Reaction: Can Huawei really overtake Apple and Samsung?

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Industry analysts respond to Hauwei’s ambitions to rule the smartphone world

Huawei has set itself an ambitious target to become the third biggest smartphone manufacturer in the UK by the end of next year and global leader by 2021 – but can it really achieve its aims?

Industry analysts remain sceptical on Huawei’s global ambitions, but believe, based on its current momentum, it is a more than capable challenger for third spot in the UK.

Speaking to Mobile News, uSwitch Mobile’s senior commercial manager Ernest Doku described Huawei as “upping the ante” in driving awareness of its brand – particularly with its investment in celebrity stars Scarlett Johansson and Henry Cavill for marketing.

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“Huawei have upped the ante in terms of what they’re doing. Awareness has grown in the UK and that’s been from tapping up high-profile celebs like Scarlett Johansson and Henry Cavill (pictured above) for marketing campaigns.

“It hasn’t quite hit the heights of Apple or HTC in the UK yet in terms of marketing and there’s more work that needs to be done in raising awareness. Pricepoint and letting the consumer know you exist is what it’s about and they’re making the right noises to try and do that. Becoming third in the UK will not be impossible if they continue like this.

“Getting wider support from networks has been effective for them. Getting that shelf space and expanding relationships has been a huge hurdle to overcome. If they can continue in this direction, they can make waves in the next year. I’d say there’s definitely potential. People are definitely sitting up and taking notice since the P9 launch.

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Unite with America

IDC senior research analyst Susana Santos agreed, but insists until it can overcome trade restrictions in the US, global leadership is unlikely.

“Strengthening partnerships has clearly paid off. We expect Huawei to keep growing. It’s realistic for them to hit number three in the UK. They’ve built up relationships with major football teams, operators and retailers. Consumers have been able to get more hands on with their devices. This has increased their presence in the UK and have changed consumers’ opinions that Chinese manufacturers aren’t associated with poor quality products.

“Although they are big in China, they haven’t been able to enter the US which is an important market. It would be important to tackle that market if they want to become number one. If they don’t enter that market, it is risky to say they will become number one. Huawei would be happy to enter the US market, but the problem is the government that won’t allow them because of security issues. Obama suggested Huawei has links to the Chinese government who might be spying on the US.”

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Differentiation 

Ovum principal analyst Steven Hartley added the key to its long term success will centred around software rather than hardware to differentiate itself. 

“They’ve certainly disrupted the market and the P9 has been well-received. Marketing like further football sponsorships will be important, but it’s all about becoming a solutions provider now. Software is more important than hardware and it’s critical they focus on this.

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“It’s much harder to differentiate on hardware in this space, especially if you’re using Android. They all do roughly the same thing. Consumers want devices that can do the job and offer something that can last for two years. It’s about moving into the IoT and connected devices space. Huawei have certainly shown some interest in it with their watches and fitness trackers.

“I don’t get the idea they’re trying to disrupt the market further in this way, however. If you want to stand out from the crowd, selling a device at a cheap price point is not a great way of doing it. Everyone is trying to use price to stand out. I get the impression they’re more interested in taking on LG and Samsung in terms of price, which is already tough to do.”

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