Chinese smartphone maker Meizu says it plans to go “all in” on AI, which isn’t a surprising announcement for a tech company in 2024. What is a little surprising is that the company says that as part of this transition, it’s done making traditional mobile phones.

The move comes as a response to a changing smartphone market where users upgrade devices less frequently and it’s increasingly difficult to make hardware that stands out due to hardware upgrades alone.

It’s a little unclear at this point what new AI-focused products Meizu plans to launch in the coming years, but in a brief video the company explains that it’s scrapped development of the next few phones that had been in its pipeline, including the Meizu 21 Pro and Meizu 22 and 23 series.

Instead, the company is investigating products where voice is the primary interface rather than a touchscreen. Think gadgets like the Humane Ai Pin or Rabbit R1 rather than a typical smartphone.

That sounds… like a big gamble. Humane and Rabbit are startups that are trying to build an entirely new product category that doesn’t currently exist. It’s too early to say whether there’s enough demand for portable, voice-first gadgets that leverage AI to keep these startups afloat. So it’s a little strange to see an established phone maker shifting gears to compete in this nascent space.

But Meizu isn’t wrong that it’s getting harder for phone makers to stand out, and so I suppose it makes sense that rather than watch its phone business diminish a little bit at a time, the company figured it was time to make a big bet on something that might be the future. And with years of history building device hardware and software, Meizu could theoretically be well positioned to compete with startups like Humane and Rabbit when it comes to the user experience.

Meizu’s smartphones ship with a custom version of Android called Flyme, and it seems like the company is planning to release its first “AI OS” which may be based on Flyme during the first half of 2024, with the first “AI Device” hardware scheduled to ship by the end of the year.

Looking ahead, the company’s roadmap calls for two more devices in 2025 and three products in 2026, including the first “AI Device Pro” model.

Meanwhile the company is promising customers who’ve bought its existing phones that it will continue to offer software support for some period of time.

via ITHome (1)(2), 9to5Google, and MySmartPrice

 

 

 

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  1. To Meizu’s credit, a long time ago in tech years they decided MP3 & MP4 players were a dead end and pivoted to building an Android-based smartphone from scratch. They did and were wildly successful, really jump starting the domestic market for alternatives to the big brands. Lei Jun paid attention and so…Xiaomi. Carl Pei was there for a while helping to launch sales outside China before moving on to Oppo, OnePlus and Nothing. Perhaps this will be another of those moments, or maybe not. Whichever, Meizu’s colorful history would certainly make for an interesting business case study.

  2. Given how easy it is to resell OpenAI/Google with a regular phone, this is really a meaningless statement without additional information. Apart from “we’re cancelling phone production due to poor sales”.