Can Huawei continue U.S. smartphone push with flagship Mate 8 sales?

The company is reportedly bringing a more capable smartphone to the U.S. where Apple and Samsung are the big players. Direct sales are tough as is the challenge of brand recognition.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor
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The no. 3 seller of smartphones in the world will try to further shore up market share in the U.S.: Huawei plans to sell its flagship Mate 8 here next year.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal says that Huawei will show off the handset at the January Consumer Electronics Show, along with a lower priced model called the Honor 5X. The Mate 8 is already on sale in Huawei's home country of China, costing around $600 while the Honor 5X is expected to priced at half that.

The strategy is solid because Huawei has been trying to crack the U.S. market for a few years now. It's a challenge though for several reasons.

It didn't help Huawei's brand image when U.S. government officials raised concerns about Huewei's network gear opening back doors for China to gather data on Americans back in 2012.

At that point, the company didn't even sell consumer devices here under its own name but has since changed that with an online store for U.S. customers to purchase handsets and the Huawei Watch; an Android Wear device. Selling direct to consumers is tough here, even though we're no longer beholden to mobile carriers for handset purchases.

There's also the matter of U.S. consumers attracted to other brands: Apple and Samsung have a strong foothold.

And up to now, Huawei hasn't sold a flagship device in the states that can compete with the latest iPhone and Galaxy handsets. The brand may be face a challenge by those who think Huawei only makes low-cost handsets with limited capabilities.

That should change if the Huawei Mate 8 does arrive for sale here, not to mention that some consumers know that Huawei makes the Google Nexus 6P, which earned 9.6 out 10 stars in ZDNet's review.

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The Mate 8 has a metal chassis and 6-inch 1080p display powered by the company's own Kirin 950 processor with four cores clocked at 2.3 GHz and another four 1.8 GHz cores paired with an ARM Mail T800MP4 graphics chip. The phone also has 3 or 4 GB of memory, depending on configuration, a 16 megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization and a large 4,000 mAh battery. The Mate 8 runs Android 6.0 with Huawei's custom software.

While those specs aren't quite as capable as those in flagships from Apple, Samsung and others, they're no slouch either. And if Huawei is smart, it will price the Mate 8 aggressively in the U.S. so that you're getting most of the performance of a competing flagship for less.

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