Huawei could easily compete in the US smartphone market

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: January 15, 2012

It can't be iterated enough: Android is all about choices. You have choice in brand, software, size, color, shape and most importantly, price. Android devices come in all different forms, composed of a plethora of different materials, which ultimately leads to varying tiers. There are high-end devices, which appeal to the early adopters and spec mongers; mid-range devices which draw those who want a good device but don't care about latest and greatest; and low-end phones are for those who want a smartphone without breaking the bank.

Most Android OEMs target at least two of these tiers. They will create one or more flagship devices and follow-up with a low- to mid-range phone for budget buyers. But quite a few lesser-known manufacturers have yet to really break into the high-end spectrum. Their bread and butter has been infiltrating smaller markets with more affordable devices.

A perfect example of such is the largest China-based cell phone maker. When we hear the name Huawei, we automatically associate it with low-end and mid-range Android products. Their main products do not generally appeal to those who expect to pay premium prices or who want the latest and greatest. And until now, it appeared as if Huawei did not want to break out of that. They had found a comfy niche in this area and learned a perfect way to exploit it.

This year at CES, however, Huawei showed us that they're finally ready to tackle more serious markets with more serious devices. The morning before the show floor opened for business in Las Vegas, Huawei took to the stage to unveil their latest pair of smartphones, the Ascend P1 and P1 S.

Going into the press event, I had rather low expectations, regardless of what Huawei had going on behind those conference room doors. After being handed a piece of paper detailing some of the specs and having a few minutes of hands-on with the P1 S, though, I had a change of heart. Huawei actually made a phone that I would consider buying. (Is it just me, or is that yellow phone just extra sexy?) The P1 S features a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display covered in Corning's Gorilla Glass, 1.5GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 Cortext-A9 processor, SGX 540 GPU, 1,800mAh battery, 5.1 Dolby surround sound, 8-megapixel rear camera (capable of 1080p video), 1.3-megapixel front shooter, Bluetooth 3.0, 1GB RAM and 4GB ROM. Best of all, all of this is packed into an ultra slim, 6.68mm package and wins the title for the slimmest smartphone in the world.

Huawei clearly isn't pulling any punches with this one.

That said, the Ascend P1 S will not be able to propel Huawei to one of the top manufacturers in the US single-handed. Made mostly of plastic and not having all of the best specs, you don't exactly get the feeling that the P1 S is the killer of all other mobile devices. It's not, and it's not intended to be. It's not going to be a knockout device, and it's not going to completely capture any markets with players like Samsung and their Galaxy S II still selling like hotcakes. But it's a hint at what we can expect from Huawei in future months: ultra slim devices, ample color choices, comparable specs to other high-end smartphones and nearly stock Android.

What's more, though, is price. And this is where my consideration really comes into play. No official price was given at the press event, nor were specific release dates or carriers. We know Huawei plans to launch this device in several markets overseas and will eventually bring it to the US. But the price is really what piqued my interests during the event. A fellow journo asked Huawei what the expected unsubsidized price of the P1 S would be in the States. We were warned that it was still undecided, but we were also given a roughly estimated price of $400 USD.

Now, it goes without saying that this number could be complete bogus. It was hastily thrown out during an open Q&A by someone who didn't seem very confident in what they were saying. But, if by some odd chance that is the actual price of the P1 S sans contract, Huawei could easily undercut all of the competition with a rather impressive device.

Over the past year, the subsidized and unsubsidized pricing of smartphones has been inching higher and higher. Contracted phones selling for $250 and $300 is commonplace, and retail values are inching toward $700 and $800. In short, smartphones are becoming more and more expensive with each incremental update. If Huawei can offer a comparable device at such aggressive pricing in the States, it could bode well for the company, who has had next to no presence in the US market as of late.

There will always be a niche for manufacturers who want to create affordable, low-end phones. But there's an even bigger need and desire for a manufacturer who can offer a high-end flagship at low-end pricing. The Ascend P1 S is an interesting and unexpected handset and – if we're to believe what we were told just days ago – it could easily break into that sector. If Huawei can stick that price, land some decent marketing and score a few carrier deals, we could see much more of them in the future. I wouldn't expect them to become Android kings anytime soon, but they could easily reside among the top few.

Hey, I'd give them a shot. And if the P1 S comes to the US for $400 unsubbed, rest assured I will have a hard time not buying one.

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