You’ve probably seen, or at least heard of, the Honor brand of smartphones. What’s probably less known is the marque is owned by Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei, and it has set its sights on rapid growth in the South African market — and worldwide.
According to Honor South Africa MD Raymond Liu, the company wants the Honor brand to be the fourth largest worldwide by revenue in the next three to four years. And Liu is aiming to “squeeze” into the top three brands by revenue in South Africa, he told TechCentral in an interview.
Given that Huawei already has a strong brand name in smartphones worldwide, including in South Africa, it’s perhaps a little surprising for the company to launch an entirely new marque. But Liu said it made sense for Huawei for several reasons.
Launched six years ago in China, Honor smartphones initially targeted the burgeoning e-commerce market as it was becoming the preferred way for younger, cost-conscious Chinese consumers to buy electronics and other goods. Huawei also wanted a “fresh” and “funky” brand that appealed more to this segment.
Since then, Huawei has taken Honor into international markets and no longer sells the products exclusively online. Indeed, in South Africa, where most consumers buy their handsets through the operators, the company has partnered with Vodacom and, more recently, Cell C (with others set to follow).
But it continues to target the youth market and the “young at heart”.
“To satisfy this segment, the products must be cheeky, fashionable and stylish,” Liu said. “Huawei is targeting more premium customers, business customers. The Honor brand is providing more stylish, more funky products in terms of design and colour and look and feel,” he said.
TechCentral has been testing Honor’s new flagship, the 20 Pro, and, even though it is billed as a high-end midrange phone, it feels every bit like a top premium device, easily able to stand alongside Huawei’s flagships such as the P30 pro and the Mate 20 Pro. The Honor 20 Pro has Huawei’s top-end Kirin 980 silicon paired with 256GB of storage, 8GB of RAM, four high-quality rear-facing camera sensors and a 32-megapixel selfie camera. The 20 Pro won’t be sold in South Africa as Liu doesn’t believe the brand is strong enough here (yet) to justify its introduction, but Honor will probably range its successor (likely to be called the 30 Pro) here when it is released in 2020, he said.
It will, however, launch the Honor 9X in South Africa in October, which Liu described as a “hero product” with a high-end chipset — the 7-nanometre Kirin 810 — at about R6 000.
According to Liu , Honor is now the fourth largest smartphone brand in China (Huawei is number one). “Worldwide, Huawei is second and Honor is sixth. The strategic intent of the company is to push the Huawei brand to be number one worldwide Honor to be number four. This strategy hasn’t changed, even after the Trump issue.”
Liu is referring to US President Donald Trump’s decision to restrict US companies from supplying software and hardware components to Huawei. Trump has since backed down partially on the ban, though much uncertainty about continued supply remains.
Though Liu said Huawei and Honor are committed to using Google’s Android operating system, it’s likely the company will develop its own mobile OS in the longer term, even if all US restrictions are lifted and the geopolitical tensions between China and the US are resolved. The company’s own OS, called Hongmeng in China — and said to be called Ark OS in international markets — is “for the future”, he said.
“Long term, eventually we will tend towards our own OS, no matter what happens. We are still working on Android, for sure. And we’re committed to it. Our phones will get the next release of Android as well as the security updates. We will continue to use Android and the Google system will continue to work.” — © 2019 NewsCentral Media