Huawei Logo 2016 AH

AH Primetime: The Rise Of Huawei, The 3rd Biggest Global OEM

January 14, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Way back in the annals of history, when Android was but an idea, most mobile users roamed the wilds without the internet in their pocket, or had it in a very rudimentary form. Back in these days, Huawei, founded in 1987 by a former People’s Liberation Army engineer, wasn’t terribly popular. Despite a record of quality in other ventures, their first forays into the land of cell phones were mediocre at best. In the days of MetroPCS and Cricket pre-buyout, their phones sold like hotcakes for a good while simply because they were cheap and widely available. Some of their handsets stood out among the crowd with good quality or daring designs, but the consensus among users was generally that Huawei was just a cheap quality product, quite frankly.

When Huawei first entered the Android world, things didn’t seem to have changed much. Their ultra low-end Ideos, known in the States as the Comet, had specs roughly equivalent to the then-ancient HTC Dream. Fast forward to their efforts to add to T-Mobile’s signature MyTouch line and you’ll find a slightly different picture, but with many similarities. Generally middling reviews graced the QWERTY slider, which had specs to rival the first HSPA+ phone on T-Mobile, the MyTouch 4G. HTC’s glacial flagship, as it turns out, had set the bar pretty high. Meanwhile, odd and generally mediocre handsets came out of Huawei factories, such as 2010’s trackball-laden U8300. Most consumers in the U.S., however, were unaware of the storm brewing in China.

Fast forward to the release of the Honor and Ascend. These two main lineages, humble at the start, would go on to propel Huawei to fame. Further down the road, the Ascend Mate series also nudged its way into the spotlight. Before long, the tech world at large was taking notice of Huawei and they were performing quite well in their homeland, beating out smaller Chinese brands that were mostly still making replicas and clones in this era. Huawei looked as though it would steadily rise to become a decently popular player in the world market, jumping from the league of ZTE to the league of Sony.

In 2015, Huawei cooperated with Google to create the Nexus 6P, which met with an incredible amount of critical acclaim. The 6P finally put Huawei’s name on the map for most consumers and gave them the mindshare they needed to push toward the top. Excellent customer service and brand-building didn’t hurt, of course. Through most of Europe and Asia, it became hard to meet a smartphone user who didn’t at least know who Huawei was. The same is slowly becoming true in the United States, a rather large market that Huawei is still far from its full potential in. Piercing the United States in a big way will be a bit easier than it would have otherwise because of the Nexus 6P and Ascend, but the wounds from a national security scandal are still somewhat raw. On the world stage, they’ve managed to push past the competition to become the third biggest total smartphone vendor, only surpassed by Apple and Samsung. From 2014 to 2015, they managed to increase their clout a whopping 50 percent, beating Apple’s 24 percent growth figure. With the excellent Huawei Watch also under their belt and a heavy push into IoT and other fields driving them, it seems like Huawei is becoming a global juggernaut, much like HTC was back in the day.

Now, Huawei is planning to set their sights on the big dogs. Their chairman, Richard Yu, even went as far as to say that Apple was “slipping” and Samsung’s empire was built on marketing rather than quality. To be clear, Samsung and Apple are not only true behemoths of the smartphone world, they’re engaged in constant war in consumers’ minds and wallets, as well as in court. Piercing their rivalry bubble and surpassing one, let alone both of them, would be an achievement on level with moving the heavens and earth at this point, requiring the overtaking of incredible sales figures and contracts as well as mammoth media coverage. Huawei refuses to back down, whether projections say they can realistically win or not. Analysts back in 2015 predicted a rise to their current position, but as a distant third contender, it’s going to take great products, massive engagement effort and a lot of luck to meet their goal and leave Apple and Samsung in the dust. If Huawei manages to pull it off, calling it flipping the script would be putting it incredibly lightly.