President Trump this week signed the Defense Authorization Act, which bans the use of Huawei or ZTE devices by government personnel. The Defense Authorization Act is an annual piece of legislation that provides funding to the military. Congress added language to the act that makes it illegal for any government employee to buy or use devices or components from either Huawei or ZTE, both of which are considered by some to be security threats. The move puts a bookmark at the end of a tumultuous year for Huawei and ZTE, which have seen their U.S. businesses come under attack. Early in the year, Huawei lost distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon. Later, ZTE was hit with a ban on using U.S. components and software. ZTE was forced to pay a significant fine and agree to other conditions in order to get back to business. The ban on government use of Huawei and ZTE gear goes into effect over the next two years.
YouTube has begun to recognize what it calls Signature Devices, or phones that deliver the best-in-class experience for YouTube content. YouTube says these phones have the latest technology and provide optimal viewing. In order to qualify as a Signature Device, a phone must include features such as high dynamic range, 4K, 360 video, reliable DRM performance, and a high frame rate. YouTube says it has worked with select manufacturers to verify a handful of Signature Devices. They include the new Samsung Galaxy Note9, as well as the S8, S8+, Note8, S9, and S9+; the LG V30 and G7 ThinQ; the Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium, XZ2, and XZ2 Compact; the HTC U12+; the Huawei Mate 10 Pro; the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S and Mi 8; the HMD Global Nokia 8 Sirocco; the OnePlus 6; and the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. People who own these devices don't need to do anything in order to enjoy a good YouTube experience. YouTube will add devices to the list over time.
The Democratic National Committee has told candidates running as Democrats this fall they should not use phones made by Huawei or ZTE. The Trump administration says they represent a security risk. Earlier this year, the administration pressured AT&T and Verizon to drop plans to sell Huawei devices. Best Buy also stopped selling Huawei devices. "Please make sure that you are not using or purchasing ZTE or Huawei devices anywhere within your staff — for personal or work-related use," said Bob Lord, the DNC's chief security officer in an email to party members. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also believes Huawei represents a threat of espionage. Huawei phones are not sold on military bases. Neither Huawei nor ZTE commented on the matter.
Researchers at the Israel Institute of Technology discovered a vulnerability in Bluetooth's Secure Simple Pairing and LE Secure Connections features that could lead to man-in-the-middle attacks. According to the researchers, the Bluetooth specification doesn't require devices with these features to validate the public key when pairing with new hardware. By not validating the key, it leaves the connection open to attack. In this case, the attacker would need to have a device within 30 meters and intercept the pairing procedure between two devices. The attacker's hardware could pose as the intended paired device, hijack the connection, and transmit malicious code. For this to work, both devices attempting to pair would need to have the Secure Simple Pairing or LE Secure Connections features enabled in their code, and the attacker's timing would have to be impeccable, according to the Bluetooth SIG. The bug impacts hardware from Apple, Broadcom, Intel, and Qualcomm, along with some Android handsets. According to ZDNet, Apple issued a patch for this bug in July. Intel and Qualcomm have updated their drivers, respectively, and some PC makers have begun to distribute the patches. LG and Huawei have said they'll include patches for the bug in security updates for their Android phones this month. Google has not mentioned the bug in any of its monthly security updates and it's not clear if the Android kernel, nor what other Android devices, are affected
Huawei today announced plans to tweak the graphics performance of its phones. The company will update a number of devices with what it calls GPU Turbo, a graphics processing technology that lets phones run GPU-intense apps, such as games, faster and more efficiently. Huawei claims that GPU Turbo optimizes system software and hardware resources to improve GPU efficiency by 60% while lowering power consumption by 30% thanks to its re-architected method for handling graphics. The end result is a noticeable upgrade in device performance without forcing users to buy a new phone in order to run the latest games and apps. Huawei plans to roll the update out to its flagship devices, the Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro, P20, and P20 Pro in August, with other devices to follow later in the year.
More members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google and Huawei. Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Michael Conaway, and Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger all signed a letter sent to Google concerning the search giant’s recent decision to halt work on Project Maven. "While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military,” read the letter, in part. It’s not clear what the lawmakers’ end goal is. Huawei uses Google’s Android operating system in its phones. Huawei is the world’s third-largest supplier of phones. Some members of Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress.
The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said BalÃ¡zs BertÃ©nyi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.
Google today said more phone makers now part of its Android Enterprise Recommended program. The Android Enterprise Recommended program, which was launched in February of this year, "establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google." In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. A handful of new phones makers and devices are now recommended by Google, making for a total of 39 devices from nine device makers. New entries include the Sonim XP8; Sharp Aquos SH 10-K; Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact; Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Z3 Play; Huawei P20 and P20 Pro; BlackBerry KEY2; and HMD Global Nokia 3.1, 5.1, 6, 7 Plus, and 8 Sirocco. Several tablets have been certified for Android Enterprise Recommended, too, including the Huawei M5 8.4 and 10.8. Google says it will continue to update the list of devices recommended for business users as more phone makers commit to the requirements of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.
Several members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google, Huawei, and other Chinese companies. Senator Mark Warner, a democrat who serves on the Senate Select Committie on Intelligence, has sent Google a letter with a request for information about its relationship with Huawei. Google confirmed that it received the query and said it “[looked] forward to answering these questions.” Warner sent a similar letter to Twitter. Mike Conaway, a republican congressman, indicated his office is making similar inquiries. Some in Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress. Later this summer the Senate Intelligence Committee expects to hear directly from Google executive Larry Page, as well as Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey over their relationships with Huawei and other Chinese firms. "The possibility of Chinese vendors with documented ties to the Chinese Communist Party having access to Facebook's private API (and potentially Alphabet's) — particularly as China develops tools to harness individual-level data for surveillance and social control — raises serious national security concerns," said a portion of Warner’s letter. Huawei denies that it represents any type of threat. It is the third-largest maker of phones in the world and uses Google’s Android operating system.
ARM today announced a new series of processors cores for mobile devices that it says will increase performance without impacting battery life. The new Cortex A76 processor core is built using a 7nm process that ARM says delivers a 35% boost in speed and a 40% improvement in efficiency when compared to its previous 10nm core. The A76 generates a 4x increase in compute performance for artificial intelligence and machine learning. ARM also announced the Mali G76 GPU to improve gaming across a variety of device form factors. The G76 boosts speed and efficiency by 30%. Last, ARM announced the Mali V76 video processor. This chip is dedicated to pushing 8K video at 60fps, or four concurrent 4K video streams at 60fps. ARM designs processor cores. It is up to companies such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, and Huawei to include them in their system-on-a-chip modules for mobile devices. The A76/G76 pair could, for example, serve as the heart of a Snapdragon or Exynos processor. None of these companies has publicly announced yet that they'll use the ARM Cortex A76.
Netflix has granted three newer phones the ability to stream HDR video. The latest devices include the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Huawei P20 Pro, and the Sony Xperia XZ2. HDR content has more contrast than standard content, creating deeper blacks and brighter brights for a richer viewing experience. Other devices already able to access HDR playback on Netflix include the LG G6 and V30, Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 8, and the Razor Phone.
Security, not trade, is the issue, say a handful of Senators who today pushed back against President Donald Trump's efforts to help ZTE. The U.S. Department of Commerce banned American companies from supplying ZTE with parts or software for a period of seven years. ZTE precipitated the ban by bungling a settlement agreement over its illegal sale of technology to Iran and North Korea. The company ceased most operations earlier this month. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted in support of ZTE. He suggested that too many jobs were being lost in China and he wanted to help the company get back in business quickly. Speaking Tuesday, Republican and Democratic Senators suggested that Trump's approach is not the right one. "I confess I don't fully understand the administration’s take on this at this point," said Senator Mac Thornberry. "It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security." Some in the government worry ZTE and Huawei devices could be used to spy on Americans. Thornberry indicated that he doesn't expect the Commerce Department will remove the ban. Trade emissaries from China and the U.S. are expected to meet again this week.
Honor, Huawei's budget brand, today announced the Honor 10 at an event in London. The phone serves as an affordable option to the P20 Pro and offers similar features. The device has what Honor calls Aurora Glass, a 15-layer nano optical coating on the 3D rear panel meant to provide brilliant color. The primary colors are phantom blue and phantom green, each of which dazzles in any light. This is similar to the rear panel of the P20 Pro. The Honor 10 has a 5.84-inch Full View display (19:9 aspect ratio at full HD+) with a notch. The phone is the first from Honor to include an under-the-glass fingerprint reader. Honor says its UItrasonic Fingerprint Sensor is hidden under the display in order to keep the design clean. The phone is powered by Huawei's flagship Kirin 970 processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. The Kirin 970 means the Honor 10 includes Huawei's neural processing unit for AI-assisted scene detection in the camera. The rear of the phone features two cameras: a 24-megapixel main sensor and a 16-megapixel secondary sensor. Honor says the phone can recognize some 500 scenarios that fall under 22 categories in real-time. Moreover, the phone debuts Semantic Image Segmentation, which lets the Honor 10 identify multiple objects in a single image. The user-facing camera has a 24-megapixel sensor with 3D face recognition, studio lighting effects, portrait capture, and group selfies. The phone has a 3,400mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android 8 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8.1 skin on top. The device will be available for preorder in select European countries beginning today for about $475. Honor did not say if it intends to sell the Honor 10 in the U.S.
The government doesn't want military personnel buying Huawei or ZTE phones. The Pentagon has ordered the retail stores on U.S. bases around the globe to cease selling phones made by the two Chinese companies. "Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to the department’s personnel, information and mission," said Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesperson, in a statement provided to the Wall Street Journal. "In light of this information, it was not prudent for the department's exchanges to continue selling them." Maj. Eastburn said the government can't tell troops not to buy Huawei or ZTE phones for personal use, at least not yet. Huawei and ZTE have been squeezed by the Trump administration this year, which insists phones from these companies could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. The Pentagon worries Huawei and ZTE phones could give foreign governments insight into base operations and troop movements. Huawei and ZTE strongly deny such claims. Members of the Republican party have already floated legislation that would make it illegal for government personnel to buy Huawei phones for work purposes. More recently, the Department of Commerce banned U.S. companies from selling parts or software to ZTE for a period of seven years. Huawei said, “We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices.”
Honor today said the U.S. variant of the Honor 7x will be updated to Android 8 starting April 30. In addition to the core Android 8 features, such as notification dots, autofill, and picture-in-picture, the update installs Huawei's EMUI 8 skin. The skin makes a number of improvements to usability and performance and adds face unlock and Huawei's floating navigation dock. The Honor 7x has been available since late last year. It sells for $199.
Huawei's survival in America is facing a new threat: a criminal investigation over whether or not it violated sanctions preventing the sale or export of select goods to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into Huawei's dealings with Iran to see if it broke U.S. law, though it's unclear how far along the probe is and what specific allegations are being made. The investigation "follows administrative subpoenas on sanctions-related issues from both the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control," reports the Wall Street Journal. If Huawei is found to have violated U.S. law, it could be hit with severe penalties. The U.S government has already targeted the company this year, suggesting it is a security threat. AT&T and Verizon Wireless backed out of distribution deals with Huawei after being pressured by the U.S. government, and lawmakers have proposed to make it illegal for government employees to use Huawei phones. Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of phones, did not comment on the new assault. Last year, Huawei rival ZTE settled a similar lawsuit over sanction violations.
After a series of stinging setbacks, Huawei is scaling back plans to tackle the U.S. market. The company has laid off five of its employees in Washington, D.C, including top spokesperson Bill Plummer. In addition to the headcount reduction, Huawei has significantly dropped the dollar figure it spent on lobbying efforts, scaling back from $348,000 in 2016 to just $60,000 in 2017. "Like every company, we continually evaluate our organization and align our resources to support our business strategy and objectives," said a Huawei spokesperson. "Any changes to staffing size or structure are simply a reflection of standard business optimization." The company recently reported a net profit of $7.5 billion for 2017, most of which it made outside the U.S. Moving forward, Huawei plans to focus its efforts in markets where it is already successful. Huawei recently announced the P20 and P20 Pro phones, which feature high-end cameras. The U.S. government has taken steps over the last few months to prevent Huawei from gaining a toehold here, including barring government employees from buying Huawei phones, as well as introducing legislation that would prevent companies from tapping Universal Service Funds to purchase Huawei phones.
The FCC today moved forward with a plan that would make it harder and/or more expensive for U.S. companies to buy equipment from corporations that might pose a security risk. Though the FCC didn't call out China-based Huawei or ZTE by name, the proposal is clearly meant to keep the two companies sidelined in the U.S market. Specifically, the FCC wants to "prohibit use of [Universal Service Fund monies] on the purchase of equipment or services from any company that poses a national security threat to the integrity of U.S. communications networks or the communications supply chain." The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC today isn't final, and the agency is seeking input on how to implement the proposed prohibition. For example, what types of equipment/services should be banned, how should the FCC identify the equipment, what are the costs/benefits, and finally could the rule best be enforced. Huawei and ZTE are taking fire from lawmakers for their supposed ties to the Chinese government. Today's action follows recent blows to Huawei and ZTE. Earlier this year, Huawei lost distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, while earlier this week ZTE was banned from buying American components and technology for its phones. "Hidden 'backdoors' to our networks in routers, switches, and other network equipment can allow hostile foreign powers to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans' private data, spy on U.S. businesses, and more," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Republican lawmakers have also introduced legislation that would bar U.S. government employee from buying Huawei and ZTE phones. Neither Huawei nor ZTE commented on the FCC's actions.
Security Research Labs says Android phone makers often miss security patches but still tell owners the phones are up-to-date. Researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell examined the code of some 1,200 phones from more than a dozen phone makers for every security patch released during 2017. They discovered phones from nearly all makers missed at least some patches. Phones from Google, Sony, and Samsung ranked fairly well, missing an average of just one patch. Phones from Xiaomi, Nokia, and OnePlus missed between one and three patches per update, while devices from HTC, Motorola, LG, and Huawei missed three to four, and phones from TCL (Alcatel) and ZTE often missed more than four patches per update. High-end devices with processors from Samsung or Qualcomm were more likely to updated properly, while low-cost devices with processors from MediaTek were less likely to be updated properly. Nohl and Lell say what's worse than the missed patches are the phone makers' claims to the contrary. "We find that there's a gap between patching claims and the actual patches installed on a device. It's small for some devices and pretty significant for others," said Nohl to Wired. "We found several vendors that didn’t install a single patch but changed the patch date forward by several months. That’s deliberate deception." The researchers claim this lulls consumers into a false sense of security, though they admit that hacking into Android phones through any of the missed patches is a difficult task at best. In response to the data, Google argued that not all the devices researched were Android certified, and that modern Android phones have other security measures in place to protect them. "Security updates are one of many layers used to protect Android devices and users," said Scott Roberts, Android product security lead at Google. "Built-in platform protections, such as application sandboxing, and security services, such as Google Play Protect, are just as important." Still, Google said it would work with Security Research Labs to investigate Nohl and Lell's findings.
Huawei plans to soldier on in the U.S. market despite recent setbacks. "We are committed to the U.S. market and to earning the trust of U.S. consumers by staying focused on delivering world-class products and innovation," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business, to CNET. Earlier this week, Huawei announced the P20 and P20 Pro phones (pictured), contenders to the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S9. The phones boast gradient paint jobs and advanced cameras. Huawei, however, will not sell these phones in the U.S., at least not right away. Earlier this year, AT&T and Verizon Wireless dropped plans to sell Huawei's flagship device, the Mate 10 Pro, due to government pressure. Later, retailer Best Buy also said it would stop selling the Mate 10 Pro in its stores. Some in the U.S. government believe Huawei represents a security threat. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has gone so far as to introduce rules that would make it illegal for companies in the U.S. to buy gear from Huawei and other companies that post a potential risk. Huawei insists these fears are unfounded. "The security risk concerns are based on groundless suspicions and are quite frankly unfair," said Yu. "We work with 46 of the [top] 50 global operators, and have maintained a very strong security record because security is one of our top priorities." Huawei may not have a carrier distribution deal for its phones, but the company does still sell its devices to U.S. consumers online. The company is the world's third-largest supplier of phones behind Apple and Samsung. "We recognize we are not a known brand in the U.S. and we need to build our brand here. Our first step is to win the trust of consumers."
Google today released the first developer preview of Wear OS, the renamed platform for smartwatches and other wearables. Importantly, this developer preview brings with it support for Android P features. Google pointed out a number of items that developers will need to keep in mind when developing for Wear OS. For example, to improve app compatibility, Android P kicks off the process of restricting access to non-SDK methods. Moreover, the dark theme is now the default system theme, something Google says should improve the glanceability of Wear apps. The preview looks to limit background activity in order to improve efficiency. For example, apps will not be able to run in the background unless on a charger. Watch faces and their complications are the only exceptions to this for now. Similarly, this Android P-based version of Wear OS is more aggressive about turning off the Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular radios when the device detects that it is no longer being worn. This too is meant to help reduce power consumption when the wearable is in an idle state. Google says the developer preview is indeed for developers only. It can be installed via manual flash to either the Huawei Watch 2 or Watch 2 Classic smartwatches. Google expects to provide several updates to the Wear OS Developer Preview before a final production build is made available to consumers. Google hopes developers will provide feedback along the way so it can improve the platform.
The Huawei P20 Pro and P20 have a few special tricks will really help them stand out among flagship phones in 2018. Which is why it's such a shame they aren't coming to the U.S.. We had a moment with them and want to share the things that stood out, so you know what you're missing. The multi-color gradient finish is gorgeous, the camera specs are impressive, and the camera software includes some ground-breaking features, like a stabilized long-exposure mode you can use without a tripod. Read on for our first impressions of these flashy phones.
Huawei today introduced the P20 and P20 Pro at an event in Paris. The new phones, direct competitors to Apple's iPhone, are high-end devices that include unique colors, powerful processors, and the newest camera technology. Shared features of the P20 and P20 Pro include metal frames with gradient, painted 3D glass panels on the back. Huawei says the colors were inspired by Monet. The 2:1 displays on front feature notches at the top to hold the user-facing camera and sensors. The notch can be "hidden" with software that blacks out the info bar on the screen. Huawei has improved its facial recognition security software, which now works in the dark by illuminating the display. The P20 and P20 Pro carry over Huawei's premiere Kirin 970 processor with neural processing unit and Master AI to recognize scenes (group shots, landscapes) and objects (dogs, cats). The P20 series ads Master Stabilization software that allows owners to take exposures up to 4 seconds in length without using a tripod. The selfie camera on both phones has a 24-megapixel sensor with a lens at f/2.4. Other specs include 128 GB of storage, USB-C, Cat 18 LTE, Bluetooth 4.2 with aptHD+, and rapid charging. The phones ship with Android 8.1 and Huawei's EMUI 8.
- P20 Pro: The more advanced of the two phones has a 6.1-inch screen with full HD+ resolution, 4,000mAh battery, and IP67 rating for protection from water. The phone boasts a 1/1.7-inch, 40-megapixel main camera sensor that Huawei claims is larger than most other phones in the market. Individual pixels measure 1.55Âµm each, and the sensor has an ISO rating of up to 102,400 for extreme sensitivity in low light. The secondary camera has a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor. The P20 Pro is one of the first phones to include a third camera with an 8-megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom at f/2.4. With software, the third camera can dial up to 5x hybrid zoom. The P20 Pro ships with 6 GB of RAM.
- P20: The standard, smaller P20 has a 5.8-inch display with full HD+ resolution. It includes a 3,400mAh battery and is a bit thinner than the P20 Pro. The P20 has a rating of IP53, which means it provides minimal protection from water. The phone's main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and lens at f/1.8, while its secondary camera has a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor and lens at f/1.6. It ships with 4 GB of RAM. The P20 doesn't have third camera nor the extraordinary zoom capability of the P20 Pro.
FCC Chair Would Bar Use of Universal Service Fund to Buy Equipment from Companies that Pose Security Risks
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent the government and companies from using the Universal Service Fund to buy equipment from companies that represent a security threat to the U.S. "Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern. Hidden 'back doors' to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment — can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data, and more," said Pai. Pai didn't call out Huawei and ZTE specifically, but the measure is clearly aimed at preventing either Chinese company from making inroads in the U.S. market. Members of the government have been campaigning against the two companies for the last few months. Pressure from a collection of Congressmen nixed distribution deals between Huawei and carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless. More recently, retailer Best Buy said it will stop celling Huawei phones. Pai has singled out Huawei as a threat in previous statements. "I'm proposing to prohibit the FCC's $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund from being used to purchase equipment or services from any company that poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or their supply chains. The money in the Universal Service Fund comes from fees paid by the American people, and I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security." The FCC will vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its April 17 meeting.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said will take action to ensure the U.S. telecommunications supply chain is protected from potential threats. Pai made the comments in a response to members of Congress who expressed concern about AT&T and Verizon's plans to sell Huawei handsets in the U.S. On December 20, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton, Angus King, John Coryn, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio, and James Lankford, and Representatives Frank LoBiondo, Brad Wenstrup, Elise Stefanik, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Michael Conaway, Michael Turner, Chris Stewart, Rick Crawford, and Peter King all signed a letter imploring Pai to examine the relationship between Huawei, AT&T, and Verizon. The main matter of concern in the letter from Congressional members to the FCC was that government employees might eventually buy and use Huawei devices from U.S. carriers. Some members of the U.S. government have long claimed that Huawei equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Pressure on AT&T and Verizon put that matter to rest. Shortly after these members of Congress sent the letter to the FCC, AT&T and Verizon Wireless dropped plans to sell Huawei handsets. Earlier this week, Huawei's retail partner Best Buy said it will cease selling Huawei devices in the U.S. Telecom companies in the U.S. are not allowed to buy networking equipment form Huawei. Even so, Pai alluded to taking more action. In his response he said, "I intend to take proactive steps to help ensure the integrity of the communications supply chain in the United States in the near future." Pai did not specify what those steps might be, though Huawei and ZTE continue to be targets of government scrutiny. The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment on the nature of Pai's intended actions.
Best Buy is expected to drop products made by Huawei over the next few weeks, reports CNET. Citing a source familiar with Best Buy's plan, CNET says the company will sell through the stock of devices such as Huawei's smartphones that are already in its stores, but the electronics retailer will not replenish supplies of Huawei phones. Huawei has faced scrutiny from some in Washington over its ties to the Chinese government. Some believe the Chinese government could use Huawei handsets for espionage purposes. Earlier this year, government pressure led AT&T and Verizon Wireless to cancel plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, the company's flagship smartphone. The Mate 10 Pro is available to Americans online from retailers such as B&H Photo and Amazon. Huawei has been banned from selling telecommunications gear in the U.S. for some time. Neither Best Buy nor Huawei commented directly on the matter concerning smartphone sales.
Huawei said that its Honor View10 smartphone is available in the U.S. starting today. The phone will be up for preorder between March 12 and March 22, with shipments starting March 22. The View10 has a unibody aluminum chassis with smooth edges and curved glass. The display measures 5.99 inches and adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by Huawei's top-of-the-line Kirin 970 processor with 8 cores, 6 GB of memory, and 128 GB of storage. The View10 includes a dual-camera array on the rear. The main camera has a full-color, 16-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera has a monochrome, 20-megapixel sensor. They can tap into PDAF and the Kirin 970's neural processing unit for sharp focus and portrait photos with blurred backgrounds. Other features include a 13-megapixel selfie camera, fingerprint sensor, NFC, dual SIM cards, 3,750mAh battery, 4K video capture, aptX HD, Microsoft Translate, muted notifications during gaming, screen recording, face unlock, and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Honor View10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8 user interface on board. It includes U.S. LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 7 12, and 17, which gives it average support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Missing are newer bands such as T-Mobile's 66/71. The View10 is being sold in blue and black, unlocked, for $499. Honor is selling the phone from its own web site. The company didn't say if other online retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, or B&H, will also sell the phone.
Huawei recently began selling the Mate 10 SE via Amazon and other online retailers. The phone carries over most specs from the Honor 7X, which means it includes an aluminum unibody chassis with 2.5D curved glass and a 5.9-inch 2:1 aspect ratio display. It is powered by Huawei's Kirin 659 processor and has dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, a 3,340mAh battery, and Cat 6 LTE. It runs Android 7 Nougat with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 user interface on board. The one significant change under the hood concerns memory and storage. Where the Honor 7X had 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, the Mate 10 SE has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The improvement in RAM should give the Mate 10 SE an edge in performance over the Honor 7X. On the exterior, the Mate 10 SE loses the Honor branding in favor of Huawei's, and the dual-camera array is encircled in a single frame rather than two. Amazon is selling the Mate 10 SE in gray and gold for $230 (about $30 more than the Honor 7X). It is unlocked and compatible with AT&T/T-Mobile and their prepaid brands.
Xiaomi, the smartphone maker based in China, said it is eying a launch in the U.S. market within 12 months. "We’ve always been considering entering the US. market," said Xiaomi Chairman Lei Jun to the Wall Street Journal. "We plan to start entering the market by end 2018, or by early 2019." The company already has a handful of products on offer in the U.S., such as a 360-degree camera, Mi TV Android set-top box, and headphones. Xiaomi's Jun did not say if the company will seek to strike distribution deals with U.S. carriers or sell directly to consumers via channels such as Amazon and Best Buy. The former would give it the best chance of success, but other Chinese companies haven't fared so well winning carrier deals. Earlier this year, Huawei failed to close such deals with AT&T and Verizon Wireless thanks to pressure from the U.S. government. Worse, the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA recently suggested that American consumers should avoid Chinese phones — particularly those made by Huawei and ZTE — altogether. Xiaomi is China's fourth-largest phone maker, and has been highly successful in India. It was one of the first to make an all-screen device, the Mi Mix, back in 2016.
Huawei had some fun in Barcelona this year. The phone maker put the artificial intelligence inside its flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone to use steering a Porsche around an obstacle course. Want to know what it was like for a phone to drive a car? We recount the experience here.
Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.
Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
Google today announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program and an initial batch of handsets that meet the qualifications. Google says the Android Enterprise Recommended program “establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google.” In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. Further, device makers must commit to offering security patches to unlocked devices for a minimum of three years. Some of the initial devices that meet the requirements — and are thus recommended for business users — include the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; the BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro; the LG V30 and G6; the Motorola X4 and Z2 ; the Nokia 8; and the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra. Google says it will update the requirements with each new Android platform release to “raise the bar to ensure we are delivering the best experience for our enterprise customers.”
ZTE says American consumers have no reason to fear its cell phones. The company issued a statement after the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups suggested that Americans should not purchase phones made by ZTE and Huawei. "ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," said the company. ZTE has carrier deals, unlike Huawei, and sells many of its phone via prepaid operators Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. "Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs," argued the company. Some in the government characterize phones and telecommunications gear sold by ZTE and Huawei as security risks. Pressure from the government recently put the kibosh in planned deals between Huawei and AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, Republican senators and congressmen have put forth bills that would make it illegal for the government to purchase or use equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Neither of these bills has been voted upon yet. For the time being, ZTE's handsets continue to be available in the U.S. at carrier stores and online. Huawei's devices are available online.
Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.
Republican Senators today introduced a new bill that would prevent the U.S. government from using telecommunications equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed the bill, citing security concerns. "Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," said Cotton. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn't make it any easier for China to spy on us." The bill is similar to one proposed last month by Texas Representative Michael Conaway and Wyoming Representative Elizabeth Cheney. Last month, AT&T and Verizon Wireless scrapped plans to sell Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection to the Chinese government. ZTE's handsets are widely available from prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Huawei sells its phone to U.S. consumers directly without a carrier distribution deal.
Huawei today starting taking orders for its Mate 10 Pro flagship smartphone. The handset is available for purchase online from a number of retailers, including Amazon, BestBuy, Microsoft, Newegg, and B&H. Those who preorder the Mate 10 Pro between now and February 17 will receive a $150 gift card from the associated retailer. The device itself costs $799 and comes in black, blue, gray, or copper. The Mate 10 Pro has a 6-inch 2:1 display, Kirin 970 processor with 6 GB of RAM, dual Leica cameras with portrait and monochrome modes, fingerprint reader, and Android 8 Oreo. The company had hoped to sell the device through U.S. carriers, but pressure from the government put the kibosh on carrier distribution deals. It is sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The Mate 10 Pro will ship starting February 18.
OnePlus and Honor today made red versions of their most recent devices available to U.S. consumers. The OnePlus 5T Lava Red Limited Edition phone (pictured) will be sold from OnePlus' web site starting February 6. Anyone who preorders the handset before February 9 will receive free upgraded shipping. The OnePlus 5T Lava Red is sold with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. It costs $559. Huawei's Honor brand is also bringing a red phone to the U.S. The Honor 7X in red is available from the Honor web store starting today. It costs $199. Both phones are sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Supplies are limited.
Verizon Wireless has cancelled any and all plans it had to sell handsets from Chinese phone maker Huawei due to pressure from the federal government, according to sources cited by Bloomberg. Verizon Wireless was on deck to sell Huawei's flagship device, the Mate 10 Pro, but has bowed to the government's wishes. AT&T bagged plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro earlier this month. Some members of the federal government label Huawei a threat and suggest it has ties to the Chinese government. Huawei is the third-largest maker of phones in the world, and the largest maker of telecommunications gear. While some U.S. network operators offer handsets from Huawei's rival ZTE, none use either Huawei's or ZTE's telecommunications gear. The news coincides with word that some in the Trump administration at one point sought to create a government-run, national 5G network in order to protect from supposed Chinese threats. The administration later said the proposal was never seriously considered. Verizon and Huawei declined to comment on Bloomberg's story regarding the Mate 10 Pro.
Amazon has updated its Alexa mobile app for Android devices with the ability to support voice requests. Until today, the app was merely a tool used to manage in-home, Alexa-powered devices such as the Echo and Echo Dot. Now, Android smartphone owners can issue voice commands to Alexa from their smartphone in order to access playlists or tap into Alexa’s various skills. The app does not support wake word functionality, which means people will need to open the app in order to make voice-based requests. The updated Alexa app with voice control is available from the Google Play Store and the Amazon App Store. An update for Alexa for iOS devices is still in the works. Phone makers HTC and Huawei have already taken steps to add Alexa to their devices, such as the U11 and Mate series handsets. This update brings Alexa voice functionality to devices without special hardware requirements. Alexa is free to download.