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MWC 2021 Shanghai: Innovations from Chinese Smartphone Vendors

by Yiwen Wu | Feb 26, 2021

MWC Shanghai 2021 is the first tech show that held in person since the COVID 19 pandemic. It took place from February 23rd to Feb 25th, 2021 in China.  Analysts from Strategy Analytics visited the event.  

The main theme of this year’s MWC Shanghai is the 5G connectivity and the ecosystem around. Compared with previous MWC events, this year’s show is scaled down as expected, due to the obstacles of cross-border movements under pandemic. We do not see major smartphone launch as previous years, while we are glad to see Chinese vendors are taking the home advantage to showcase their latest visions and technologies.

Huawei consumer group remains as one of the biggest exhibitors. Their booth presented different life scenarios which are improved by Huawei’s connected devices (including mainly tablet, PC, earbuds, telematics, watch, glasses, speaker, HDTV, and smartphone). Compared with previous years, smartphone has been significantly downplayed. It is very clear that under current US ban smartphone is no longer the hub of Huawei’s AI and Ecosystem strategy. Only Mate X2 - Huawei’s latest foldable device - and Mate 40 series were demoed separately in a small area.  

OPPO is relatively new in MWC and this time it showcased its latest smartphone technologies. The most eye-catching demo is of course Find X 2021, the rollable concept smartphone unveiled in Nov 2020. OPPO add a new feature in the demoed device: wireless air charging. The technology is similar to the one behind its Wireless Air Charging (WAC) accessory the prototype which was unveiled couple days ago. Air charging seem to become a new tech trend among Chinese venders, but we believe its initial take-off will require more efforts. Given OPPO’s aggressive overseas expansion, we expect OPPO will be more active in global tech shows.   

ZTE smartphone business brought their 2nd generation under-display camera technology to MWC. Compared with the first-generation panel that has already featured on Axon 20 5G launched in 2020, the new solution comes with the improved pixel density near the front camera area (400 PPI vs. 200 PPI) and higher refresh rate (120hz vs 90hz). Per the discussion with employees from ZTE, it is likely that the upcoming Axon flagship series will carry this new technology. ZTE also demoed its under-display 3D structured light technology in the show.

Apple and Samsung Electronics are missing from the MWC Shanghai 2021. But it is worth mention that iPhone 12 Pro series was selected as the 2021 Best Smartphone in Asia award, while Samsung Galaxy Z Flip won the special mention for its innovation.  

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