Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi beats Apple in Europe sales
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi is now the second bestselling brand in Europe, behind Samsung, after passing Apple in Q1 2021.
Canalys says worldwide smartphone shipments reached 347 million units in Q1 2021, up 27% year on year. Samsung led the way globally with a 22% share, while Apple narrowly maintained second place with 15%, with Xiaomi enjoying 14% – growing by 62% to ship 49 million units.
“In addition to great product value, Xiaomi is now also making strides to recruit local talent, become more channel-friendly and lead in high-end innovation,” said Canalys Research Manager Ben Stanton.
“Its competitors offer superior channel margin, but Xiaomi’s sheer volume actually gives distributors a better opportunity to make money than rival brands. But the race is not over. Oppo and Vivo are hot on its heels, and are positioning in the mid-range in many regions to box Xiaomi in at the low end. Xiaomi is leading the pack, but the race has only just started.”
Huawei, the former world number one has dropped to seventh place, as a result of controversies and sanctions related to alleged links to the Chinese government. Huawei handset sales in Europe have dropped 81% and many analysts equate Xiaomi’s rise with Huawei’s downfall.
Xiaomi is a new entrant in the European market and leads a new breed of Chinese smartphone brands enjoying phenomenal growth – such as Oppo, which has seen 153% year-on-year growth in Europe. Vivo, another Chinese brand, completes the top five brands.
There is also a clear divide between brands in Eastern and Western Europe, with budget brands fairing far better in the former.
Xiaomi – smartphone success and electric car ambitions
Xiaomi Corporation was founded in April 2010 and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2018. Xiaomi is an internet company with smartphones and smart hardware connected by its Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
The company ranked third globally for smartphone shipments in Q1 2021 and has the world’s leading consumer AIoT platform with 324.8 million smart devices (not including smartphones or laptops) connected to its platform.
Xiaomi products are sold in more than 100 countriesd and it is on the Fortune 500 list.
At the end of March, Xiaomi announced it was entering the smart electric vehicle market, investing US$10bn over the next 10 years.
“Smart electric vehicles represent one of the largest business opportunities in the next decade and represent an indispensable component of smart living,” said Lei Jun, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Xiaomi.
“Entering this business is a natural choice for us as we expand our smart AIoT ecosystem and fulfil our mission of letting everyone in the world enjoy a better life through innovative technology.”
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.