Taking a bite out of the big Apple: Huawei challenges iPhone 6S with Mate 8 as Chinese smartphone vendors shift up a gear

Chinese brand’s new flagship phone unveiled in Shanghai, CEO claims some of its features leave latest iPhone trailing in its wake.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 6:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 November, 2015, 6:48pm

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, the world’ s third-largest vendor, revealed its most advanced flagship smartphone in Shanghai on Thursday in what looks like a bold challenge to Apple’s iPhone 6.

The seamlessly designed Mate 8, which is now available in mainland China, is of comparable size to the larger iPhone 6S but with an even bigger 6-inch FHD display. The screen takes up 83 per cent of the phone’s front real estate.

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Richard Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, directly compared the two models’ battery life, charging speed and screen appearance during his presentation in the early afternoon, which was seen by reporters elsewhere via live video conference.

His conclusion came as little surprise: The Mate 8 is the superior smartphone in many ways.

The model will be available to consumers in other countries early next year. It will get a fuller unveiling at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show, which is due to run from January 6-9 in Las Vegas.

The Mate 8 follows on from the success of Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7, which has sold over 6.5 million units since it was launched little over a year ago.

Huawei has launched several premium smartphones since last year including the P8, P7, Mate 7 as it bids for the higher end of the market. Each one has retailed for 3,000 yuan (US$470) or higher.

As the latest innovation from Huawei’s Mate series, the Mate 8 is the first smartphone to run on the company’s recently announced Kirin 950 chipset while also using its TSMC 16 nm FinFET-plus chip technology, Yu said.

He also highlighted the phone’s i5 intelligent processor, the most powerful co-processor on the market. It supports voice recognition, low-power consumption MP3, all functions of a sensor hub, and fused location provider (FLP) navigation. It also dials back on location-based power consumption.

The 3-gigabyte RAM+32GB ROM Mate 8 will retail for 3,299 yuan, while a 4GB RAM+64GB ROM version will sell for 3,899 yuan.

These prices are at the top end of Chinese smartphones but still considerably cheaper than the iPhone 6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S6.

Chinese smartphone makers have typically targeted lower-middle-class consumers and young people with cut-price devices, but Huawei has recently taken a different tack.

As Yu never tires of informing an audience, Huawei’s goal is to position the brand as the most user-friendly smartphone for global consumers, while offering better value than the iPhone. Some pundits have boldly predicted it may eventually unseat Samsung.

To close the gap with Apple’s iconic smartphones, Huawei is keen to recruit highly experienced and talented foreign staff.

It announced recently that it had hired Abigail Sarah Brody, a former creative director at Apple who worked on the user interface of the first iPhone.

Huawei is set to be the fastest-growing major smartphone vendor this year after selling 27.4 million handsets in the third quarter.

The latest quarter thus put it on course to offload 100 million smartphones this year, up 33 per cent from 2014. Such growth would eclipse similar forecasts for top rivals like Apple and China’s Xiaomi and Lenovo Group.