Huawei has launched the Mate 9, a high-spec, high-price smartphone which could see the China-based company square up to market leaders Apple and Samsung.
The latest device in Huawei’s Mate series boasts a 5.9 inch full HD screen, inviting comparison with Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus and the now discontinued Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
The manufacturer is making a big play on the handset’s processing power, which Huawei said made it the “most powerful smartphone in the world.” According to Huawei’s testing, software in the Mate 9 performed 80 percent better than major competitors after one year of use.
However, Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, was not overly impressed by these claims, describing the product as merely “another big screen smartphone.” But, Mawston, speaking to CNBC on the phone, did concede that the Mate 9 was a “nice incremental improvement” and that the release did a good job of “filling the Note 7 gap, at a lower price point than Apple.”
Ben Wood, mobile industry analyst at CCS Insight, viewed the launch more positively, telling CNBC via telephone that it “shows just how ambitious Huawei are,” and “reiterates (his organization’s) belief that Huawei is emerging as a force to be recognized in the smartphone market.”
The Mate 9’s other key features include an 8 megapixel camera, 64GB memory and 4 microphones that in combination enable directional sound recording. Unlike the Apple’s iPhone 7, the Mate 9 has a headphone jack.
Huawei did not disclose where the device’s battery was manufactured; thereby not ruling out that this could be the same as that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which is now notorious for overheating. But, Huawei did stress that the Mate 9’s battery had been tested in house, by the manufacturer of the component and in independent research labs.
Whilst the Mate 9’s release has been lucky in terms of its timing, the smartphone is likely to face stiff competition in a very competitive market space. Mawston told CNBC that “any differentiation from Huawei won’t last long.”
Wood said that Apple and Samsung were unlikely to be worried by the release, but that the “Mate 9 just boosts Huawei’s profile” in a “sea of smartphone sameness.” Ultimately, Wood said that the launch’s success “comes down to price.”
With regards to the Mate 9’s reception in regional markets, Mawston said that “Huawei is coming under intense pressure at home in China as (lower end manufacturers) OPPO and Vivo offer similar phones at better price points. The Mate 9 will help alleviate some of that pressure.” According to figures from the International Data Corporation released last week, both OPPO and Vivo saw their market share growth move into triple digits in the third quarter of this year, in comparison to the same period in 2015.
But, Mawston added that the Mate 9 was more likely to boost the company’s position in Europe and India where Samsung has left a space in the market.
Huawei say that the Mate 9 is a “high end performance device aimed at professional users” and also serves as a “productivity tool.”
But, smartphone development is arguably reaching a plateau. “We’re in a mature phase of the smartphone market, now only incremental changes are being made,” Mawston said.