Huawei to be the next HTC?

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With the appointment of Mark Mitchinson and rumours of a substantial UK marketing brand push, could Huawei be about to replicate the success of HTC? Michael Garwood asks the industry about its chances

When speaking to the mobile dealer channel, it is clear Chinese vendor Huawei is not an established brand in the UK. So recent suggestions seeping out of its Basingstoke UK office that it intends to become a key brand in the handset market and, say some, replicate the successes of Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, is leaving many sceptical.

Back in June 2010, Huawei presented to Data Select dealers attending their quarterly Platinum Club meeting, showing off a number of devices as well as announcing its intentions to become a known brand in the UK, making several comparisons to HTC products.

But arguably, such ambitions have to date failed to materialise. The fanfare of the sub-£100 IDEOS Android entry-level device quickly died down, with reports of stock issues. No UK operator is stocking the device. The much-anticipated S7 tablet looked to create a credible alternative to the Apple iPad and Galaxy Tab, but again months of delays saw its momentum and interest cut short.

But the quality of the products has rarely been questioned by dealers. The Titan U8800, in particular, has generated the highest levels of interest, being compared to the likes of HTC’s Desire and Wildfire at dealer events. But when asked if they would sell them, the answer has been typically less optimistic. The reason? Customers won’t buy an unknown brand.

It should be noted, however, Huawei is not new to the handset market. Having established a global presence building network infrastructures serving 45 of the world’s 50 largest telecoms operators, the company begun building handsets in 2005.

It currently supplies several network operators, including the Vodafone Group, with OEM devices, meaning its own branding is not present. Huawei said it sold more than nine million units in 2009 to Vodafone alone.

It is also the manufacturer behind the T-Mobile Android Pulse handset, which during Q4 2009 was selling 45,000 units a week in the US, topping Apple.

The company also claimed last year to have a 60 per cent market share of all dongles sold in the UK, and 50 per cent globally.

Despite being a relative unknown in the UK, its most recent financial results showed turnover of more than £219 million with £38 million in gross profit. Total revenue for the company topped $28 billion (£17.2 billion) in December 2009.

But sources claim steps to rectify its brand anonymity in the UK are afoot.

Talk of a significant multi-million-pound marketing campaign has been heavily suggested recently. Those close to Huawei say the company has made little secret of its desire for UK growth this year for handsets.

The appointment of former Samsung chief Mark Mitchinson, announced earlier this month, has certainly got dealers questioning whether Huawei could be the next big mover in the manufacturer market.

It also recently announced it was doubling its UK head-count to 1,000 this year. The company recruits more than 110,000 globally. So, with all this in mind, Mobile News asked a number of predominantly handset- focused mobile dealers in both the B2B and consumer space, on their views of what they have seen so far and what they expect from Huawei.

Full article in Mobile News issue 489 (May 23, 2011).

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