Hey, how-zit, Huawei

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything—so long it seems I deleted the bookmark to the login page.  Without digressing too much I want to go on record and predict that, sometime in the not too distant future, password anxiety should be listed in the DSM-5.

Ironically, just as I discovered the value of simplicity, things beyond my control became increasingly complicated.

This lament is just a general remark. In fact, I am disappointed about the soured relationship between Huawei and the USA—the issue prompting this post.

Suddenly an interesting conundrum regarding the choices available to consumers has become more perplexing to me than before.

I’ve long been a fan of Gregg  Easterbrook’s book “The Progress Paradox”.

In simple terms, innovation, progress, connectivity and advancement have fostered a world where we are spoilt for choice. At the same time, we are constantly presented with an ideal and duped into the illusion that it is attainable.  These words are not intended to be an accurate paraphrasing of Easterbrook’s book. What I mean is that I owe this insight to the book.

While we generally think of a variety of choices as an advantage, it can also cause uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

And yet, when choice disappears we become vulnerable to exploitation. Or maybe I have just realised once again how we’ve been exploited all along.

Mention to any teenager that mobile phones did not exist when you grew up and you’ll see an expression of utter disbelief. They’ll probably think you grew up in the dark ages, must be stone old, know very little about technology and then scornfully dismiss the idea long before considering that the quality of life is and was undisturbed by an unknown lack.

A few decades later most adults are as lost without their mobile phones as teenagers—probably more so since our phones are essential business tools, not just entertainment.

We hardly think about the time when we didn’t take it everywhere, weren’t concerned about battery life, didn’t fear losing it and weren’t reachable wherever we went.

We have grown accustomed to setting up our devices to our exact tastes and upgrading—despite industry efforts—is still a pain we’d rather avoid, which is exactly why phones have been fine-tuned to have a limited life expectancy and every newer model boasts a host of features you just never knew you couldn’t live without.

As the mobile phone transformed itself from luxury to convenience to necessity it invaded every mansion, house, handbag, pocket, shack and park bench. Market share transferred in tides and waves of Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Apple, Sony, Siemens to Huawei: the old, the new, the comebacks and the new kids.

For a while there we actually thought we had a competitive market in which the consumer felt empowered.  When Huawei launched its first phones in South Africa they presented an attractive alternative to Samsung and Apple at a much better price. Although the bargain price didn’t last, Huawei continued to be price and device competitive.

I loved my Sony Z1 Compact which was a really solid user-friendly and reliable phone.  Replacing the battery twice made it last years longer at a fraction of the price of a replacement.  I used the Z1 for so long that when the time came to replace it, the Z5 was already outdated, not to mention hard to find,  and overpriced compared to the Samsung alternatives.  The Sony models I liked weren’t available in SA and independent reviews didn’t rate their cameras.

Sony has made an impressive foray into the camera market with highly-rated DSLR and mirrorless options and added an array of lenses and was sensible enough to drop their silly incompatible memory cards—only to fall woefully behind with the cameras on their phones.

Now I realise that I was an unwitting contributor in the threesome monopoly of Samsung, Apple and Huawei in the SA market and with Huawei’s current troubles Samsung will get away with everything from overpricing to explosions just like Apple has long managed to be the pied piper of blind brand loyalty through hell and high prices.

On the Sony Z1, you were able to move various apps to the memory card and it wasn’t overloaded with unwanted preinstalled apps.  Now on my Samsung S7, much less tweaking is possible. I bought it when the S9 became available which made it a little cheaper.

If you are wondering why I buy phones instead of having a contract: in my case it makes sense. I’ve never liked talking on the phone. My device is used for email, texting and other data-based apps. There is WiFi at home and at work. Even the most basic contracts stretch beyond my needs. While most people think of contracts as an affordable way to own a new phone, I have a savings plan designed to make provision for replacing my gadgets as needed. I’ve resolved long ago that I’ll never be shackled to a cell phone contract again.  In the future, I hope to support brands like Blackview, if the status quo remains.

A knowledgeable friend assures me the action against Huawei was absolutely necessary.  But I’m baffled. The likes of Facebook et al have been spying on us for years. Why jeopardise the entire US market?

While I’m no expert on these matters, not too long ago a US president, also elected without winning the popular vote, insisted that a certain middle eastern country was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction which would be the end of us all. The truth surfaced much too late.

A few years later, one night in June 2016 we all went to bed and woke up to Brexit for breakfast. And while turmoil descended over British politics little did we know what would transpire across the pond.

To be fair, South Africa is such a mess that we should collectively shut up rather than criticise another nation but as an individual, I can say the Americans should have realised they have a broken system when the second Bush was in the white house.

Now you can theorise about the Russians stealing your election, which may well be true but it is also far more palatable than accepting the blame or admitting that your cherished system is fucked.

Would Huawei as the Chinese kamikaze pilot have been a believable pitch if it hadn’t been for Russian election tampering?

As a rule of thumb, I always consider 1. the possibility that I could be dead wrong and 2. the fact that what I observe from afar must be equally evident to everyone else.

Huawei probably still has all sorts of options from flying low to full swing Pheonix manoeuvring.

As South Africans, we’ve learnt to live with less water, less electricity and even that becomes relatively trivial when your home and your car are the most dangerous places to be.  We have our hands full, with or without Huawei.

Finally, though, you don’t need an app to see Boris coming. You also don’t need an app to tell you that, unlike May and Cameron, Johnson won’t fall on his sword. Forget the Marke sparkle. What we have to look forward to is at least half a dozen years of the worst hair ever to have (dis)graced Downing  Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, tactless testosterone-fuelled tweeting, a display of macho masculinity and mass media mayhem.

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