If you’ve only discovered Huawei smartphones in the last year or so due to the buzz of their high quality Leica-branded cameras, you’re actually in good company as Huawei has only really gained traction to consumers outside of their home market China in the last two years. But in these two years Huawei has recorded a huge growth and shipped 139 million smartphones in 2016 (a 29% increase from 2015) to put the Chinese brand firmly at number three in the global smartphone market, behind Samsung and Apple.
Truthfully, you could attribute this stellar performance to the positive buzz Huawei gained from the Leica co-developed camera systems of the Mate 9, Mate 10 and P10/P10 Plus (which our reviewer loved) that made these Huawei devices competitive against phones from Apple, Samsung and LG, but Huawei fully intends to stay as a top name in the smartphone business for years to come, and if you haven’t considered buying a Huawei smartphone yet, here’s five good reasons why you should.
1. Huawei has been around for 30 years
Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, started the company in Shenzen, China in 1987 to create affordable telecommunications infrastructure for rural areas in China, and as Huawei’s business evolved into mobile networking it started offering its equipment and services internationally. Interestingly, Huawei’s growth mirrors that of its hometown Shenzen, which is now a megalopolis of over 18 million people and the high-tech ‘Silicon Valley of the East’ with the world’s largest manufacturing base and a buzzing start-up culture.
2. Huawei is the world’s biggest telecommunication network company
Huawei not only makes smartphones, but since 2012 they’ve been the largest telecommunication equipment company in the world, employing over 180,000 employees worldwide. In fact there’s a more than a 50% chance that your local telco uses Huawei’s equipment for 4G LTE connectivity.
Huawei is segmented into three business groups – A Carrier Network Business Group, Consumer Business Group and Enterprise Business Group. While a significant percentage (57%) of Huawei’s USD75.1 billion 2016 revenue was generated by the carrier network business, both Huawei’s smartphone (consumer business) and cloud services (enterprise business) saw 35% growth in 2016! Huawei also ranks 9th in global R&D investment, with 79,000 research staff and 15 R&D centres globally. It’s no wonder why they’re regarded as a key leader in the development of 5G mobile technology.
Interestingly, with the withdrawal of Motorola, Ericsson, Acatel, Siemens and Nokia from the handset business, Huawei is now the only major telecommunications infrastructure company that develops and markets their own smartphones.
3. Huawei is only the third current smartphone maker to use custom main processors
Currently there are only three major smartphone makers who develop and use their own smartphone processors – Samsung with their Exynos processors that powers some of their top Galaxy devices, Apple with the Ax-series processors for the iPhone and iPad, and Huawei with the Kirin series, which has evolved over almost ten years to the latest generation – the recently announced Huawei Kirin 970 processor was in fact the first smartphone CPU announced with a built-in Artificial Intelligence processing (also called Neural Processing) unit, preempting Apple’s A11 Bionic announcement by less than a week, and will be used for Huawei’s upcoming Mate 10 series devices. (set to be announced on 16th October 2017)
While a significant number of today’s smartphones are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors, both Apple and Huawei have proven that by creating their own bespoke processors they are able to innovate with their own solutions, from on-chip security features to wireless connectivity, AI, graphics and imaging sub-processing.
4. Huawei’s partnership with Leica is all about image quality
According to Li Changzhu, the Vice President of Huawei Smartphones, when Huawei decided to develop a high quality camera system for their flagship devices, they turned to iconic camera maker Leica for not only the co-development of smartphone camera lens systems but also to develop high-quality imaging standards, and so far both companies have co-developed three different camera systems for the P9, Mate 9 and P10/P10 Plus. For actual smartphone camera lenses Leica helped in the design of the optics to smoothed out gradients of shape, lights and sharp edges, while for image processing Leica specified settings such as colour saturation, contrast and settings that are stylistically specific to Leica photography.
5. Huawei is already a global smartphone brand
With the exception of Apple and Samsung, the huge Chinese consumer market has always been seen to favour Chinese domestic brands who sell the majority of their devices domestically, but are unable to make a major impact on a worldwide scale. Yet according to David Kim, Huawei’s Global Brand Management Director, in 2016 Huawei actually shipped about 50% of their 139 million units to markets outside China. The company’s new focus on premium smartphones has also seen it gaining improved traction in not only in developing markets in Latin America and Africa but in Europe as well – in fact the latest data released by market research company Counterpoint ranked Huawei ahead of Apple in smartphone sales in June and July 2017.
Counterpoint does, however highlight two key market weaknesses – a weak presence in South Asian, Indian and especially the North American market, as well as the lack of a true hero device in the global top ten sold smartphone models.
With Huawei’s continued focus on the premium smartphone market with upcoming devices like the Mate 10, which will incorporate AI and Leica cameras, its clear that Huawei might very well have the hero device the company craves to really compete against the world’s best smartphones, and that’s why your next smartphone could very well be a Huawei.
Images: Huawei, Shawn Chung