World / Europe

China's Huawei picks UK for global launch of new smartphone

By Cecily Liu in London (China Daily Europe) Updated: 2016-04-07 13:50

China's Huawei Technologies, the world's third-biggest smartphone maker by shipments, launched its latest smart phone, the P9, at a press conference in London on Wednesday in a move that demonstrates the firm's aspiration to challenge Apple and Samsung's leadership in the smart phone industry.

The Huawei P9 champions photography quality as a key feature, with duel-lens technology developed in cooperation with the German optics manufacturer Leica. Other unique P9 features include fast charging speed, long lasting battery, duel sim-card holder and slim and modern design.

The basic model P9 handset, with a 5.2 inch screen, will retail at €599 ($700). The product will be sold across its first batch of almost 30 countries from April onwards, which includes its home market China and countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Huawei's smartphone shipments rose 44 percent to more than 100 million units last year, according to research firm IDC. Huawei spent $9.2 billion in R&D spending in 2015, higher than the $8.1 billion Apple reported spending.

"Huawei's latest launch has very impressive features. Winning the smart phone battle is not just about features, but rather is about brand building, and Huawei's collaboration with Leica is a smart move for its brand reputation building," said Ben Little, co-founder of innovation consultancy Fearlessly Frank.

"In the Western market, an association with Leica is very powerful because Leica is associated with many iconic photographers and their works, so this can really spark the imagination of smart phone users," Little said.

Globally, the smart phone market has a capacity of 1.5 billion units annually, still growing around 10 percent each year, according to IDC statistics. Huawei's global smartphone market share in the fourth quarter of 2015 was 8.1 percent, behind Samsung's 21 percent and Apple's 19 percent, according to IDC.

Little said the global smart phone battle is increasingly competitive, and the fact Huawei chose to introduce its features in comparison to similar features in Apple and Samsung smart phones demonstrate its determination to grow to the top of the league table.

At the press conference, Chairman of Huawei Devices, Richard Yu, spoke extensively about new P9 features, drawing comparisons with Apple's iPhone 6s and Samsung's Galaxy S7 on a number of key specifications.

Mark Adams, chairman of the consultancy The Honey Partnership, said that Huawei's choice of London to host its product launch makes sense because popular venues like Barcelona's Mobile World Congress are dominated by larger players like Samsung.

Huawei made its first London smart phone launch, the P6, three years ago, and also launched the P8 model in London last year. Its P7 model was launched two years ago in Barcelona.

Adams said Europe is a demanding smart phone market where consumers pay a premium for quality. "It will always be a premium market and it is vital that a long-term manufacturer secures a place in Europe. Many newer and smaller entrants will find this very difficult to capture."

Looking into the future, Adams said Huawei needs to stick to its strategy in order to further its position in the smart phone market. "Apple has won real affection from a large group of customers. Samsung is less loved, but has become ubiquitous and familiar. Huawei may well achieve a combination of these with co-branding, inspired high spec features or interconnectivity with other devices."

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