Huawei reaping Android rewards

The Chinese telecom equipment maker is happy to utilize Google's Android mobile operating system to power its mobile devices, and believes the platform will soon leapfrog over Apple's app ecosystem, executives say.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei Technologies is placing its support firmly behind Google's mobile operating system (OS). The company is using Android to power its upcoming smartphones and tablets, and believes its app ecosystem will leapfrog Apple's as the former matures, according to company executives.

Alex Jiang, president of Huawei's Asia-Pacific devices department, said the firm's commitment to the Android OS dates back to December 2008, when it joined the Google-led Open Handset Alliance (OHA). Having worked with the search giant for the past three years, Huawei is now reaping the rewards of its partnership, he noted in his presentation at the company's launch of its Ideos smartphone on Tuesday.

The OHA, which started in 2007, was formed to foster innovation on mobile devices by providing developers with a new level of openness that enables them to work more collaboratively, according to its press statement.

Today, Huawei's partnership with Google is paying off and its Ideos smartphone is an example of how the company plans to leverage Android's popularity, noted Alan Wong. The regional director of marketing and product planning for Huawei South Pacific's devices department spoke at the launch, too.

The company is positioning this handset as the "world's first mass market smartphone" powered by the latest Android flavor, Froyo (or version 2.2), and will target the 15- to 30-year-old demographic, revealed Wong.

With Wi-Fi 802.11n and 3G HSDPA 7.2Mbps capabilities, a SD card slot to run apps from, Wi-Fi tethering and hotspot features, the "competitively priced" Ideos aims to "lower the barriers to entry" for people to enjoy mobile Internet access, he added.

When quizzed, the executive said that the Ideos' Singapore retail price will be revealed "next week" and that the product is expected to hit the market in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The device has already been launched in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Hong Kong. After Singapore, there are plans to bring the Ideos to countries such as Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, he said.

Fellow speaker Gerard Tan, GfK Asia's regional account director for telecommunications, reiterated the Huawei executives' position on Android's popularity.

Android smartphone sales in Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines have been growing quickly, he said. In these markets, sales of Android-based handsets grew from about US$1 million from January to February this year to US$11.8 million four months later in June, added Tan.

GfK Asia's research is just one of many reports that have pointed to Android's quick uptake in the market, and many analysts have foreseen its dominance in the smartphone segment. Investment bank and institutional securities firm Piper Jaffray, for one, said the multiple devices running Android OS will control largely half the overall smartphone market in the long run, while Apple's iOS will take about 20 to 30 percent of the market share.

Android to leapfrog Apple's App Store
Huawei's Jiang also expressed confidence in the Android Market and the 70,000-plus apps that populate the marketplace, saying that even though the platform is just two-years-old and is "still a baby", it is competing well against other platforms such as Apple's App Store.

"We believe that the Android ecosystem, which is the fastest-growing ecosystem in the market now, is good enough for us. As it is open source, developers can easily develop and publish their apps on the Android Market, and we believe that it will eventually take over prime position from Apple," he said.

As for whether the Ideos, with its Wi-Fi hotspot capability that can support up to eight users, will cannibalize sales of Huawei's E5 Pocket Wi-Fi router, Jiang said there are two reasons for why he thinks this will not happen.

Firstly, consumers who buy the Ideos will ultimately use it as a phone and not as a wireless router because of each device's unique capabilities, he stated. Secondly, the tariffs imposed by telcos are different for the two gadgets. For the E5 router, the accompanying data plan will be priced for heavy data usage, but this is not true for mobile phone plans, which are more focused on voice minutes, noted Jiang.

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