LAS VEGAS--Huawei is ramping up its sales target in the consumer space, aiming to sell some 80 million handsets worldwide in 2014 with 4G LTE a key focus. In line with those plans, the Chinese vendor officially revealed the Ascend Mate 2 4G at International CES, a refreshed version of the 6.1-inch phablet it introduced at last year's show, which it said sparked the trend for larger screen handsets.
Huawei has made much headway in its strategic transformation and in gaining a foothold in the consumer space, said Colin Giles, the company's executive vice president for consumer business group. The company shipped about 52 million smartphones in 2013, and claims to be the third largest vendor behind Samsung and Apple, citing IDC's data for Q3 last year. Smartphones now account for 87 percent of Huawei's shipments, a jump from 60 percent in 2012, trimming its reliance on the lower margin feature phones segment.
The vendor's strategic shift towards being an original equipment maker (OEM) versus an original device manufacturer (ODM) for bigger brands has seen it pay off with a stronger marketplace presence. Huawei–branded products now make up 95 percent of its shipments compared with 80 percent in 2012. There has also been better brand awareness, with an improvement in perception doubling to 50 percent in the U.S., said Giles.
The company has benefited from tweaking its distribution model, where it has been developing partnerships in the open channel such as in e-commerce, beyond working with operators. Non-carriers now make up account for half of its sales, he elaborated.
3 focus areas for 2014
To ramp up sales, Giles outlined three things Huawei would focus on in 2014: improving its branding, investing more on design through its facilities worldwide, and innovating across the company's entire product range.
"We must understand consumers, so we talked to our customers," said Giles, adding that some of the feedback has been incorporated into the latest Ascend Mate 2 handset.
For instance, to address complaints about the typical short battery life of smartphones, Huawei built in a 4050 mAh battery into the Ascend Mate 2 which it claims can last for two days. It even allows "reverse charging" where the user can charge other devices with the handset.
Richard Yu, CEO of the consumer division, noted the prolonged battery life would be an edge over other competitor products. "I remember during a meeting at 3pm, some people inside who were using [Samsung's] Note 3, were all scrambling to find power sockets to charge their phones," he said.
There are even upgrades to help users take better selfies, such as a front camera with 5 megapixel resolution versus the 2 megapixel norm. The front facing camera also allows a panoramic option and can be remotely controlled with another phone.
Huawei is also pushing its own user interface for its smartphones, dubbed Emotion UI, which is based on the Android operating system. "Google's operating system compared to iPhone is complicated. We made it easier to use with our design, we even support Simple UI [a stripped down version]," said Yu.
Ryan Huang of ZDNet Asia reported from International CES in Las Vegas on the invitation of the Consumer Electronics Association.