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Oppo bets on smart device ecosystem as smartphone market shrinks

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo has debuted a cross-platform solution that allows devices running on different operating systems, including handsets and cars, to connect with each other, in the company’s latest effort to build a tech ecosystem rivalling Apple, Xiaomi and Huawei Technologies Co.

Pantanal is designed to “break the boundaries” between devices and systems, Li Jie, Oppo’s vice-president for software, said at the company’s developers’ conference on Tuesday.

“Different systems and data have isolated various devices from each other, which has created a gap in cross-device experience,” said Li. “Pantanal will be the bridge to connect them.”

The system’s sensing and computational capabilities will help developers identify user needs and scenarios that would benefit from cross-device connections, he said.

For instance, photos taken on a user’s smartphone, action camera, drone and the car’s dash camera can be shared in one single album through Pantanal to create a vlog of the trip, Li said, while calling on developers to experiment with the system.

One of Pantanal’s first applications is Carlink, a collaborative project between Oppo and automakers that allows users to access smartphone apps on vehicles running on various smart car systems.

Oppo announced on Tuesday that it is partnering with China’s biggest automaker SAIC Motor on integrating smart devices and cars, following the smartphone company’s cooperation with Tesla China earlier this year to use Oppo handsets as digital keys on Tesla Model 3 and Model Y cars.

Oppo’s renewed push comes amid surging interest in internet-of-things (IoT) devices in China, where 3.66 billion smart devices were online in 2020. That number was expected to rise to 17.3 billion by 2025, according to a 2021 report by Chinese research firm EqualOcean.

The smartphone market, on the other hand, is shrinking.

Global shipments of smartphones are predicted to contract by 3 per cent this year amid supply chain disruptions that are partly attributed to China’s faltering economy, which has been slowed by Covid-19 lockdowns and the war in Ukraine, according to a global forecast published by Counterpoint Research in June.

Oppo, the third-best-selling smartphone brand in China in the second quarter, saw its shipments plunge over 30 per cent from a year ago, according to research firm IDC.

Smartphone makers have been investing in ecosystems that go beyond handsets and involve a wider range of smart devices. Xiaomi has been selling myriad connected devices for years, ranging from simple wall outlets to appliances like air purifiers and rice cookers.

Huawei introduced HarmonyOS in 2019 after the firm was added to a US trade blacklist, which virtually destroyed its smartphone business.
To date, over 300 million Huawei devices have been equipped with HarmonyOS, according to the company, which released the system’s third generation last month. South China Morning Post

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