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Huawei’s recent London presentation of its latest premium smartphone range, the Mate20 series is yet another example of its push to enter the premium market. The company introduced four new handsets, Mate20, Mate20Pro, Mate20RS and the MateX, two of which have a price tag well above the EUR 1000 mark. Huawei enters for the first time into the highly profitable price ranges previously tested by Apple.
This was not Huawei’s first big event in Europe. In May this year Huawei launched its P20 devices in Paris and hosted the Global Mobile Broadband Forum in London last year, showing a clear intention to cement a foothold in Europe. The company is, expected to sell more than 154 million devices by the end of 2018, of which over 24 million would be sold in Western Europe according to Euromonitor International´s data.
Clever Marketing and Strategic Partnerships pave the way for a new positioning.
Another reason for manufacturers to move towards the upper end of the market might be that the smartphone market is maturing, leaving price increases as the easier way to further grow revenues instead of increasing volume sales.
Shaking off its image as a Chinese budget smartphone manufacturer has not been easy for Huawei and has required clever marketing strategies and premium strategic partners such as Leica and Porsche Design.
The strategic partnership with Leica, a premium camera and lens specialist, is aimed at reinventing smartphone photography. It comes as no surprise that the Mate20 series, features a triple camera on the back. Looking to drive consumer engagement and to emphasise its focus on smartphone photography, Huawei also started the Next-Image Awards, through which smartphone photographers can submit their pictures.
Driving consumer engagement through competitions is nothing utterly new in the Consumer Electronics industry. Canon, the renowned camera manufacturer, organised similar events which are generally seen as a way for companies to interact with consumers and to see what their products are used for.
However, Huawei has not neglected the software side and armed its Mate20 phones with first in class camera AI, improving picture quality and ease of use.
The two most eye-catching devices are the Mate20RS and Mate20X. By launching a range of premium smartphones, Huawei has demonstrated its ambition to deliver a customised smartphone experience for everyone.
Exclusive design put first
Developed in cooperation with Porsche Design, the Mate20RS is an exclusive, design-focused smartphone, targeted at consumers who prefer an exclusive design rather than technical features. The cooperation also emphasises Huawei’s ambition of first-class engineering and, with its latest chip Kirin 980, speed. Just as it did with Leica, Huawei basically builds up on another brands image and replicates it with its own products.
On-the-go professionals and mobile gamers make an attractive target
According to Huawei, the Mate20X has been designed for two main target groups, professionals on-the-go and mobile gamers. Given its large screen, the Mate20X allows users to work on excel sheets and read reports on-the-go. Once connected to a large screen, it can also easily be used like a desktop, making it appealing for emerging market consumers for whom the smartphone substitutes the desktop PC or laptop.
Mate20X’s screen, performance and long battery life aims at attracting mobile gamers. Huawei also directly competes with the Nintendo Switch which has generated global sales worth USD 4.5 billion last year, despite a lack of state-of-the-art technology. Huawei claims that the Mate20X is faster, lighter and has a better screen resolution than the Nintendo Switch and therefore delivers the better gaming experience. As mobile gaming is booming, especially in China, Huawei’s strategy could pay off. To further highlight the gaming ambitions, Huawei also sells a game pad for the Mate20X. By connecting the handset to a large screen, it can also easily be used as a stationary console.
Huawei’s push into premium ranges does not come out of nowhere. In its highly criticised 13th Five-Year Plan and in the “Made in China 2025 Strategy”, the Chinese government has lined out several industries at which it wants to become a global leader, including automotive, aviation and information technology. Given Huawei’s efforts in other business areas such as 5G, it seems to fully embrace and benefit from this strategy. However, this also depends on external factors such as the defence mechanisms put in place to protect domestic industries in countries like Germany and South Korea. It remains to be seen if Huawei continues its rise.