When asked how Huawei is planning to address the issue of developing a strong brand personality, one of the marketing leads for its Consumer Group spoke at length about the company’s brand values. Many of these values sounded similar to any other technology company that you would care to name. However one value that stood out to me was ‘Persistence’. This is a character trait that I have come to notice about Huawei and that is distinct from most other vendors. When at Nokia I became familiar with the Finnish word ‘sisu’, which has no direct translation into English. Consulting Wikipedia I find this: Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu. It is similar to equanimity, with the addition of a grim quality of stress management. This describes my understanding of Sisu very well. But it is distinct from the persistence that Huawei shows. Merriam Webster defines persistence thus: the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult or opposed by other people. This clearly encapsulates a similar idea to sisu — that of working hard to accomplish something that’s difficult. But it is free of the Sisu connotation of grinding out a meager win when your back is against the wall. Peristence, in the Huawei sense, is more like a consistent application of effort and resource to crack a problem. Done always with the expectation that a solution will be found. And once it is found then to quickly move on to the next stage and so on. This character has likely come about through a melding of natural Chinese industriousness and a background of state sponsored support, whereby rewards will flow to those that try, try and try again.

Key Points about Huawei P :

What it has yielded at Huawei — and I can say that this was against my original expectation — has been a series of ever more sophisticated and accomplished devices, sold through an expanding international footprint of operators, distributors and retailers. The result has been a gradual increase in market share that, unlike some of its competitors, looks sustainable. The latest incarnations are the Huawei Ascend P8 and P8 Max that were launched at a glitzy event on an unseasonably warm and sunny day in London on April 15th.

P8 Launch

The full specs of the new product are available widely online, so we will resist repeating them all here. However after being hands-on with the product we wanted to share some first impressions:

  • Among the key hardware trends Counterpoint Research identified for 2015 were thinness combined with a metal unibody. At 6.4mm the P8 conforms exactly to this trend. Huawei has not tried to break any records; it’s almost identical in thickness with the Ascend P7, but the new device feels much more solid in the hand than its predecessor. That Huawei has managed to package a 2600mAH battery in to the device is impressive, though after a day of modest usage it’s holding up less well than an iPhone 6. The design of the device is unremarkable but the understated nature of the looks lends it an air of quiet sophistication.
  • At a retail price of  Euro 499 ($530) for the 16GB (expandable to 128GB via SD card) the device is firmly in the upper mid range rather than premium segment. However the specs are consistent with other flagship models from global vendors and in some respects ahead. Huawei is unusual in that it uses its own AP and baseband — based on an Octacore ‘Big/Little’ 64GB architecture with 3GB of RAM. A 5.2″ full HD screen that takes up a large percentage of the front face of the device thanks to very slim bezels. The resulting footprint is a little larger in both the X and Y axes than the standard iPhone 6, but not by much yet packs a screen that’s 0.5″ larger.
  • The device runs Android 5.0 Lollipop with Huawei’s own EMUI 3.0 software skin. As with most Android skins it’s a matter of taste. We’re not huge fans of the icon shape or colors, but they’re hardly deal breakers and many aspects of EMUI are quite OK.
  • The camera performance was the one area that Huawei focused on most during the launch presentation. And on paper at least, they’ve pulled out all the stops. A 13MP Sony RGBW sensor with optical image stabilization and an image processor that’s independent from the application processor promises fast focus, good color reproduction in all light conditions and solid handling of high contrast situations. We tried a small comparison with the iPhone 6, which has an excellent camera. The results are shown below.

From iPhone 6

IMG_0671

From Ascend P8

dav

The iPhone 6 image is the first one, the Ascend P8 below. This was a rushed test under daylight conditions, which were changing as clouds moved across the sun outside, but you can clearly see a blueness to the iPhone shot which is absent from the P8’s effort; the colors are more true to life in the P8 shot. [click on the images to see in full size]

The P8 comes with a simple headset, which I was sceptical about because I find in-ear headsets uncomfortable and hard to keep in my ears. Nevertheless I tried them with Spotify. They’re a revelation. Great frequency response, comfortable and they stay in place. The sound reproduction, and clearly this also has a lot to do with audio coding, is crisp and punchy. I intended to try the headset just as a quick test, but found myself listening to music for most of the day.

After 24 hours with the device our initial impression is positive. Huawei’s persistence is paying off in a growing confidence in its design capability and hardware integration expertise. Its software is good but perhaps requires a little more persistence to refine further. Now Huawei needs to turn its attention to building a brand personality that consumers can engage with. Samsung has, in our view, not done a great job at this despite spending a massive amount of money on the task. Can Huawei do any better? I wouldn’t bet against it.

About Author

Peter has 23 years experience in the mobile industry with extensive experience in market analysis and corporate development. Most recently Peter was Global Head of Market and Competitive Intelligence at Nokia. Here he headed a team responsible for analyzing and quantifying the industry.Prior to Nokia, Peter was an equity analyst at SoundView Technology Group. And before that he was VP and Chief Analyst of mobile and wireless research at Gartner. Peter’s early years in the industry were spent with NEC and Panasonic.