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AI-Driven Devices: China’s Mobile Manufacturers Commit to Next-Gen Smartphones

Last Updated February 22, 2024 2:49 PM
James Morales
Last Updated February 22, 2024 2:49 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese smartphone manufacturers are preparing pivoting toward AI-centric devices.
  • Meizu. for example, has announced that it will terminate wind down its traditional smartphone business.
  • Meanwhile, OPPO is investing heavily on research and development in the field.

Each year, Chinese factories produce more smartphones than any other country and the electronics industry is a vital component of the country’s economy. Now, as the world pivots to AI-centric devices, China’s manufacturers are adapting.

Leading the charge, recent announcements from Meizi and OPPO suggest that some of China’s biggest smartphone makers are already going all in on AI hardware.

Meizu Shifts From Traditional Smartphones to AI Devices

Largely unheard of internationally, Meizu is nonetheless a major player in the Chinese smartphone market, where it has a reputation for bringing innovative new hardware and software to market.

Now, however, the company plans to wind down its conventional smartphone business to focus entirely on next-generation AI handsets.

In a statement shared by the company’s WeChat account on Sunday, Meizu said it will “terminate new projects on traditional smartphones” to go “all in” on its AI strategy over the next three years.

“Handsets that rely solely on hardware upgrades and competitive parameters can no longer meet consumer demand nor user experience,” CEO Shen Ziyu said  of the decision.

Going forward, the company intends to develop new devices and mobile operating systems specifically designed to run large language models (LLMs) like GPT-4.

“Meizu will build an ecosystem to fully open its AI devices to leading global LLM providers, including OpenAI, to jointly promote AI innovation and development,” the company said.

OPPO Invests in New AI-Focused Manufacturing

With Meizu making a hard pivot toward AI, on Wednesday, February 19, the world’s 4th largest smartphone vendor, OPPO, opened a new AI research and development center in Shenzhen.

To celebrate the grand opening, the firm teased some of the new AI features that wil be included in its upcoming Reno11 Serie, including the “OPPO AI Eraser” which will let users edit out unwanted objects (or people) from photographs.

“These advancements mark OPPO’s dedication to pioneering the cutting edge of AI and to enhancing the accessibility of AI technology for users worldwide,” the firm said in a statement.

Commenting on developments in the industry, Chief Product Officer Pete Lau observed: 

“Following feature phones and smartphones, next-gen AI Smartphones will represent the third major transformative stage in the mobile phone industry. In the era of AI Smartphones, both the mobile phone industry and user experience will witness revolutionary changes.”

Like Meizu, OPPO is placing its bets on LLMs driving the next wave of smartphone innovation and has already developed its own mobile-optimized model AndesGPT. Fellow electronics giants Xiaomi  and Huawei  have also build proprietary LLMs to install on their devices.

As well as shaping OPPO’s product development, AI plays an increasingly central role  in the company’s manufacturing outfit. And it isn’t the only Chinese firm that is investing heavily in smarter production line technology.

Foxxcon and Nvidia Partner to Build “AI Factories”

One of the first among China’s largest electronics manufacturers to embrace AI was Foxconn, which produces iPhones and other products for Apple. 

In October, Foxconn joined forces  with AI chip giant Nvidia to “accelerate the AI revolution” by building a new class of data centers for a range of applications, “including digitalization of manufacturing and inspection workflows.” 

Alongside these “AI factories,” the 2 companies said they would collaborate on the development of new machine learning (ML)-powered manufacturing systems integrating Nvidia’s robotics platform, Isaac.

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