Honor 10 – more than half a Huawei P20

Huawei’s Honor brand launched the Honor 10 on a global basis today (May 15th) following its China-only launch a few weeks ago.

The Honor 10’s hardware is uncannily similar to the Huawei P20 – the same processor (including the NPU), battery, similar memory configurations, and both sport eye-catching glass finishes. The camera modules are a little different – one way to distinguish between them. But, like its Huawei sibling, Honor is also majoring on the AI functionality that is most noticeable when using the camera. In our brief side-by-side testing, the Honor 10 actually renders some scenes better than it’s top-of-the-range big brother, the Huawei P20 Pro (see here). The Huawei flagship does a better job of black and white and super-low light, but for many general scenes, we felt the Honor 10 rendered colours more faithfully and seemed to capture more detail in certain situations despite the relative lack of pixels.

But while there are a lot of similarities what is different is the price. The Honor 10 will ship in two memory configurations 4GB + 64GB for €399 (~$475) and 4GB + 128GB for €449 (~$530). The comparable Huawei P20 is well-over €600.

Honor’s George Zhao is aiming for a big market share gain with the Honor 10 – to bolster what has already been a strong performance both at home and in the few overseas markets where Honor has made it’s presence felt. Further international roll-outs will take place as and when Honor believes it has enough bench-strength in its team to do each market justice. Until then it will put what muscle it has behind a series of strategically chosen markets. These include most West European markets, Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic in Eastern Europe. Several South East Asian markets will also feel a strong push together with India and select Middle Eastern countries. Latin America is not yet priority but Honor will turn its attention in that direction within the next few months; it will need to as Xiaomi is already making its presence felt in several countries in the Latin America region (see here).

Huawei has a difficult balancing act with the Honor brand. In China, Huawei has used the two brands to effectively target online and offline channels (see here). However the distinction is beginning to blur. As more and more sales go online, it is no longer sufficient to keep Huawei from being sold online and Honor is also appearing in offline channels, though it remains largely an e-brand (see here).

This online/offline distinction has never been made in Europe, with both Honor and Huawei appearing across all channels. Huawei did, for a time, enjoy being the only one of the two brands having distribution partnerships with operators; Honor was largely a retail brand. But the partnership that Honor struck with Hutchison means that Honor brands are sold via Hutchison’s operating companies such as 3 in the UK.

Huawei’s P20 and P20 Pro are excellent products that justify the company’s claim that they are comparable with flagships from competitor brands, like Samsung. The Honor 10 is also aiming at the same competitive benchmarks – for example the Samsung Galaxy S9. Which also means it is a competitor for Huawei’s very own flagships. And with Honor being a name that presents a more straightforward pronunciation than Huawei (and Xiaomi) for many European tongues, we can’t help coming to the conclusion that there will be some cannibalisation of Huawei’s own premium sales — effectively robbing revenue and profit from the mother-ship. Huawei management must have thought this through strategically and come to terms with this eventuality; better the sales go to one of the company’s brands than none. And competitors should be alert to the threat the Honor 10 poses. This is a lot of phone for the money. We expect it to do well.