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AI Phones Take Center Stage in China in 2024

A smart phone is so 2023 as AI phones set the trend in 2024.

 

BEIJING, February 23 (TMTPOST)— On the first working day after the Chinese New Year, OPPO's founder and CEO Chen Mingyong announced the establishment of an AI center, signaling a strategic shift towards AI.

On Monday, Meizu, a Zhuhai-based consumer electronics manufacturer, announced a bold move by "betting All on AI" and discontinuing traditional "smartphone" projects. Meizu made clear its commitment to AI by restructuring Flyme OS, creating new AI terminal devices, and opening up to global large model teams, embracing top international teams like OpenAI to build a new AI ecosystem.

Artificial intelligence (AI) emerged as a buzzword in the tech world in 2023, attracting both established and emerging players. While international players made significant strides, Chinese brands scrambled to hop on the bandwagon. From the latter half of 2023, mainstream smartphone manufacturers such as Huawei, Xiaomi, vivo, Samsung, OPPO, and Honor have been vying for dominance in AI large models.

In August 2023, Huawei's HarmonyOS 4.0 officially integrated the Pangu large model into multiple system applications to develop AI phones. Two months later, Xiaomi announced the integration of its self-developed AI large model "MiLM-6B" into the Surging OS, enhancing capabilities like text creation, AI image expansion, and more.

In November, vivo unveiled its self-developed AI "Blueheart large model," and OPPO announced the integration of the "Andes large model" in ColorOS 14. In January 2024, Honor joined the AI phone race by unveiling its self-developed 7 billion-parameter on-device AI large model, the "Magic large model."

Samsung, during its global product launch in January, introduced a series of AI-enhanced smartphones, featuring intelligent photo editing, AI call translation, instant search functions, and exceptional photography capabilities.

As the Spring Festival, known as Chinese New Year, draws to an end, both OPPO and Meizu wasted no time in announcing their foray into AI phones. Even Apple, known for its discreet approach, seems to be joining the AI phone race. Analyst Guo Mingqi revealed that the next-generation iPhone 16 could be Apple's first AI phone.

While competing in the hardware realm with chip upgrades and innovative foldable screens seems to reach its limits, the advent of AI is providing a new direction for smartphone manufacturers. According to Canalys, 5% of the total smartphone shipments in 2024 are expected to be AI phones. Additionally, IDC data indicates a 3.2% year-on-year decline in the global smartphone market in 2023, posing challenges for the industry. As active participants, smartphone manufacturers aim to change the market stagnation.

While major manufacturers are advancing fast in developing AI phones, conducting press conferences, introducing self-developed large models, and integrating them into phone systems, most consumers still lack a clear understanding of AI phones.

In conversations with several consumers, TMTPost found that while they are familiar with or have heard about AI, the concept of AI phones leaves many perplexed. Some even expressed, "It doesn't seem different from regular phones; many smartphones already have AI functions."

This raises another question: Do consumers really need AI phones at this point?

Currently, the answer remains unknown. However, some consumers express interest, stating, "I am more concerned about the camera's photo and video shooting and processing capabilities. If AI phones offer better value for money compared to regular phones, I might consider using one of them."

Can smartphone manufacturers, currently investing in AI, fulfill these consumer expectations? Taking OPPO as an example, its OPPO Find X7 series focuses on AI functions related to camera experiences and intelligent calls. Notably, it includes AIGC elimination, allowing users to circle individuals to be removed intelligently from photos, and AI intelligent call functions, automatically recording call content and summarizing it in a document, which is friendly to professionals dealing with large amounts of textual information.

Xiaomi, incorporating AI into image creation, is another example. The Xiaomi 14 series, by embedding local AI large models into the Xiaomi Surging system, supports a range of functions such as AI painting, AI image search, AI portraits, and AI image expansion. Among these, AI image expansion can produce local images within six seconds, an irresistible feature for most photography enthusiasts.

However, some consumers express concerns about AI phones. One consumer comments: "Applying AI to phones is like having someone peeping into your life all the time. The stronger the convenience, the easier it becomes for others to crack your phone and control your lifestyle. If it were me, I would be more cautious and wait until the technology is more mature before buying."

"The year 2024 marks the first year of AI phones. In the next five years, the impact of AI on the smartphone industry can fully rival the transition from feature phones to smartphones. Through AI, we can redefine the smartphone experience and help users achieve higher value. The arrival of the AI phone era brings us one step closer to a truly intelligent life," said the OPPO founder.

The disruption caused by smartphones to basic phones was revolutionary, bringing about the significant mobile Internet revolution that profoundly influenced human production and life. The notion of AI phones replacing smartphones is not merely about changing a camera or redesigning the appearance, it carries the weight of transforming the entire smartphone industry.

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