​Honor exec says there's 'no better time for gaming smartphones' after Play launch

Mobile will account for more than half of $137.9 billion gaming revenue expected this year and there's no better time for a smartphone to tap into that, an Huawei Honor executive says.

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Honor Play vibrates during gameplay for partnered titles. Image: Cho Mu-Hyun

Huawei's Honor brand will capitalise on the rising popularity of mobile gaming with the launch of more game-centric smartphones like Honor Play going forward, a company executive has said.

The Chinese tech giant sub-brand launched Honor Play in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines on Tuesday. Launched in India and China earlier, the smartphone has a price of around just $300 but features the firm's flagship Kirin 970 chipset, the firm's own software dubbed GPU Turbo that reduces single frame SoC power consumption by 30 percent, and a vibration feature that turns on during gaming for partnered titles such as PUBG.

"The mobile game market is expanding at an extraordinary pace," said Zheng Shubao, president of Honor Business Southern Pacific. "We are a brand aimed at youth and it is an unstoppable trend among millennials and one of our priorities in R&D."

Consoles and other gadgets may work as interesting additions to complement game-centric smartphones, Zheng said, though he added that nothing was finalised on the matter.

According to Newzoo, the global games market will grow to $137.9 billion this year and mobile games, including smartphones and tablets, will account for $70.3 billion. Mobile gaming has shown double-digit growth since 2007 and will grow 25.5 percent this year, it said.

E-sports is also fast-rising in Asia; the global market is expected to reach $1.5 billion, with Asia Pacific accounting for over half. Honor is a sponsor for Malaysian E-sports team MYA.

Other vendors have also been keen to capitalize on these developments. Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Note 9 is expected to be the first phone to have Fortnite for Android exclusively.

Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, have also been at the centre of this trend. A survey by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in 2017 showed that 83.7 percent of 2,401 Malaysian respondents used their smartphone for entertainment activities such as playing games and watching videos. 60.8 percent did so at least once a day.

"Malaysia is very tech-savvy and our presence has grown quickly in both the market and dedicated staff," Zheng said. "We have extended our presence in Southeast Asia in the first half of 2018 by launching a complete portfolio of products. We see great potential in this market."

Huawei's dual strategy of launching Huawei-branded smartphones for premium and Honor for budget seems to be working. The Chinese tech giant surpassed Apple in smartphone shipments in the second quarter, according to IDC, and is now globally runner-up to Samsung.

"There will always be market for the different type of phones," the president said. "It's about the value a brand position -- bundling in features, functionality, performance, design, and the perceived prestige of the brand.

"Honor, as a separate brand from Huawei, believes in making our devices accessible. We create products that blur the line between affordable and premium. We've put in the Kirin 970 in Honor Play; we don't compromise in terms of quality. We will see more premium specs trickle down on mid-range phones."

Huawei, also the world's largest equipment vendor, is positioned to launch 5G first in China, with the local government's strong backing. The recent US-China trade war and security controversy seems to have done little to the conglomerate's push.

The Honor president declined to comment on Huawei's plan next year for expected features that will utilize the network speed.

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