Trade tensions between the U.S. and China have reached a stage where hostility has become a new normal. Both countries have imposed high tariffs on a substantial proportion of each other’s goods and just when we thought the war is de-escalating, President Trump announced 10 percent tariffs on a further US$ 300 billion worth of Chinese goods.
It’s not surprising that China’s technology muscle is independent to a huge extent. The country is the world’s number one smartphone maker in terms of volume, almost every company on this planet relies on components that are made in China, and giants like Baidu, Tencent, and Alibaba offer everything to the end-user.
Sure, Chinese technology giants still rely on a huge chunk of western technology and we’ve already seen how Huawei took the biggest hit. But, while all of us are busy analyzing and understanding the trade war, other countries are making moves, and they’re making them fast.
Other countries swooping in
It’s a classic story of two cats fighting for a piece of cake and a monkey swoops in, fooling both of them. The two incumbents gain nothing in the end and a third-person reap all the benefits. Obviously, a literal translation would be an exaggeration, but we’re seeing a similar anomaly with the Trade War.
According to the U.S Census Bureau, Chinese imports have dropped by US$ 31 billion in the first half of 2019. But, Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, India, and South Korea have successfully bridged the gap. Vietnamese imports to the U.S increased by a whopping US$ 7.6 billion, followed by South Korea at US$ 3.8 billion and India at US$ 2.7 billion.
These records are a combined figure of all imports and not just limited to technology products and services. But, the tides are changing massively in this industry as well.
Companies are uncertain about their long-term investments in China and are looking for alternatives. Samsung and Intel were looking for safer options for years and currently employ 182,000 workers in Vietnam. These factories assemble smartphones, processors, and almost every component one needs.
According to Bloomberg, the Vietnamese government allowed investment licenses to 1,720 projects in the first half of 2019. Nintendo has decided to shift its Switch production to Vietnam and even Sharp has announced relocation plans.
Foxconn, the maker of iPhones in China has bought a land parcel in Vietnam and announced a US$ 200 million investment in India. Apple, in partnership with Wistron India and Foxconn, is already making iPhones in the country and recently top-of-the-line models were also being shipped out.
Samsung already has the world’s largest mobile phone factory in India that assembles top-tier variants, ready for export. While the quantity is negligible when compared to China’s output, these small steps are an indication that China is slowly losing its edge.
OPPO wants to build its own chipsets, hires talent from MediaTek
Also trying to tap Qualcomm and Huawei talent
In the last few years, the US war against Huawei has ramped up considerably with no end in sight. However, though the crackdown was against only a few Chinese companies, other seemingly innocent companies have found themselves just as affected as Huawei. For one, American companies, like Google and Qualcomm, have to deal with the loss of a valued client. On the other side of the Pacific, other Chinese companies are also feeling the heat from Huawei’s troubles.
For example, OPPO has started developing its own processors in the wake of Huawei’s chip problem. Last year, the Chinese company filed a new trademark — named the OPPO M1 — through the European Union Intellectual Property Office, according to LetsGoDigital. Presumably, the new property corresponded to an upcoming in-house processor. However, the M1 has since faded into oblivion.
Today, according to Nikkei Asian Review, OPPO has not abandoned its processor project. In fact, the company has started ramping up its efforts for an in-house chip. “OPPO has been aggressively recruiting chip talent since last year as they realized that owning the chip design capability will give it more control over its supply chain,” Nikkei’s source said.
OPPO has reportedly acquired high-ranking executives from MediaTek including a former executive for Xiaomi. Further, the company has tried tapping developers from Qualcomm and Huawei’s HiSilicon.
Much like Huawei’s efforts, OPPO’s aggressive hiring aims to build a team for in-house development. Currently, OPPO still relies on third-party suppliers to build its phones like Qualcomm and MediaTek. With Huawei being attacked on all fronts, OPPO is in as much risk if the US implements a wider ban against Chinese companies. Recently, the US wants to take away Huawei’s ability to make its own in-house chips.
iPhone 12 series will get almost all its OLED screens from Samsung
Around 80 percent!
By now, it’s no surprise that Apple sources some of its components from its competitors. Notably, the company obtains a portion of its screens from Samsung, one of the world’s most prominent screen suppliers. However, an upcoming report predicts a larger ratio than expected.
As reported by MacRumors, Apple will supposedly source around 80 percent of its OLED supply for the upcoming iPhone 12 series from Samsung. Meanwhile, the remaining 20 percent will come from LG and BOE. According to previous rumors, Apple was already talking with Samsung and LG prior to the report.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Samsung took a majority of the iPhone’s main supply line. Notably, the iPhone X obtained all of its OLED screens from Samsung Display. The iPhone X was the company’s first OLED smartphone.
Previously, rumors predicted five new iPhone models coming this year. Earlier this year, Apple launched the first model, the new iPhone SE. Naturally, because of the model’s budget-friendly positioning, the iPhone SE only had an LCD screen.
Hence, after the iPhone SE, Apple is still slated to launch four more models this year — presumably from the entire iPhone 12 series. According to more rumors, Samsung will provide the screens for three of these models, leaving the final model for LG and BOE.
If no further delays hamper Apple, the iPhone 12 series will still launch later this year.
Philippines wants to tax Netflix, Spotify to increase coronavirus relief funds
Might add 12 percent to current prices
After two months of community lockdowns, the Philippines’s response to the pandemic remains controversial at best. At the time of publishing, the country has 14,035 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 868 deaths.
Recently, Congressman Joey Salceda, currently chairing the Committee on Ways and Means, has proposed a new tax aimed against the country’s biggest social media and entertainment platforms: Facebook, Google, Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.
Currently, the globally recognized companies are not taxed for putting up ads for goods on online marketplaces in the Philippines. Meanwhile, other entities still pay the 12 percent value-added tax.
As reported by Reuters, the proposed tax will siphon more funds into the country’s pandemic response, including a “national broadband project and digital learning [programs].” However, the bill’s provisions are not available to the public yet.
According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the tax is against both currently untaxed advertising and services. For merchants selling goods and advertising online, “only 50 percent… pay VAT.” Further, Salceda proposes that digital advertising, especially those done by foreign companies, must course through an official country representative.
For services, Salceda suggest an additional 12-percent tax on entertainment subscriptions. However, a big question lies on who will ultimately carry the blow of the new tax. Is it the company itself or the consumers through higher subscription fees? Right now, Netflix and Spotify subscriptions are slightly lower than their American counterparts. Netflix Philippines has declined to comment.
However, as a bill is still just a bill, no one knows if and when the new tax will push through.
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