Everyone should take Huawei seriously, and not just because it recently topped Apple

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Everyone should take Huawei seriously, and not just because it recently topped Apple
When Huawei announced a couple of years ago that it was gunning for the global smartphone market’s silver medal, the company’s own Consumer Business Group CEO admitted his plan could seem crazy to the outside world.

But here we are, less than two years later, scratching our heads in disbelief as Huawei has already managed to surpass Apple in Q2 2018 smartphone shipments around the world, fully intending to retain its second place on the vendor podium when yearly figures are tallied, and going after Samsung next.


Becoming the largest smartphone manufacturer around is another incredibly ambitious (read crazy) goal, although if you think about it, Huawei has every reason to dream big. Well, almost.

Two brands, one vision


Founded way back in 1987, Huawei took an interest in the consumer mobile device industry years after some of its top rivals. In 2003, when the networking and telecommunications equipment specialist established its handset department, Nokia shipped an estimated 180 million mobile products globally, 5.4 million of which were considered smartphones by that era's standards. Samsung was already the third-largest handset vendor, and Sony (Ericsson) ranked second in smartphone sales.


But Huawei didn’t make a splash right away either, unveiling its first 3G-enabled design in 2005, joining the Android ecosystem in 2009, and standing in tenth place in worldwide 2010 mobile device sales.

After shipping less than 50 million smartphones in 2013, the company jumped to around 140 million units just three years later, posting a marginal 2017 growth, but aiming for as many as 200 million shipments in 2018.
 
From 8th place in 2011, Huawei made 2014’s top five, breaking onto the podium the next year, and gradually narrowing the gap to Apple ever since. It was really only a matter of time until the Cupertino-based tech giant had to concede the volume battle.

After all, how could three or four new iPhones a year hope to fend off about two dozen Huawei and Honor-branded releases? We’re talking every design in the book, a wide range of mid-end models, all the entry-level handsets you could need, and quite a bit of high-end choice too. 


Huawei's designers have come a long way from 2009's U8230 to 2018's Honor 10

Although the Honor sub-brand technically operates independently, its sales numbers are still added to Huawei’s total, designs and ideas are clearly shared, with the two basically covering every little niche, specific need or customer requirement, and all conceivable price points.

Trendsetter or trend follower? Why not both?


Let’s not kid ourselves, everyone copies everyone in today’s mobile tech landscape. Unless someone can come up with a phone capable of cooking dinner or literally ruling the world, we’re bound to watch various companies refine each other’s (unoriginal) ideas for many years to come.

Of course, there’s a big difference between HTC’s early execution of the dual camera concept, for instance, and all these portrait shooting powerhouses that are around nowadays. In other words, it’s not always important to be first. It is however essential to be good.


Those screen cutouts are not exactly original, but most people can live with them

Case in point, Huawei’s flagship build quality is pretty great. The three rear-facing shooters on the P20 Pro are feature-packed and incredibly versatile. And the increasingly prevalent notch will do just fine for the time being.

Only one of those three things is (somewhat) innovative, but at the end of the day, Huawei P20 Pro owners couldn’t care less they purchased the world’s first triple-lens smartphone. What matters is the three cams are powerful and fast, taking sharp photos both at a distance and in challenging lighting conditions.

In-house chips and high-profile partnerships


Don’t you find it interesting that Samsung, Apple, and Huawei all play a key role in the production of processors powering (most of) their devices? Could that be the key to success? Not exactly, although it can crucially contribute to a company’s prosperity, stability, and independence.


Unlike Apple, which merely designs A-series chips that are then manufactured by others, Huawei builds Kirin SoCs based on external designs through its HiSilicon subsidiary. Unlike Samsung, which doesn’t exclusively use Exynos processors, instead relying heavily on Snapdragons, Huawei sees Qualcomm as an enemy rather than an (occasional) partner.

It wasn’t always like that, of course, but the Kirin family grew and expanded over the years, now including both impressive flagship models and frugal mid-rangers. The Kirin 970 was the world’s first smartphone chipset to come with a built-in NPU (Neural Network Processing Unit) for key AI advancements, while the 980 has just been confirmed as the first 7 nm-based SoC.


If that doesn’t prove Huawei is a technological force to be reckoned with, I don’t know what can. Check that, I do know - strategic partnerships with market leaders like Leica. The German optics manufacturer is probably the unsung hero behind the top-notch camera of the P20 Pro... and Mate 10 Pro... and P10.

But what about the US?


Well, what about it? It’s true that it sometimes feels like the US still makes and breaks tech companies. But we’re talking about the world’s third-largest smartphone market now. A market that’s reached a stability, nay, stagnation point a while back.
 
Huawei would obviously wish the political climate was different, allowing it to establish alliances with major local operators. But if that’s not possible, the company will simply increase its focus on China, India, and Europe. The Western part of the old continent has started to warm up to P-series high-enders, while low-cost Honor phones are huge in Asia.


The unlocked Honor 7X is also extremely popular stateside, where it’s available via Amazon, Newegg, B&H Photo Video, and the brand’s own regional e-store. US carriers no longer monopolize phone sales, so as long as Trump lets Huawei do business, the company has nothing to worry about. At least as far as consumer devices are concerned.

Still, there’s absolutely no way to know if Huawei will be able to challenge Samsung’s global domination anytime soon. Both companies are well-positioned in terms of groundbreaking new technologies, and strategically, they appear to have their ducks in a row. The safe bet would be to expect seeing them in first and second place for quite some time.

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60 Comments

1. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

I just saw an article with a screeshot of Mate 20. Design is a V30 + notch. 6.3" oled Kirin 980 40MP 4200 mAh $1000

21. Phullofphil

Posts: 1761; Member since: Feb 10, 2009

Don’t like any yet But I will buy the phone I like fast I don’t care who makes it

42. sgodsell

Posts: 7158; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I think they really are a growing force to watch. However their current Kirin 970 overheats with Cardboard (VR) apps. I can't image what would happen if they supported Daydream or Gear VR apps. So let's hope they do better with the 980.

58. Venom

Posts: 3380; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

No thanks. I don't trust Huawei after the Nexus 6P incidents, which was a good phone, but to the battery failure causing it to pretty much Bootloop was a turnoff. I don't think Huawei is that good of an OEM.

2. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

About Huawei, only Mate series is worth. P series uses cpu from last year , which is weaker than last generation of Snapdragon and Exynos. There is no BT 5.0 ( better connection and less power hungry than 4.2), device records awful videos with half bitrate of other phones and no 4K stabilization. Screen quality is not much different from midranges Honor flagships same story. Much worse than flagships from 2017 and cost the same.

9. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Agree. They are cheap junk in a pretty case. The P20 however is a very nice looking phone and I surely wouldn't mind having it. But I wasn't impressed with photo quality. It was worse than the iPhone, which means its nowhere near as good as a Galaxy because the Galaxy and Pixel right now take the best pics and no one else matches that.

20. ZombieHunter

Posts: 265; Member since: Oct 13, 2013

All phones are cheap junk in pretty cases... You really think Apple makes quality stuff over everyone else? You are living in la la land.

37. midan

Posts: 2672; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"was worse than the iPhone, which means its nowhere near as good as a Galaxy because the Galaxy and Pixel right now take the best pics and no one else matches that." And yet here iPhone X have won every blind tests, so clearly you don't share majority opinion.

43. cmdacos

Posts: 4070; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

Subjective. I can post a dozen blind tests that have been done where iPhone loses to pixel, P20 or Galaxy.

45. sgodsell

Posts: 7158; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

You said the magic words midan. Blind tests here they win. But blind tests everywhere else iPhones don't win.

56. chenski

Posts: 758; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

It's your word against dxo, I'd rather believe dxo

59. walauweh

Posts: 9; Member since: Aug 08, 2018

a phone which been highest accolade in dxomark, been awarded by tipa, n recently eisa, is worst because of blind test? so meaning, any blind test by amateur is better than the professionals opinion n test? Huawei pays them? lel... apple, samsung n google dont have enough money to pay them? or they dont need to pay them cuz of their blind 'fan' supporters? im not saying apple, samsung n google phones cameras are inferior than huawei, but i rather trust professionals opinion than non professional opinion that come with facts n figures, rather than 'according to my powerful eyes, this photo is better than others'

63. Jrod99

Posts: 712; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

Knock it off Techie.

23. maherk

Posts: 6767; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I love how you keep spreading your "I hate Huawei" agenda all over this website. 1- Screen on my P20 Pro is fantastic. I always used Samsung phones before, and the only two Amoled non Samsung phones I owned were the HTC A9 and the P20 Pro. The A9's screen was horrible, the one on my current phone is great for a 1080 panel, it isn't a Note 8/9 panel, but it's sharp, colors looks great, and there are no color shifting. 2- CPU might be last year's gen, but it gets the job well done, no hiccups, no stuttering, runs intensive games like a champ, and has a great battery life. 3- Bluetooth 5.0 you say, sure it would've been a nice addition, but it's ironic that you only brag about things once Sony implements them. As for the 4k recording, that's the only thing you get right, they should've implemented some sort of stabilization considering the great hardware this phone has, although it doesn't affect me one bit, as I always shoot my videos in 1080 60fps format.

29. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

I've had Huawei stuff before. Never had issues. Mate 10 ( non Pro) is a gorgeous phone. That copper is stunning. I think P10 looks very nice too. But P10/P10+ are not better than G6, XZs or U Ultra. Even Galaxy A provide better experience with screen. P20 ( non Pro) has no advantage except battery life over flagships from 2017. There is no reason to pick it over Mate 10/ 10 Pro. Use 1080p30 instead of 60. More frames means slower shutter which can be bad for exposition and introduce a bit of blur if there is moving stuff.

34. Trex95

Posts: 2377; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Both Huawei on house cpu aka Kirin are crap and overheating used both mate 10 and mate 10 Pro when it comes to overall performance.

3. Metalspy8

Posts: 148; Member since: Feb 27, 2012

"Unlike Apple, which merely designs A-series chips that are then manufactured by others" What a TOOL.. ATLEAST GIVE CREDIT TO SAMSUNG .

5. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2340; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Well this year it’s actually TSMC that’s making their chipsets. Next year it might be Samsung again.

12. strategic_developer

Posts: 1627; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Both TSMC and Samsung are the best options for having chips made. Apple sole choice in using TSMC is price. The Korean simply can't beat the Chinese on price. Then of course they tried to make chipgate because when TSMC and Samsung made the same chip, they tried to blow open the fact the Samsung chip use a bit more power. Yet the different was with the 3-5% margin of error. I would expect, a similar product made by 2 different companies, won't be identical. But it was more about Samsung hate vs actual facts. Typical fan mentality.

18. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2340; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

I believe they went with TSMC because they were the first to have 7 nm process manufacturing available for the new A12. Samsung was not supposed to be ready until next year but then they reported they were ahead of schedule and already are ready to produce 7 nm. At that point, Apple already signed the deal with TSMC. Next year they will most likely go with Samsung due to the EUV process they use to manufacture their chipsets with.

30. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Taiwanese

35. Trex95

Posts: 2377; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

It’s not about price TSMC has better build. https://youtu.be/m1fUil7QLNI

33. dimas

Posts: 3336; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Agree and this article smells like full of huawei fanboyism. "Merely designing" I find it funny that the writer makes it look like designing is as easy as doing sketches in the chalkboard. Those "merely" designed chips are the reason why phones have powerful processing in a very small real estate. You can get the most advanced manufacturer all you want but if the design is bad, the end product is bad.

4. Ellio74

Posts: 74; Member since: Mar 22, 2018

I'll start taking Huawei seriously when they'll stop acting like children with other brands by bashing them to show that they are better (according to them), when they'll improve their software, when they'll actually deliver on what they say they do (fake 960 FPS for example) and so on.

11. BLUEBLASTER

Posts: 926; Member since: Feb 23, 2014

You spelt Samsung wrong.

22. Ellio74

Posts: 74; Member since: Mar 22, 2018

Samsung or Huawei, more or less the same thing ;)

62. GalaxyLeads_iCrapFollows

Posts: 216; Member since: Nov 29, 2017

You mean apple and huawei are more or less the same thing. Both companies are thieves that steal from Samsung. huawei is only doing well because they steal Korean tech. But of course the chinese are simply thieves and will never surpass the ones they steal from.

64. Ellio74

Posts: 74; Member since: Mar 22, 2018

Samsung, Apple or Huawei, all of them are in the same league when it comes to bashing other brands. And everyone is also "stealing" from everyone nowadays in the smartphone industry.

19. ZombieHunter

Posts: 265; Member since: Oct 13, 2013

Wait a sec.... you mean marketing? Just like EVERYONE else does? Hilarious.

25. Ellio74

Posts: 74; Member since: Mar 22, 2018

There's marketing and just "talking bad" about the others to make you stand out. If your product is good enough, the hype can be made by itself.

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