Huawei’s Honor brand breaks out in Britain as Chinese smartphone makers buck Europe’s slowdown

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 7:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 7:33am

Honor, one of the two smartphone brands owned by Huawei Technologies, has launched its latest flagship model in Europe, a market where it is seeing rapid growth in shipments amid a decline among established brands like Samsung and Apple.

The Chinese brand, which provides cost-effective smartphone handsets targeting young consumers, launched its Honor 10 in Britain on Tuesday. The new model features similar artificial intelligence (AI) technologies seen in Huawei’s flagship P20 series, but comes with a starting price of £399.99 (US$541), a notable discount to other premium phones sold in the country. The Huawei P20 series start from £599 while Samsung’s S9 series and Apple’s iPhone X are priced from £739 and £999 respectively.

Honor’s British sales surged 200 per cent year on year in the first quarter while its total sales in international markets, excluding China, have more than doubled in the same period, according to the company.

“We believe the recipe for success is simple – give consumers a really good product,” Honor president Zhao Ming said in a statement. “We want to co-create a new lifestyle with young people worldwide. We listen to them, we bounce ideas around with them, and we cheer for them. They are our inspiration.”

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The new Honor phone will first be sold in western European markets including Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, countries which experienced big drops in smartphone shipments in the first quarter. Shipments in western Europe declined 13.9 per cent to 30.1 million units in the first quarter, compared with an unprecedented 6.3 per cent drop for all of Europe, with British, French and German markets leading the declines with 29.6 per cent, 23.2 per cent and 16.7 per cent drops respectively, according to a Canalys research report issued last week.

Flagship smartphone features have been increasingly commoditised by budget brands, which are bringing these previously high end specifications to mid-market models. Brands like Honor and Xiaomi have been instrumental in driving shipments of phones with features such as dual and triple cameras, which grew over 150 per cent year on year in the first quarter, according to Canalys.

The two leading smartphone vendors in Europe, Samsung and Apple, reported 15.4 per cent and 5.4 per cent declines in shipments during the first quarter, while Chinese brands Huawei and Xiaomi expanded shipments by 38.6 per cent and over 999 per cent respectively.

Huawei Technologies, including both the Huawei and Honor brands, retained its No 3 position in the region, with a market share of 16.1 per cent compared with Samsung’s 33.1 per cent and Apple’s 22.2 per cent, said Canalys. A separate ranking was not available for Honor.

Xiaomi, a rival budget phone brand with Honor in the mainland Chinese market, took the No 4 spot in western Europe with a market share of 5.4 per cent after shipments surged tenfold in the first quarter compared to a year ago.

“This is a new era for smartphones in Europe,” said Canalys analyst Ben Stanton. “We are moving from a growth era to a cyclical era. This presents a new challenge to the incumbents, and we expect several smaller brands to leave the market in the coming years.”

Unlike Huawei’s brand strategy to focus on both the domestic Chinese and overseas mid- to high-end smartphone markets, Honor primarily focused on mainland China in the past but has lifted its status within the Huawei group to become an independent brand with eyes on the international market.

It has vowed to expand its global footprint, aiming to achieve a half its sales from foreign markets by 2020.

In 2017, Honor launched sales in more than 74 countries and overseas revenues accounted for 15 per cent of total sales, Zhao said in a statement in late December. He added that the Chinese brand will concentrate on expanding in markets such as the US, Europe, Russia, Africa, Turkey, India, and Indonesia.