Korea Times

AI war looms in smartphone industry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to be the ‘unique selling’ point for the world’s leading smartphone makers, says source

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 3:03pm

By Lee Min-hyung

Artificial intelligence (AI) will emerge as a key marketing point in the smartphone industry next year, with the world’s leading handset manufacturers scrambling to add more AI functions to their upcoming flagship devices.

The move comes as big data technology, allowing devices to make human-like predictions, has been identified as a core feature for a paradigm shift in the global handset market which has stagnated in recent years.

The weak growth has been attributed to toughened rivalry among existing players and a slowdown in terms of technological innovations from industry-leading handset makers ― such as Samsung Electronics and Apple ― according to observers.

According to market researcher Gartner, the smartphone market has reached 90 per cent penetration in key global markets this year - including the United States, Europe and Japan ― where lifecycles for premium handsets are extended to 2.5 years on average. The trend will prolong over the next five years, added the firm.

To revive weak growth and generate more profits, Samsung Electronics has recently acquired U.S.-based AI technology firm Viv Labs whose founding members created Apple’s Siri personal assistant.

Earlier this month, the Seoul-based smartphone vendor hinted that its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, will come with surprising AI functions equipped with Viv’s core technologies in natural language comprehension and machine learning.

“Global handset manufacturers are expected to push for commercialising their AI technologies next year as unique selling points at a time when the smartphone industry is facing setbacks over lack of innovation,” a mobile industry source said.

“AI is the core technology in the era of the fourth industrial revolution when more ICT firms will compete for advancing their AI expertise,” he added.

The AI competition is expected to further heat up next year, with Google directly jumping into the handset business by launching its own Android flagship Pixel phones last month.

The U.S.-based search engine giant is considered the world’s leading AI platform developer, backed by its massive database coming from its billions of users around the world. In particular, the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are equipped with the firm’s latest AI service, Google Assistant, allowing users to conduct two-way conversations with the device.

On Tuesday, the company also unveiled its enhanced AI capabilities for its Google Photo and Google Translation services. The latter, marking its tenth anniversary this year, can translate 103 languages.

At a press conference, Google Korea said the company applied the Google neural machine translation technology to upgrade the translation service from its previous phrase-based machine translations. The latest achievement will allow the platform to translate full sentences more naturally, the company said.

China’s network and smartphone giant Huawei is also jumping on the AI bandwagon for its flagship handset, the Mate 9, which the firm calls the “superphone” by enabling the device to automatically learn users’ habits and making frequently used apps easily available.