores are opening up to buy the device over time. We launched the product on schedule and shipped on schedule: we have a strong commitment to our customers, even during COVID. I live in China and I want to tell you that China is very safe. I think any government can learn from each other, and this can be controlled very quickly. I am still very positive about this!

Paul Sandle, Reuters: How Will We Mitigate the GMS Problem for P40 and Other Devices?

A: We want to talk to the main app developers to quickly integrate HMS Core and put the apps in the Huawei app gallery as soon as possible. Hope the media can tell the app developers! It is very fast with HMS. This is our top priority. In our global team, our corporate development team, their priority is to work with developers. There are many apps! So it will take some time. But it’s getting faster. The media should be able to tell developers.

We also want to support Google, so we hope that we get a license. This is our long-term goal: we have grown to second place in the world, even without the United States. We think we can contribute many profits and profits to our partners in the United States. We want to continue this partnership for the next 10 years. But we are still working on our HMS integration. We will improve very quickly. In some countries we have made a lot of progress.

Alex Todd, Tech Advisor: How Does COVID Affect Phone Marketing? What is the strategy?

A: With COVID, most people are told to stay inside and not to go out. So the most effective is online or on TV. For online marketing is more effective than outside on the street. So we will invest more in our marketing, in our brand, in e-commerce and also with some of the TV channels of the genre. We continue to invest in brand marketing.

Andy Boxall, Digital Trends: Celia – the new Huawei assistant. What is the direction of Celia, regarding all Huawei devices. Google integrates its assistant into everything, but Samsung’s Bixby has an underlying place in the ecosystem. How will Celia be launched into this space?

A: Due to the U.S. ban, we had Google and Alexa, but now we use Celia. Each country has its own optimized version of Google and Alexa and we want to launch ourselves everywhere and offer the consumer a wider choice. We hope that the consumer can ask for any assistant and we want to offer the consumer greater convenience. We want to make Celia more convenient, so we will continue in this area. But we want to use more than just Celia.

Due to the U.S. ban, we want to be licensed to use others to offer consumers a wider choice. We want to make Celia more competitive with other assistants, at least in some areas. This is my goal, my ambition. We will continue to invest. Over time, we will launch further. Rome was not built in a day! We need more time, but our ambition is high and we can recover and do better.