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Exclusive: Q & A with Huawei MEA President Gene Jiao

Following a successful 2018, and with the release of their latest smartphone in the Nova series, we spoke to Gene Jiao, MEA president at Huawei.

Huawei market influence has been growing in the region and beyond Jiao highlights AI as the next major change in smartphones Huawei smartphone shipments exceeded 200 million units globally in 2018, Jiao says

With the recent release (29 Jan) of Huawei’s latest device, the Nova 4, to GCC markets, AMEinfo spoke to Gene Jiao, the MEA Region President of Huawei CBG.

In the interview, we discuss with Mr. Jiao the growing influence and presence of Huawei in regional and international markets, especially in contrast with competitors, and the Chinese manufacturer’s take on the technologies that will shape the smartphone landscape in 2019 and beyond.

(Gene Jiao, President Huawei CBG MEA Region)

Q: Huawei has taken the Chinese and international market by storm, unseating Apple in Q2/Q3 2018 as 2nd smartphone brand in the world. What do you think, in terms of strategy, marketing or product design, led to this success? 

A: At Huawei, we put a great amount of research, time and energy to understand the current and even future needs of our consumers. Being a brand that follows a consumer-centric approach, instead of looking at what our competitors are doing, we focus on what our consumers want. The tech-savvy generation of today and tomorrow place high importance on innovation, which embedded in Huawei’s DNA. This has allowed us to successfully build trust with our consumers around the world over the past few years, which I believe, is our biggest accomplishment and the main factor behind our massive increase in sales.

Smartphones are more than just devices that facilitate communication, they serve as a bridge between the physical and virtual worlds, and they will continue to play a crucial role as people increasingly rely on them. We are very proud to be leading the innovation space in the smartphone industry. Huawei is ranked the 5th biggest spender in R&D globally, with $11.3 billion spend last year alone. To be honest, despite the unpredictable shift that the smartphone market has taken in 2018, it was a fantastic year for Huawei. We achieved many milestones that we cannot be happier to share, from the successful launch of the HUAWEI P20 series that featured the world’s first 40 MP Leica triple camera on a smartphone, powered by AI, at the beginning of the year, to the more recent HUAWEI Mate 20 series, with Huawei Mate 20 Pro being dubbed “King of Smartphones” by many reviewers, thanks to its innovative features. In the UAE, the first phase of the HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro completely sold out in the pre-order phase before even hitting the store shelves.

By continuously introducing pioneering technology, Huawei has cemented its position as an industry leader in innovation. We are talking about innovative smartphone photography innovations, industry-leading battery life, as well as advanced AI capabilities.  And this is just the beginning.  Our highly dedicated team will continue to keep making our dreams a reality we can share with all our users.

Q: Which technologies do you believe will shape the smartphone market in the coming years? At the moment, Huawei is innovating the concept of the smartphone camera. With AR and VR slowly picking up steam, for example, we have yet to see a massive integration of these technologies into new devices. Foldable screen technology is also looking to break into the mainstream in 2019.

A: The biggest changes in the next years will be AI-enabled phone capabilities that will be the engine for all the future services. AI will be a critical factor in revolutionizing the smartphone competition.  Huawei launched an era of AI-powered intelligent phones as we move away from the common reference “smartphones”, which was most evident in our latest Mate 20 Series and the development of world’s first 7nm mobile chipset – Kirin 980, which powers AI computing and offers a significantly faster intelligent experience for consumers.

We live in a time where AI technology is very much ubiquitous for a smarter way of living, and AI-powered devices are a thing of the present, not of the future, promising faster response time, efficient operation and unparalleled visual results. We at Huawei understand that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be a critical factor in revolutionizing the smartphone competition over the next five years, and we endeavour to be ahead of time at every stage.

Of course, 5G will be a highly anticipated trend in technology, last week Huawei officially launched its 5G multi-mode chipset Balong 5000 – along with the first commercial 5G device powered by it, the Huawei 5G CPE Pro this month. Together, these two new products provide the world’s fastest wireless connections for your smartphone, your home, the office, and on the go. The Balong 5000 will open up a whole new world to consumers, inspiring an intelligent experience to global consumers in every aspect of their lives.

As for foldable devices, all I can tell you now that foldable screen technology is in our pipeline. News information about 5G and foldable phones will continue to unfold in the coming few months, giving more details about the shift this will drive in the smartphone space. We will definitely be sharing some updates on this during the MWC 2019 in Barcelona this February.

Q: What challenges did you face when entering the Middle East and North African market? 

A: We started from learning more about our consumer and the region, what they want, where the gaps are, what we believe will add value to their lives, the user’s lifestyle and what they look for in a smartphone. We invested a lot in R&D to further understand and create technologies that cater to their needs, and here we are today, we were able to gain their trust. With a global market share of 14.6% in Q3 of 2018 for the second quarter in a row, Huawei became the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. 2018 annual smartphone global shipments that exceeded 200 million units, a new all-time high for us.

Q: What are Huawei’s targets and goals for 2019 and 2020 in the MENA region and beyond? 

A: R&D investment remains one of our main strategies for the upcoming year, as consumers are extremely discerning and value quality innovation in their lives and introducing innovations and technologies with more value to our consumers than ever before. We always want to improve and outdo ourselves, keeping a competitive spirit to deliver only the best.

Our long-term goal is to introduce new technologies that accelerate Huawei’s digital transformation and make the world more connected. We want to bring forward innovation that people, even ourselves, never thought were possible before. Our origin motto is to “Make it Possible”.

With our pioneering technology, delivering on-device Artificial Intelligence, Huawei CBG is shaping the future of smartphones as intelligent tools that understand users and help them develop more meaningful ways to stay connected. We are also aiming to expand our presence in the region to become closer to our dear consumers. Following the global trend of experience stores, we are planning to strengthen our presence in this segment further by opening new stores. In 2018, we opened seven such stores in the MEA region, a market that has great potential and value to us. Adding to that, we want to continue to share our passion for excellence and a longstanding legacy with the governments we work with across the region, such as Dubai Sports Council and Dubai Tourism (DTCM) in the UAE.

We also want to boost our laptop, tablets and wearables business in the region after posting a 147% year-on-year growth in global wearables shipments, something our consumers can only expect to see more of in the coming two years, and beyond.