Huawei's Media Tour, and Why We Went

When it comes to companies based in China, the obvious tropes of secrecy come into play. Most companies want some level of secrecy, but some have abstracted themselves through PR firms to avoid direct media contact. Despite these companies being big behemoths in their own market, with a back-thought to large towns of 10,000+ people devoted to one factory, access from our side of the fence can be limited. In order to get that access, and to meet face to face, typically requires an invite to their facilities purely on their terms: they fly you out and they dictate what you see during that trip.

For those journalists in the industry reading this, some of you may have come across recent critiques from both inside the tech press and from readers about these trips, as a form of payola to generate content that flatters the company and whether this is an ethical process at all, as the journalist or editor is accepting a ‘free trip’ which could cloud their future judgement. There have been many situations when a ‘free trip’ becomes a series of posts or ‘look at what we did’ videos, without any critical analysis or development to the industry (or any clarification of who paid for which product placement, which can be deceptive at best).

But with the right attitude, depending on the journalists or editors you follow and trust, one can retain the element of editorial independence when getting involved in this. As mentioned already, the crucial part of accepting these trip offers is to talk to and understand the people that matter most, in a process to open doors for the future, and for some of these companies, taking that media tour when offered is that process. If you don’t take that step, then the relationship stagnates, and as a journalist you end up pumping out more of the same, rather than trying to be the best you can be and generate the sort of traffic that makes who you write for unique.

This sounds like a boring setup to an opinion piece on ethics in technology journalism, but I promise it is not. But these are the foundations on which AnandTech accepts any ‘paid for’ trip, along with maintaining editorial independence but focusing on the relationship, and circumstances evolved recently such that one of the companies we’ve wanted to probe in more detail for a while gave us that opportunity this November. In 2015, Huawei, through their PR companies and contractors, has been giving short media tours of its technology facilities to small groups of journalists this year, as well as group interviews with important VPs up and down the chain. Note that at the top of the piece I mentioned that these trips are dictated by the company involved, so we were under no disillusion of the circumstances which would be presented (I can’t fault someone from doing their job in all honesty), but Andrei and I made our way to both Shenzhen and Beijing as part of the media tour. Needless to say, we requested meetings with the technical teams right away.

 

Examples of HiSilicon/Huawei's Custom Silicon

The Tour

From first contact, the travel arrangements for the tour changed multiple times, from visiting factories and research facilities in Shenzhen/Dongguan followed by R&D tours in Shanghai, to a day with six or seven VPs for 1-on-1 discussions, to a new Kirin family release in Beijing. In the end, the tour started in Shenzhen at a very typical set of smartphone testing labs in nearby Dongguan, followed by a flight to Beijing for the Kirin release and further interviews and discussions. During this time, we spoke in depth with Mengran Duan, the president of Huawei’s watch products, a tour of Huawei’s device testing labs, discussions with Bruce Lee, VP of the Handset Product Line, and the announcement of the Kirin 950. Beyond this there were discussions that we cannot talk about at this time, but for the benefit of our readers they were certainly fruitful and should offer us more perspective (and routes for information) in future Huawei-related discussions.

The US Media Tour group – spot your favorite editors

To add an element of amusement in the mix, as with any Trade Show such as CES and Computex, a lot of companies are free-flowing with goodie bags. Most of it is normally junk that’s thrown away almost immediately (I have a dozen mousepads I don’t need, and even more USB sticks of ex-product kits). All of it is designed to curry the favor of the journalist and to butter them up with freebies (so keep an eye on the journalists you trust), but sometimes there’s a high quality notepad or something worth keeping or passing on. Similar to Huawei’s previous media trips earlier this year, they sampled the tour participants with their latest US-based handset (which we’ll review) as well as a small wearable extra - the handset was augmented with the Talkband B2 wearable and the above framed memento of the group of media during the trip. We also asked about how Huawei will be sourcing the first Kirin 950 devices on the market, namely the Mate 8, and were told to keep our email clients open for details when the time comes around.

Huawei, A Perspective It’s Just Another Smartphone Factory™
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  • londedoganet - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Since you so nicely asked (that was sarcasm), here's comments for the first three pages. I got too irritated by that point to continue:

    -Page 1-

    > I could certainly imagine members of my family seeing the name ‘Huawei’ and not having an idea to pronounce it.

    "having an idea OF HOW to pronounce it"

    > then from the outside HiSilicon's Kirin lineup seems to eying the former development.

    "seems to eying"? "seems to BE eyeing", perhaps.

    > the devices we have tested so far do not necessarily produce anything new into the ecosystem.

    "produce anything new"? Was the author trying to say "introduce anything new"?

    > an overview of the Huawei media tour combined a look into corporate strategy,

    "combined WITH a look"

    -Page 2-

    > with a back-thought to large towns of 10,000+ people devoted to one factory

    "with a back-thought"? I don't know what that means.

    > the crucial part of accepting these trip offers is to talk and understand the people that matter most

    "talk TO and understand the people"

    > and as a journalist you either keep pumping out more of the same, rather than trying to be the best you can be and generate the sort of traffic that makes who you write for unique.

    The "either" is missing an "or" clause, and is therefore redundant.

    > so we were under no disillusion of the circumstances

    "under no ILLUSION"

    > VP of the Handset Product Line and the announcement of the Kirin 950.

    I don't think you can be "VP of... the announcement of the Kirin 950", so the phrasing is awkward.

    -Page 3-

    > This dichotomy between ‘on-show corporate’ and ‘the general workforce’ is mirrored in companies around the world, to the extent that we also had lunch in a special canteen for guests with a background band as you entered.

    While it can be taken from context (and the accompanying photo) that the "special canteen for guests" was at Huawei, some words to make the link explicit would have been better. For example, "This dichotomy between ‘on-show corporate’ and ‘the general workforce’ is mirrored in companies around the world, AND HUAWEI WAS NO EXCEPTION, to the extent that we also had lunch in a special canteen for guests with a background band as you entered."

    > we were not allowed to take images inside of the facilities.

    Images are usually "captured", while photos are usually "taken". This sentence mixes verbs in a non-standard manner.

    > they all need to perform similar tests dictated international and industry standards.

    "dictated BY international and industry standards"
    Reply
  • cruzinforit - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    It's also interesting to note that I think a few of these can be explained by the difference in how people from the UK talk compared to Americans. Since you know, Ian is from the UK it makes sense his manner of talking/typing might include british-english idiosyncrasies that we don't have in American english. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Nice theory, but that wouldn't explain why Canadian readers find it annoying since we align more with the Brits than the Yanks. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Actually, it was looked over by five different sets of eyes, minimum. It seems I missed out a number of prepositions and conjunctions, and everyone's brain filled them in. Naturally when several thousands of readers look over, a couple of errors becomes a debate about a series of style choices or idiosyncrasies. But nevertheless, we're taking points on board always, especially with a mix of styles from our editors.

    I've taken the steps and adjusted most of what you've listed here - a couple were a bad mix of two half-sentences or missing punctuation mixed with non-standard rules (serial comma, for example). Some I disagree with, because they are how I would say them in company (and colloquially correct here at least). But with most, I totally agree with you.

    Thanks for the input, it is much appreciated. If any of our readers ever feel I've screwed up something linguistically, I'm happy to take an email as well (ian@anandtech.com). A few of our readers do already every now and again :)

    -Ian
    Reply
  • SunnyNW - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - link

    I am a Big fan of Anandtech but to be honest I have noticed quite a few mistakes in recent articles. Some seem so obvious that I am very surprised that they are looked over. I hate to be That guy pointing out grammar mistakes and the like in comments so I don't. Just to add, these are definitely errors and not just author specific style choices or idiosyncrasies. Common examples seem to be duplicate words in a sentence, simple misspellings, and/or missing words. I love the content of this site therefore please just take this as Constructive criticism, the site produces Top Quality material so I would hate for editing to become an issue. I have been reading the site for years and at least to my awareness the errors seem to have become more prominent recently, such as in the past month or two. Reply
  • SunnyNW - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - link

    My original comment had a few extra sentences but for some reason was being flagged as "Spam" and the site would not allow me to post. I started to randomly delete some sentences and it let me post but my post original comment was not harsh or "spam" in any way. It was very similar to what I posted above just with a few extra sentences none of which contained anything negative. I'm curious to know why my comment was being flagged as "spam" and what usually leads to this type of response, I've never encountered this before. Reply
  • s.yu - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - link

    Indeed, a draft with lack of basic spelling check. Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    Oh, good, I'm not the only one that's irritated by this. Reply
  • londedoganet - Friday, December 4, 2015 - link

    "hugh-er-way"? That sounds

    A) Nothing like how it would be pronounced in Mandarin (i.e. "hwa-way"), and additionally
    B) More like the brand name for a laundry bleach ("Hue-Away, now with extra whitening power!")
    Reply
  • Communism - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - link

    The 2nd suggestion by Ian describes how the name would be pronounced in Beijing Dialect. Reply

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