Last night, Dubai became the first global city to witness the launch of the Huawei Mate 8 smartphone and the M2 tablet, following the unveiling of the devices last week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the devices' home-market (China) launch.
In the past couple of years, Chinese technology brand Huawei has, quite literally, come from behind and taken the world of technology by storm, overtaking a host of established vendors and now posing a serious challenge to the Top 2.
Huawei is now the No. 3 smartphones vendor in the world, after Samsung and Apple, and, in 2015, became the first Chinese company to storm through the 100-million smartphones a year barrier.
There’s reason why Huawei chose Dubai as the first global port of call to launch its biggest (yet) challenge to the iPhone 6s Plus phablet.
In the Middle East, Huawei is No. 2, already selling more smartphones than Apple, confirms Sandeep Saighal, Vice President of Huawei Consumer Business Group, who says the firm is eyeing an even bigger UAE market share this year thanks to yesterday’s launch of its latest flagships, the 6-inch Mate 8 phablet and the 10.1-inch M2 tablet.
“GfK data shows that we have a UAE market share of around 10.5 per cent even as we believe it’s much more than that,” he quips.
Nevertheless, Saihgal says that Huawei is following a relentless strategy of focusing on three primary goals – churning out quality devices, raising brand awareness and cultivating partnerships – to establish itself as a “very strong No. 2” in the world.
That strategy seems to be paying off – Huawei is taking rapid strides in terms of smartphone shipments growth. In the third quarter of 2015 (latest quarter for which IDC data is available), Huawei’s smartphones shipments surged an eye-popping 60.9 per cent, according to IDC.
To put things in perspective, that’s almost three times growth that Apple saw (+22.2 per cent) and 10 times that of market leader Samsung (+6.1 per cent).
By shipping 26.5 million smartphones in the third quarter alone, Huawei overtook its Chinese compatriot Xiaomi which had held the No. 3 slot in Q3, 2014, and is now closing the gap between itself and the Top 2.
“Huawei closed the gap on Samsung and Apple due to strong growth in China and Europe.
"The Shenzhen-based company was the third-largest smartphone vendor, a position that previously belonged to Chinese rival Xiaomi, with 7.5 per cent market share and 26.5 million smartphones shipped in the third quarter,” said IDC.
While IDC’s Q3, 2015 data shows Huawei’s 7.5 per cent market share trailing leader Samsung’s share of 23.8 per cent and Apple’s 13.5 per cent share by a margin of 16.3 and 6 percentage points, respectively, data from another research provider Gartner shows a smaller gap.
According to Gartner, Huawei’s Q3 2015 global smartphone market share stood at 7.7 per cent, 16 percentage points behind Samsung and 5.4 percentage points behind Apple.
“Huawei continued its growth momentum, driven by smartphone sales in both its home market and global markets, particularly Europe, where sales were driven by its ever-growing brand visibility,” Gartner says.
Saihgal, however, told us that according to latest stats from market research firm GfK, Huawei ended 2015 with a 9.7 per cent share of the global smartphones market. That would mean that the gap between Huawei and Apple is closing even faster, and the latest launch will be key for it if it’s going to overtake Apple globally this year.
“We have big expectations from the Mate 8,” says Saihgal. “The Mate 7 [predecessor to Mate 8] was a huge success, and we saw people adopting to our product,” he said.
“Bringing in Mate 8 at the beginning of the year with so many features in one device - 6 inches display, slim body, 4,000 mAh battery which will last you a couple of days, our own Kirin  dual octacore processor - is key,” he says.
So what’s Huawei’s secret sauce, we ask him.
“It isn’t one thing… it’s a combination of many things,” he says.
“The first and most important ingredient is the product. We continue to invest a lot in product R&D and innovation. That’s the key. You have to get it right, be it quality technology, features… you’ve got to get that right,” he says, adding that Huawei has managed to get that right in the past couple of years with its P series and the Mate series, as well as the Huawei Watch.
“The second is getting our act right in the market – generating brand awareness and increasing our coverage through partners and retailers, with whom we have great relationships… I think it’s a mix of many ingredients that go into making a good broth,” he says.
Huawei Mate 8
Huawei Mate 8 features the firm’s homegrown powerful chipset (Kirin 950), boasts a high-capacity battery (4,000 mAh) and sports a stylish design. The Mate 8 comes in an unusual colour too – mocha brown – besides the champagne gold, moonlight silver and space grey options.
The device is available in the UAE starting today at Dh1,899 (3GB RAM + 32GB storage) and Dh2,199 (4GB RAM + 64GB storage).
The new Kirin 950 processor improves the CPU’s performance by 100 per cent compared with Mate 7’s Kirin 925 chipset, said the Huawei official, adding that the 4,000mAh battery offers 2.36 days of regular usage and 1.65 days for heavy users.
“2015 was a successful year for the Huawei Consumer Business Group here in the Middle East and we anticipate 2016 to be an even bigger one with immense growth in the region following the launch of these two flagship devices,” he said.
“The Mate 8 is the ultimate high-end smartphone designed for the professional, striking the perfect balance between high performance and long battery life. And when designing the M2, we equipped it with an impeccable sound system to take the user’s experience to the next level. Both of these devices reflect Huawei’s continued dedication to bringing the latest innovation and style to our consumers’’
Huawei said it invested $98 million over three years to develop the first proprietary image sensor processor for faster focusing, higher clarity, and more accurate colour shading. A leading team of 300 engineers was assembled in France to increase the processing speed of the camera, resulting in increasing the process bandwidth by four times with 14-bit precision.
In addition, the Mate 8 adopts the new Sony 16MP IMX298, increasing the sensor size by 23 per cent. The Mate 8 features an 8 MP front camera and provides document readjustment camera mode, which automatically straightens images that are captured at an angle for better viewing. The smartphone also features a split-screen mode that enables enhanced multitasking between apps.
The 10-inch Huawei M2 Tablet features four Harman/Kardon speakers, which provide it a “cutting-edge Clari-Fi audio restoration technology” for clearer, crisper, wider and more dynamic audio.