China’s Huawei aims high with premium smartphone designed to take on Apple, Samsung

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 10:50pm

Huawei Technologies, which aims to become the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones within two years, pledged to regain its frontrunner position in the mainland market despite falling to third place in the past quarter.

Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, said yesterday the company expected to sell at least 10 million newly launched premium phones, known as Mate 9, a year in China, joining the fray against global giants Apple and Samsung to attract wealthy mainland smartphone users.

“Huawei has landed in a high-priced segment which used to be an untapped territory for us,” Yu told reporters after a launch event. “We hope to eventually beat Apple in terms of customer experience, with better VR technologies, camera, and cloud computing services than theirs.”

He added that as the company competed against global and domestic rivals in various battlegrounds, ranging from low-end products to high-priced ones, it would sooner or later regain the No 1 position on the mainland.

Oppo and Vivo, subsidiaries of privately held BBK Electronics, leapfrogged Huawei to take the top two positions in the mainland’s smartphone market in this year’s third quarter, according to market research firm Counterpoint Technology.

Huawei’s market share of 15 per cent on the mainland remains nearly unchanged from a year ago.

Worldwide, it only trails Apple and Samsung.

It’s a marathon rather than a sprint in the smartphone market, which is highly competitive and complicated
Richard Yu, chief executive, Huawei’s consumer business group

Shenzhen-based Huawei, renowned for building telecommunications networks, has become a major player in the consumer devices market in recent years.

Yu said in Munich earlier this month that Huawei would rev up its growth in the smartphone market while seeking to move up a notch in two years.

Huawei now has 9 per cent market share worldwide, compared to Samsung’s 20.1 per cent and Apple’s 12 per cent.

“It’s a marathon rather than a sprint in the smartphone market, which is highly competitive and complicated,” Yu said. “I reckon that many of the current leading smartphone makers would be edged out in three to five years.”

Huawei unveiled retail prices of its Mate 9 on Monday, with one of the models sporting a price tag of 5,299 yuan, the first time a home grown Chinese smartphone maker has launched a product selling at more than 5,000 yuan.

It will directly take on Apple’s iPhone in the world’s most populated market, which is seen by millions of Chinese users as a premium phone with best customer experience.

Yu said he was confident that Huawei could achieve sales of 10 million Mate 9 phones in a year, which has a new artificial intelligence feature – learning about the user’s habits and automatically putting the most frequently used apps within easy reach.

On the mainland, Huawei also competes against Xiaomi, another popular smartphone brand led by Chinese information technology guru Lei Jun.

“Runner-up position is by no means Huawei’s ultimate goal,” Yu told the South China Morning Post after the media briefing. “I can’t tell you when we can become the world No 1, but we definitely will.”