Huawei’s Mate 20 flagship seen as crucial to showcase its tech prowess against rivals Samsung and Apple

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2018, 10:52pm

Huawei Technologies, China's top smartphone brand, is set to unveil its latest mobile handset equipped with artificial intellligence (AI) technology, as the company ramps up competition at the high end with global rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple.

The Huawei Mate 20 series, expected to be its most expensive phone to date, will be equipped with the company’s in-house Kirin 980 chip specifically designed for AI computing tasks, the Shenzhen-based company said on its official sales website. Pre-orders will start at 10.08am on October 17 following the product launch in London on Tuesday.

The upcoming launch will be crucial for Huawei to showcase its capability as a top-tier global smartphone vendor, as the Mate series represents the company's best offering in technology and its future product direction, said Zaker Li, a senior industry analyst with IHS Markit.

Huawei has been rolling out high end handsets under its P and Mate series, confident that its more cost effective models can compete effectively with Samsung and Apple.

After Apple’s new iPhone product launch on September 12, Huawei’s mobile chief Richard Yu Chengdong told his 6.5 million followers on microblog Sina Weibo “No problem (for us) now, see you all in London Oct. 16”, indicating his confidence in the company’s latest offering.

Huawei eyes top AI talent and is prepared to pay for it

On track to ship 200 million handsets to both domestic and global markets in 2018, Huawei outstripped Apple in global smartphone shipments in the second quarter of this year, making it No 2 behind Samsung. However, the Chinese company may slip back to No 3 in the latest quarter given the launch of Apple’s new iPhones.

“The new Kirin 980 AI chip will become a highlight of the new Mate 20 phones as Huawei has been actively pushing for the development of artificial intelligence deployment,” said Li from IHS Markit.

During Huawei’s annual conference in Shanghai last week, the company unveiled two AI microchips that it claims will help extend the application of the technology to “all walks of life”.

Huang Weiwei, a senior management consultant at Huawei, said the company would continue to invest heavily in AI manpower, despite the added cost and pressure on the company’s bottom line.

In September, Huawei’s rotating chairman Ken Hu told a 5G panel at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin that the company’s 5G smartphone will be introduced by the middle of next year, offering faster download speeds and lower latency.

Apple has shifted its focus to revenue and profit with higher average sales prices, which means sales volume is no longer a top priority for the US technology giant, according to analyst Li.

Surpassing Apple in terms of shipments remains a target for Huawei, with Yu publicly announcing the intention after the Chinese company crossed the milestone of 100 million smartphones shipped on July 18.

Huawei’s success is also partially due to its dual-brand strategy, with its total shipments of 100 million including Huawei-branded phones and its budget Honor brand that is favoured by the younger generation in China due to its chic design and affordable price.