Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecom giant established three decades ago by former People’s Liberation Army engineer Ren Zhengfei, is launching a new flagship smartphone that it hopes will help cement its grip as the top phone maker in China and raise its profile as a premium phone maker elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Huawei is betting with its new Mate 10 flagship that consumers will be swayed by a phone that offers similar features to the iPhone X—including a full-screen OLED display and artificial-intelligence abilities like image recognition—at a slightly lower price.
In June and July, Huawei unseated Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone maker by sales, according to Counterpoint Research. The dip coincided with a slowdown in Apple sales ahead of the iPhone X launch. The research firm said it is unlikely Huawei held on to the spot through the third quarter, saying Huawei’s sales likely slowed while Apple’s picked up in the quarter’s latter half.
“For Huawei we [have gone] in the last five years from a nobody-knows brand to top three in the world,” said Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer products business, in an interview. Now, he said, “we want to win in the premium segment.”
Huawei officially unveiled the Mate 10 at an event in Munich on Monday, saying the device will start at 699 euros (US$826) in Europe. A higher-end “Mate 10 Pro” will be priced at 799 euros. Prices for China and other markets will be released later, the company said. The iPhone X is selling in the US between US$999 and US$1,149. In China, it is being sold from a base price of 8,388 yuan (US$1,273).
The company has been expanding in the handset market in the past few years after dominating the market for telecommunications equipment, where it competes with Ericsson AB and Nokia Corp.
Yu, Huawei’s brash-talking product chief, set a goal in 2016 of becoming the world’s top seller of smartphones globally in four or five years. He has since toned down his ambitious pledge and says the company is more focused on competing in the high-end segment.
Huawei is touting AI abilities as a major selling point for the Mate 10. It says its new phone will contain a chipset developed in-house and containing a so-called neural processing unit, engineered to handle AI tasks such as image recognition. Huawei says the phone’s AI will do tasks such as tailor the camera’s settings to the objects in a photo—for example, tweaking the lighting based on whether it sees faces or a landscape.
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