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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  • Ryan Smith - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - link

    "Earnest question to editors: Would you have gone if the trip wasn't free?"

    No, honestly not. And that's not because we don't like covering Huawei - they're a big part of what's going on in the world of smartphones - but there is a major opportunity cost to a trip like that. One trip like that would cost as much as covering several companies in the US/EU for us. We do have to be mindful of our costs - I don't need to point out that many of our readers know how to use ad blockers - so foreign trips are not something we frequently get to make.

    But conversely that doesn't mean Huawei isn't worth covering. Only that it's in their own self-interest to invite us out if they want to make sure we have a chance to see their facilities. After all, we could always decline it if we weren't already interested.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Sunday, December 6, 2015 - link

    lol, on Edge, 100% ad pass-through. Reply
  • ummduh - Sunday, December 6, 2015 - link

    re: adblock

    This reminded me to turn on AdBlock's "allow some advertising" option, and then I went ahead and whitelisted Anadtech too, since I do quite enjoy reading and using this site. Reloaded Anandtech, and WHAM! Big ol pop up right in the middle of the screen that you have to click away to be able to continue. THIS is why we have AdBlockers. Whitelisting has been revoked.
    Reply
  • masimilianzo - Sunday, December 6, 2015 - link

    Is Andrei the one on the right of Ian? Or on the left? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, December 7, 2015 - link

    Left. Reply
  • s.yu - Sunday, December 6, 2015 - link

    There seems to be some serious latency problems with the comment system, or are comments under this post heavily moderated because of heated discussion? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, December 7, 2015 - link

    We do engage in very occasional moderation, but there's no "latency" in comment publication. Anything posted should be immediate. Reply
  • s.yu - Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - link

    It really wasn't. The correction about the incorrect speculation on pronunciation I posted earlier, I posted it, went on to post some other reply, then flipped through the pages again and noticed that it was gone. So I reposted it and left a copy in the clipboard, hit refresh, came back to check, and it was gone again. So I pasted the copy directly, then refreshed, and it was gone again, tried again, and got the same results. The last time I tried I added another sentence, but again it disappeared after a refresh, but I wasn't so persistent to try a fifth time, so I left it that way. After a day, I came back, I found all four posts there. I don't know where the glitch might have been.

    BTW, the pronunciation is pretty easy, even in English, because it's not difficult to find English words as reference, so this helps in identifying the phonemes. I don't know what the problem was.

    So first, treat "Hua" as a full syllable, but treat "Hu" and "a" as half a syllable each. The "Hu" is highly similar to "who", in English, and it's probably the most accurate direct representation, so just pronounce the "Hu" as "who", only shorter, as its treated as half a syllable. As for the "a", it's nonexistent in American English, but exists in British English, like the stiff-tongued version of the "ar" in "hard". Again, shrink that stiff-tongued "ar" to half a syllable and pronounce it in a single syllable along with the "Hu", and you're past the "Hua".

    As for the "wei", really simple. It's basically a "way". There's no perceivable difference between the two, except for the tone. In regions around Beijing, the accent might turn the "w" into a "v", so you get a "vey", or the "vai" in "vain", but in standard Mandarin it's still "w".

    If you're even meticulous about the tone, then try pronouncing the two syllables like a question each, like "Hua?Wei?" And the tone would sound like the correct Chinese pronunciation too, but this is practically useless beyond actually communicating in Chinese.
    Reply
  • s.yu - Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - link

    Oh, regarding the "who", the "English who" is again more accurate than the "American who", so try making a little more room in your mouth and don't let your tongue obstruct the air flow. Reply
  • zodiacfml - Sunday, December 6, 2015 - link

    Wow, I did not learn anything nor found intriguing! Yet, there's something respectable about them with their approach which is almost like Apple, where they can sell their devices for a higher price than their competitors. Reply

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