Huawei Technologies is hoping that a sleek, 6.5-millimeter silhouette and the ability to take high-resolution pictures with an 8-megapixel front camera will make its flagship Ascend P7 a hit.
Huawei was the third largest smartphone maker last year, shipping 48.8 million units, which was just enough to beat LG Electronics and Lenovo, though far behind Samsung, the biggest smartphone maker by units shipped, and Apple. This year Huawei hopes to increase shipments to 80 million, but for that to happen the P7 has to be a smash.
Huawei launched the smartphone at an event in Paris on Wednesday. The P7 is priced at about €449 (US$625) without a contract and will be available this month across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The company didn't immediately say when and if the device would go on sale in the U.S.
The LTE smartphone runs Android 4.4, is powered by a quad-core processor running at 1.8GHz, and has a 5-inch screen with a 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution. It has 16GB of integrated storage, which can be expanded using a microSD card slot, and 2GB of RAM.
Huawei is hoping the P7's 6.5 millimeter thickness and 124 gram weight will attract buyers. The competing Galaxy S5 from Samsung is 8.1 millimeters thick and weighs 145 grams. The risk Huawei runs is that it gets a smartphone that feels inconsequential, and not a premium, high-end phone.
Like its competitors, Huawei said it has done a lot of development work to improve the P7's cameras, which lets users take a picture 1.2 seconds after double-clicking the down volume button when the device is locked. The basic specs are an 8-megapixel camera on the front of the device and a 13-megapixel camera on the back. The camera on the back uses a sensor from Sony that Huawei promises can deliver good pictures at night or indoors. The smartphone also has a dedicated image processor that is used to control functions such as autofocus, white balance and noise reduction.
These days it isn't enough to have a good device, however -- shrewd marketing and a trusted brand are almost as important. Over time, Samsung has developed quality products and has lavished a huge budget on marketing.
"Huawei's biggest single challenge in Western markets is brand. This can be addressed organically as demonstrated by Samsung, but time is of the essence given the magnitude of Lenovo's ambition," said Geoff Blaber, a vice president of research at CCS Insight.
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