Meizu, Now Under Geely: Making Its Mark with AI

Reporters 丨 Ning Xiaomin Trainee 丨 Tu Ling

Produced by 丨 Aotou Finance (theSankei)

After its acquisition by Geely, Meizu, no longer under the control of its founder Huang Zhang, retains him as a consultant. However, it struggles to replicate the influence it held during Huang’s era.

Post-the Chinese New Year of the Dragon, Meizu pledged on social media to go all-in on AI, sidelining new “smartphone” projects to focus entirely on “devices of tomorrow.”

Is this a move to stay relevant using AI as a buzzword? After being taken over by Geely, Meizu’s journey has seen its ups and downs. Despite developing vehicular systems for Lynk & Co models and launching new phones last year, the outcomes were minimal.

Can the Acquisition of Meizu Fulfill Li Shufu’s Dream?

As Huawei, a non-car manufacturer, grows in the new energy vehicle sector and Xiaomi’s car project is on the horizon, the move by these phone brands into automotive space surely stirs feelings for Li Shufu, who acquired Meizu early on.

Li Shufu, known for his acquisition streak spanning over a decade, believes that acquisitions are a strategic market move to enhance overall competitive strength.

Compared to acquiring automotive brands like Volvo, Li Shufu shared a “great minds think alike” moment with Yu Chengdong and Lei Jun in purchasing Meizu.

On July 4, 2022, Hubei Xingji Times Technology Co., Ltd. (“Xingji Times”) and Zhuhai Meizu Technology Co., Ltd. (“Meizu Technology”) held a strategic investment signing ceremony, officially announcing Xingji Times’ acquisition of 79.09% of controlling shares in Meizu Technology, gaining sole control over the company.

At the ceremony, Li Shufu stated that new business models and patterns have emerged from the latest technological and industrial revolutions, making technological innovation and ecosystem integration between the consumer electronics and automotive industries imperative. In the future, the paths of smart cars and smartphones will no longer be separate. Instead, they will merge into an immersive, multi-terminal experience for users. By integrating the smartphone business, a deep fusion between consumer electronics and the automotive industry is achieved, building a cross-industry user ecosystem and fostering synergy.

For Huawei and Xiaomi, what’s missing is a car; for Geely, it’s the technological expertise developed through years of smartphone and system development. For instance, Huawei and Xiaomi’s extensive experience, especially in system development, allows them to reduce development cycles, lower costs, and achieve higher intelligence levels in smart driving and cabins, placing them at the forefront of the industry.

In the latter half of last year, Xingji Meizu announced plans to enter the vehicle manufacturing sector but did not specify its capabilities in smart driving or cabin technology, nor did it provide a timeline.

Netizens joked, “Meizu’s entry into car manufacturing is for a bit of Geely’s luck.” But only if “Geely’s smart driving impresses” can Li Shufu’s decision be deemed correct.

A Brand Transformed: Meizu’s Path Beyond Its Founding Glory

Though not a founder of Meizu, Shen Ziyu, Chairman and CEO of Xingji Meizu Group, is fully aware of Li Shufu’s expectations and Meizu’s standing and technological level within the smartphone and broader consumer electronics industry.

This self-awareness is why Shen Ziyu didn’t want Meizu or himself to become a laughingstock, leading to the eventful journey of Meizu under Geely’s ownership.

On March 8, 2023, Xingji Times and Meizu Technology merged to form the Xingji Meizu Group, with Shen Ziyu as its Chairman and CEO. At the group’s founding press conference, he stated that Xingji Meizu would focus on full-chain innovation in consumer electronics, breaking down barriers between smartphones, XR, operating systems, chips, cars, and other intelligent devices to achieve deep integration and super synergy between the consumer electronics and automotive industries.

This aligns perfectly with Li Shufu’s vision, also expressed by the term “super synergy.”

According to Tianyancha app, Xingji Meizu’s investment in cutting-edge technology spans chips, operating systems, new energy vehicles, and other fields, laying the groundwork for diversified development.

There are reports that Xingji Meizu’s chip research institute includes three key departments: SoC Development, Media Development, and XPU Development. The company may develop vehicle system chips, functional chips for phones, and XR chips. However, in August of the same year, Xingji Meizu unexpectedly ceased its self-developed chip business.

By March 2023, with the establishment of the Xingji Meizu Group and the halting of the self-developed chip business by August, and recently stopping new smartphone projects to go All in AI, Meizu has transformed significantly.

On February 18, Shen Ziyu expressed, “Those familiar with Meizu know it as a team that boldly leads trends. Meizu, at the peak of MP3 sales, chose to discontinue all MP3 products to embrace the future of smartphones.”

Now, by stopping all smartphone production to focus on “devices of tomorrow,” can Meizu recreate the sales miracle of the M8?

The market will be the ultimate judge.

First, the pioneering Meizu team is no longer with the company. From Huang Zhang to his family, they have lost their influence in the Xingji Meizu Group.

Second, when Meizu stopped all MP3 production for phones, it wasn’t a “core technology” breakthrough like chips or operating systems. Instead, it was based on a modified version of Microsoft’s Windows CE system, coupled with innovative design craftsmanship inspired by the iPhone’s design and UI. In 2010, Apple sued M8, leading to its discontinuation.

Now, with a greater focus on protecting intellectual property worldwide, how Xingji Meizu can recreate Meizu’s former glory with All in AI and launch a new AI terminal this year remains to be seen. Will it achieve true innovation in form, style, interaction, control, computation, and applications?

Is Halting Smartphone Development Prescient or Just a Gimmick?

Is stopping smartphone development a strategic play anticipating future trends, or merely a publicity stunt driven by market competition?

On November 30, 2023, Xingji Meizu Group held the “2023 Meizu Autumn Boundaryless Ecology Launch” in Wuhan, releasing the Meizu 21 phone among other products.

Shen Ziyu stated that since its inception, Xingji Meizu Group has established a development pathway integrating “smartphones + XR + smart cars.” The debut of the MYVU brand and products, along with the establishment of the FlymeOS software and hardware ecosystem, signifies the company’s rapid development trajectory.

On March 30, 2023, at the “Meizu∞Lynk & Co Boundaryless Ecology Launch”, Xingji Meizu Group unveiled the new flagship Meizu 20 series, the boundaryless ecosystem Flyme10, and the first-generation Flyme Auto vehicle-human interface software to be featured in the Lynk & Co 08 model.

Shen Ziyu expressed confidence in leading Meizu back to the top 5 in the mid-to-high-end market. He acknowledges, “This is a process of enduring hardship to revive our standing. The biggest challenge in the next two to three years is whether we can catch up with the time we’ve lost, given the highly competitive smartphone market where everyone shares the same supply chain.”

Shen emphasized, “Returning to the race and climbing up depends primarily on the product. The product is the boat, marketing is the sail.”

He added, “The three products showcased today are personally defined and crafted by me. Our team will ensure the uniqueness and exclusivity of our products, elevating their positioning, tone, and brand.”

Shen also highlighted a strategy focusing on high-quality, mid-to-high-end products, as achieving this segment is essential for sufficient technological strength and promoting healthy technological progress.

Thus, as of 2023, Shen Ziyu does not seem intent on eliminating traditional smartphone operations. The recent announcement of going All in AI and abandoning traditional smartphones may well be a highly publicized spectacle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.