A little earlier this year, I got the chance to review the Huawei P8. I was pretty excited to review this particular phone because I hadn't spent too much time with previous Huawei devices. While I wasn't blown away by the P8 in my review, I characterised it as being "pretty damn good", and I stand by that. There's nothing on the P8 – aside maybe how thin it is, and how nice it feels in-hand – that stand out from the pack, but there's nothing offensive here, either. A device that would please a lot of people, I was excited to hear that Huawei had some sort of announcement that would herald big things for the U.S. market. Then, I saw they launched the Huawei P8…Lite.
Is there anything wrong with the P8 Lite? No, of course not, for $250 it's a good device and one that many users would be happy with. Why didn't Huawei bring the P8 to the U.S. as well? Or just the P8? Sure, selling a device for $250 off contract is a lot easier than say selling a device off-contract for $450 or $500, but there's more competition in the low-end and mid-range than I think Huawei realizes. The BLU line of smartphones sell really quite well considering BLU isn't exactly a household name and then there's the Moto E and Moto G line of devices that basically embody the phrase "value for money" like no other device on the market.
While you could argue that people spending $250 on a device off-contract aren't going to care about the differences between the P8 and the P8 Lite, but that's not really the point. Sure, Huawei also sell through Gethuawei.com, the very reasonable $299.99 Ascend Mate 2 but it would have been better to build up their image with the P8 and perhaps the P8 Max than the Lite on its own. If it's one thing that technology enthusiasts – and let's be brutally honest here, it's only tech enthusiasts that will know Huawei makes anything decent in the U.S. – like it's a device that challenges the status quo. Take a look at the OnePlus One, yes they got off to a pretty awful start and they've steadily learnt customer service and what the International and American customer wants, but the One now holds a lot of respect. The OnePlus One is a crazy cheap smartphone, and even now that its 2014 underbelly is starting to show cracks, the One is an easier phone for many in America to recommend over anything from Huawei.
Huawei are not OnePlus, they are not a startup. Huawei is an established brand that has operated in Europe, Latin America and Africa for a long time now, and they have great products. Circumnavigating the greedy American Carrier is another smart move however, they need to give the consumer a reason to take that extra step and buy direct. For $250, the P8 Lite isn't that compelling a reason for the average consumer – which is exactly who this device is built for – to buck the trend of heading to their local carrier store.
So, how can Huawei impress the U.S. Customer enough to spend their cash at gethuawei.com? Well, as I see it there are three things Huawei need to address to get consumers onboard.
When reviewing the P8, the software was easily the most challenging aspect of the P8 for me. The camera app is pretty good, as is the messaging app and a few others. The rest of the interface however, is a culture shock to anyone who has spent time with a Samsung, LG, Sony, Motorola or HTC device. They need to scrap their Chinese-centric software for the American market. Nothing fancy needed here, just stock Android with perhaps a new theme and some custom apps – like the good camera app – and leave it at that. Users don't quite go after software skins as they used to, but there's zero need to mess with the fundamental way people use Android, and Huawei's Emotion UI does just that, sadly.
To be fair to Huawei, their online store has a pretty decent introduction to them and the brand as a whole, but they need to get the word about the brand in general. It's no longer a case of "build it and they will come" any more, you need to let people know it's there in the first place. I don't know whether TV spots, or online ads would be effective, but either way they need to get the word out.
Instead of bringing the P8 Lite to America, bring the P8. Don't just bring your B Game, Huawei. To be successful, Huawei needs to give people a reason to buy their products, and the P8 Lite just doesn't do that. At least not its own, anyway. The OnePlus One became popular because it game the American buyer a reason to risk going with an unknown entity, and Huawei needs devices to do that as well.