Baidu inks trifecta of agreements for AI-equipped smartphones

The Chinese smartphone brand Lenovo says it will integrate generative AI features powered by Baidu’s large language model Ernie into its handsets. This partnership is the third of its kind, following similar announcements from fellow smartphone makers Honor and Samsung last month.

Baidu has been working hard on developing practical applications for its large language model since unveiling it a year ago. The Beijing-based company, best known for creating the search engine of the same name, was the first Chinese firm to launch a generative AI chatbot. This has given it a huge early-mover advantage in a wide-open market (OpenAI’s ChatGPT is banned in China as it does not comply with censorship requirements).

This head-start has borne fruit in the form of a raft of deals from companies wanting to integrate the LLM into their products and services, from e-commerce platform Taobao to local life services company Quhuo to online travel agency Ctrip. The fresh partnerships with Lenovo, Honor, and Samsung are a step up given that the 3 brands collectively represent at least 20% of China’s smartphone market, giving Baidu access to vast amounts of user data.

According to projections from Singapore-based research firm Canalys, at most 5% of smartphones shipped globally in 2024 will be AI-capable, rising to a staggering 47% in 2027 as smartphone brands seek to innovate user experience. These smartphones will be capable of efficiently running large language models like Ernie, generating images in under 2 seconds and outputting text faster than the average adult’s reading speed. They may also include pre-installed AI-powered features developed by the vendor.

“Adapting LLM on smartphones is the right moment to promote AI-powered features, although they may be limited now. In the long run, they may become a ‘must-have’,” an analyst at Hong Kong-based industry analysis firm Counterpoint told Reuters.

Ahead of the curve, Google Pixel has integrated AI since 2021, while Apple is still working on bringing similar features to the iPhone. Other Chinese smartphone makers Vivo and Xiaomi are reportedly hammering out their own on-device AI models, hoping not to rely on Baidu’s Ernie.


Join our newsletter