Smart speakers. It seems that everyone and their mother have one these days, and it's not that far from the truth – 91 million people (about a third of the American population) use a voting assistant, such as Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana or the Google Assistant, at least once a month, according to eMarketer. Furthermore, sales of smart home speakers are on the rise, and grow 187 percent in Q2 2018.
So it is not surprising that Huawei wants the action.
During its IFA 2018 lead in Berlin today, the Shenzhen company has wrapped the Huawei AI Cube, a smart speaker intended to compete with heavyweights like the Google Home Amazon Echo lineup. It's not your average voice-detect, command-performing assistant, though ̵
"Huawei AI Cube represents a new simple and practical way to manage smart home devices and deliver high quality audio," said a Huawei director during a pre-briefing. "It also represents our commitment to innovation and collaboration between telecommunications, technology and new AI technology … We believe we can build a better connected world with more AI devices. "
Let's unpack it.
AI Cube's diminutive plastic and fabric body invites you to almost carry it around. It's 116mm x 116mm x 218mm and weighs about 900g, and in a short time it seemed noticeably lighter and more compact than Google Home. The ports are hidden unnoticed underneath. base, giving it a streamlined minimalistic appearance (store a circular array of LEDs on top that lights up when it hears or answers a command) and the fabric speaker mask is adaptable to a degree – It comes in several different colors (not yet announced ).  The press members were unable to try the AI Cube's hotspot function, but it is powered by a 4G LTE modem capable of speeding up to 300 Mbps (Cat. 6); A SIM card slot and Huawei HiLink app help you connect in minutes. If your mobile does not float your boat, the AI Cube packs an 802.11ac dual-band (2.4GHz / 5GHz) Wi-Fi chip that transfers data at speeds of up to 1200 Mbps.
Huawei chose not to follow Samsung's footsteps by developing a separate assistant, instead of collaborating with Amazon to get Alexa up and running on AI Cube (through Alexa Voice Services). It is a storage inventory configuration that supports the default command of Alexa commands ("Alexa, a timer") and integrations (it works with more than 20,000 smart home devices from 3,500 brands), providing uninterrupted access to approximately 50,000 apps – skills, in the Amazon parlance – in the Alexa Skills Store.
Alexa-powered smart speakers are a dime a dozen, but few can match AI Cube sound quality, Huawei requirements. It has a 400ml sound cavity and aluminum membrane that allows to produce "full rounded bass" and suite technology – Huawei Histen (pronounced " High- since") – which includes virtual bass, linear phase smoothing, and adaptive gain control, among other features.
So how does it sound? Surprisingly well. I was impressed that the bass came out of the little thing, which seemed well balanced and not too boomy in my ears. The jury is looking at how it handles less acoustic forgiving rooms, but I want to put what I heard on the level with all my Google Home has produced.
Less impressive is the vote's recognition. Huawei says that it uses four "long-range microphones" to listen for commands, but what the technology is under the hood, definitely needs some work. More than once, I could not get it to respond to the hotword ("Alexa") after repeated attempts.
To be fair, Huawei engineers have plenty of time to calibrate. AI Cube is a way out of launch – it is set to hit shop shelves "this holiday" in Europe, with prices to be announced later.
I want to reserve full judgment for now, but I'm struggling to see a standout selling point here. Ensure that the AI Cube 4G hotspot can be useful in a clamp (if your smartphone does not have that feature) and the sound quality seems decent enough. However, there is not much else to distinguish it from, and with clever speaker competition from Bose, Anker, Samsung and dozens of others, Huawei has a better trick on the sleeve if it hopes to get something.
Huawei Locator and New Mate P20 Colors
Next to the AI cube, Huawei Huawei Locator announced a tile-like location bar with mobile connection. The IP68 dust and water repellent puck has a gyroscope and accelerometer, lasts up to 15 days at a load and up to 60 days in standby, and has superior accuracy (within 5 meters outside and within 30 meters indoors, Huawei requirements). It is thanks to support for all four major satellite distribution systems, including GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou, as well as Assisted GPS (which triangles from nearby cellular tower) and Skyhook's Wi-Fi positioning system.
Gallery: Huawei AI Locator
Huawei Locator works with all major cellular bands (and can automatically switch between them) and pair to devices through Bluetooth Low Energy. It is an SOS button that triggers an alarm when pressed, and a proximity-based service that buzzes the device if you take it outside a predefined, geofielded area.
Huawei said it is meant for "pets, children and elderly, luggage and valuables." As with the AI cube, Huawei Locator prices have not yet been announced, but it has a permanent European launch date: October.
Last but not least, the Huawei Mate P20 and P20 Pro debuted in four new colors: two in a shining gradient (Morpho Aurora and Pearl White) and two in leather.
Per Huawei: "Morpho Aurora was inspired by the Morpho butterfly, while Pearl White exudes the same elegance as the iridescent mother of pearl."
Pricing and availability are coming.