I have spent the last three summers in Beijing where cell phones are even more necessary than they are in American cities. There are no credit cards in China--people pay for everything from groceries to major appliances with their cell phones. Alibaba is the app for making payment transfers, like Paypal only bigger. TaoBao is the world's largest shopping mall, dwarfing Amazon. Another app called WeChat is the Chinese go-to portal for just about everything you'd want to do with your phone. WeChat is a combination of Facebook and Skype and Google Maps. It's also where you go to organize list serves and send text messages and call an Uber-equivalent. (Uber in China was taken over by Didi, whose symbolic D looks a lot like Uber's U.)
Bigger than all these software giants put together is the company that makes the hardware. Huawei is a formidable cell phone company--high quality, innovative, and half the price of an equivalent Samsung or LG or iPhone. Their annual sales are $100 billion, about 40% of Apple's worldwide sales. But remember that they're selling to the less-affluent Chinese market, so the number of units sold actually exceeds Apple.
I was impressed with how well Huawei phones work. I'm always mis-spelling on my Galaxy, or pressing a button only to find that while my finger is in the air, a different button has moved to its place. Or trying to enlarge things that don't enlarge or rotate things that don't rotate. Or looking for ways to forward a message or copy a phone number and find that it can't be done, or it's down some obscure menu tree where I'd least expect to find it. I'm always losing my temper with my phone.
My Huawei is a breath of fresh air. It works the way it's supposed to work, does what you expect it to do. The commands are intuitive, where you expect them to be. It switches seamlessly between Chinese and English. The sound fidelity, the camera and the screen are all better than my American phone, and I bought my Huawei for $300.
So when I came back to America, I called up Verizon and asked how to use it in the Verizon network. It can't be done, they said. The Huawei phones "aren't supported" by Verizon. Even though the hardware is compatible, they've blocked all data connections to Huawei phones. AT&T and T-Mobile are no better. I never see Huawei phones in the US.
I spent last week in Europe, and was delighted to see ads for Huawei phones everywhere - even in Scandinavia, where Ericsson is in its home turf. Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks their technology is superior.
The next steps take us on a slippery slope into "conspiracy theory" territory. Is the US blocking Chinese technology because American companies are afraid of the competition? Is the Hotelier in Chief fanning the flames of a trade war with China because American business sees the handwriting on the wall. One of the first things Trump did when he came into office was to slap a 25% tariff on Chinese solar panels, even though, for solar cells, there's not much American manufacturing capacity to protect.
The Chinese economy has overtaken America as the largest in the world, and they're growing three times as fast as we are. There is little question but that China will grow in a word leadership role, and will eclipse American hegemony probably sooner than later. American business and their Congressmen and their regulatory agencies are working overtime to hold back the tide, but the tide is larger than any of them. China is building alliances in South America, developing roads and power lines and mines in Africa, building a 21st Century Silk Road to Western Asia.
Last month, America arranged for Canada to arrest and extradite Huawei's CFO, who also happens to be daughter to Huawei's president and founder. The charges were flimsy and lacked all credibility. China was none too pleased.
Other mishaps affecting Huawei occurred the same week, leading Chinese conspiracy theorists to wonder if there is a covert sabotage program. This article is from a Taiwanese newspaper, which you wouldn't normally expect to be sympathetic to the People's Republic. (You can read it by submitting the link into Google Translate. The result is not perfect, but you understandable.)
The article is speculative, but perhaps not over the top, in raising possibilities that America is playing dirty, using sabotage, murder and arson to try to hold back one of China's most formidable competitors.