Huawei’s online child Honor is growing up fast

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Honor 8 phone to drive European ambitions as it targets another record-breaking year

Honor is hoping its latest smartphone release, the Honor 8, will help spearhead its drive into the European market in what is expected to be another record-breaking year.

The Chinese manufacturer, launched by parent Huawei at the end of 2013, has seen handset sales and revenues rocket in the past two years to above 40 million and £4.5 billion respectively. In total, Huawei, the world’s third biggest manufacturer, and Honor shipped almost 150 million devices last year.

However, just 10 per cent (4 million) of Honor sales in 2015 were classed as international (outside of China), up from 1.5 million in 2014 – its first full trading year.

European ambitions

Tasked with addressing the balance, is the firm’s recently appointed VP of Honor Europe, Eva Wimmers (pictured on stage), who told Mobile News that Europe is its “most important” market outside of its homeland.

“Europe is a key market for Honor; first there is China and then there is Europe,” she told Mobile News in a blistering hot hotel suite overlooking the iconic Piscine Molitor venue.

“We have some very strong countries here in Europe and it’s of course very important for brand building. We want to be number one in our segment.”

The foundations for international growth have now been firmly set. Wimmers, who spent more than 15 years with Deutsche Telekom before joining Honor in July, revealed the firm now has operations in 74 different markets, including; Europe, Middle East, Russia, India, Japan, Malaysia and the US.

In Europe, Wimmers described the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France and Finland as the most crucial to achieving its growth ambitions – with the new 8 handset playing a key role.

“My feeling is that the Honor 8, will show how fast we can grow and what are we able to go for,” she said when discussing her ambitions for Europe.

Gr8 expectations

While Wimmers refused to be drawn on targets, it’s clear expectations for the new 8 device are high.

Its predecessor, the Honor 7, is regarded as its best-shifting device to date, selling more than nine million units on its release (pre orders) last July.

In February this year, the firm also launched its “state of the art” 5X model, which has already surpassed sales of eight million.

The firm is certainly not pulling any punches in attempting to maximise exposure of the device. Prior to the launch in Paris, which saw 600 journalists in attendance, Honor had already held comparable events in China and the US.

“In the past two years we have grown very fast,” said Honor president George Zhao, who was discussing handset sales on stage in Paris – including revealing that the Honor 7 accounted for 50 per cent of the online market for smartphones priced between €300-€400 last year.

High end, low cost

The new Honor 8 continues the company’s strategy in offering “high quality” smartphones at an “affordable” price to its customers.

Zhao explained prices for its handsets are kept to a minimum as a result of its online approach to sales and marketing, as well as being able to utilise the benefits (manufacturing, patents, R&D, etc) of Huawei.

He echoed comments from Wimmers during the event, that the firm’s core focus is aiming itself at what they call “digital natives”. These are people aged typically between 16 and 36, and brought up on digital technology and are therefore familiar with computers and the internet from an early age.

In keeping with this, Honor’s marketing is purely digital (no costly above-the-line campaigns) as are its sales channels, but for a single network operator deal with Three here in the UK and Hong Kong.

Communication with customers is typically via social media channels and its online forums – where it has more than 100 million ‘fans’.

Handsets are sold at a mid-to-low tier price point while offering the same quality of a high-end rival.

“A flagship smartphone doesn’t have to mean high price,” explained Zhao, who joined Wimmers for the unveiling of Honor 8. “Honor is an internet brand and we use the internet to reach and communicate with our customers. We use the internet to promote our brand and products and we use internet to sell our products. We save on costs from the channel and areas like TV. With Honor, our business model is that we return this to our customers, our Honor fans. We provide first class smartphones at an affordable price for young people.”

Features

The new “state- of-the-art” handset is due to be released this month, and has already been a hit in China, where it went on sale in August, shifting 280,000 units in just four hours.

It measures 5.7 inches (5.2 inch full HD screen), 2.8 inches (across) and is 0.3 inches thick, weighing just 5.2 ounces – the lightest Honor to date.

Design-wise, the Honor 8 closely resembles that of the Huawei P9 flagship device (released in April), with the volume control, power button, speaker, 3.5mm headphone jack laid out and positioned identically. It is also the first Honor handset released in Europe to include the USB C charging point. Unlike the P9, the 8 is made using double-sided 15 layer rounded off glass material which it claims offers greater protection from drops, as well as greater grip in the user’s hand.

Internally it runs on the latest Android Marshmallow 6.0 OS, and features a 12 megapixel dual lens primary camera, one RGB sensor to capture colours and one monochrome sensor for detail.

Camera

Honor claims the new device’s camera is ideal for “aspiring photographers” thanks to a number of “extensive” manual control options to adjust light and colour settings.Other features on the camera/video include slow motion, wide aperture mode, HDR, and the now standard ‘beauty mode’.

“With the Honor 8, everyone can become a professional photographer,” said Wimmers. “The phone does all the work and all the thinking for you. It’s like a professional camera.”

It also features an eight megapixel front facing camera for “superior selfies”, again, including a host of editing tools.

“Selfies are some of the biggest pictures we take now and share with our friends and family. We have added a low-light sensor on the Honor 8, allowing you to go back and light it up at a later date.”

Security scanner

As is now commonplace with Honor and Huawei handsets, the Honor 8 features a dual purpose small circular fingerprint scanner placed just below the rear camera.The “self leaning” feature can be used for a number of different functions such as unlocking the device, taking pictures, accepting calls and switching off any alarms. Pressing down on the scanner also captures screenshots or a double click will activate the torch.

“Honor has made sure you can access a full set of functions in the blink of an eye with its unique Smart Key function,” said Honor in a statement. “The fingerprint sensor acts as a multipurpose button,where you tap, double tap or tap and hold to start apps like WhatsApp or Pokémon Go. Everything you need to keep your daily routine ticking is at your fingertips.

Honor 8’s fingerprint sensor has a self-learning capability, meaning the more it is used the faster it will perform, reaching less than 0.4 seconds.”

Need for speed

Other features include a 2.3Ghz Kirin octa-core CPU chipset containing an i5 co-processor, which works in tandem to increase processing speeds, response times and power.

The device comes with an in-built non-removable 3,000 mAh battery which can be charged to 50 per cent capacity within half an hour, using ‘fast charging’ technology. Memory is 32GB internal (4GB RAM) expandable to 128GB with MicroSD card, while dual SIM connectivity (Nano-SIM, Micro- SIM) is also included.

“The Honor 8 has been specifically designed for digital natives, to meet the ambitious, fast-paced lifestyles of this generation. It combines breakthrough design with supreme speed, high-quality camera capabilities and smart functions, making it the perfect match.”

Need for speed

Prices start at £369, in three colour variants: Pearl White, Sapphire Blue and Midnight Black.

The SIM-free device will be available to buy via the Honor V Mall website, with a free ‘anniversary package’ worth £69.99 (contents undisclosed). Other partners include online retailers Clove, Expansys, Ebuyer and Amazon which will bundle the device with an Amazon Fire TV Stick free of charge (while stocks last).

Customers looking to get the device on contract can do so through operator Three, it’s exclusive network partner shortly.

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