Huawei, best known as a maker of telecom network gear, became the
world's third-biggest smartphone manufacturer last year, through the
sale of mid-priced handsets within its fast-growing domestic market
and an increasing appeal to price-conscious consumers in western
But the group, which lags market leader Samsung and Apple, has yet
to gain a foothold in the high-end segment of developed markets such
as the United States, where it is viewed with suspicion after
lawmakers flagged Chinese telecommunications equipment as potential
security risks. It has also suffered from its difficult-to-pronounce
brand name, its executives have acknowledged.
After launching five new devices at the Mobile World Congress trade
fair in Barcelona, Huawei's Colin Giles said the group was taking
early steps in the United States to build better relationships with
mobile operators and directly with consumers via online shops.
"We recognize that the U.S. is a very competitive and very tough
market for us," Giles, the executive vice president of Huawei's
consumer business group, told Reuters.
"Recently there has been quite some change in the U.S. in terms of
the whole subsidy landscape, and so that provides a new opportunity
for players like us to come with a slightly different distribution
strategy than what we used to have."
In the third quarter of last year, Huawei accounted for 3 percent of
all phones sold in the United States, respectively, trailing Apple's
36.2 percent and Samsung's 32.5 percent, according to IDC.
Traditionally, mobile operators buy phones in bulk from
manufacturers like Apple and then offer them for free or a low
upfront cost to customers when they sign a new one- or two-year
T-Mobile USA dropped this model last year in a move to cut costs and
woo customers frustrated with restrictions on upgrades in
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Giles said Huawei was increasing its spending on marketing every
year to raise consumer awareness of its brand, though he did not
give specific details. In Europe, the company has sponsorship deals
with a string of soccer clubs. In New Zealand, Huawei sponsors
rugby, and in the United States, it is sponsoring movies.
On Sunday, Huawei launched a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, a new
smartphone aimed at 18- to 30-year-old consumers, and two sleek
tablets to compete with Apple's mini iPad.
The company also unveiled its first wearable device, a fitness
tracker called the TalkBand, in a bid to take a piece of the
burgeoning category. The bracelet, which comes in yellow and blue
among other colors and costs 99 euros, can count calories burned and
steps taken. It can also be used to make calls.
Samsung launched a new smartwatch on Sunday to succeed its original
Galaxy Gear wristwatch, which has failed to gain much of a following
with consumers to date.
(Editing by Leila Abboud and Jan
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