Huawei has launched a new brand it's calling Honor. The first flagship phone is the Honor 6 which is not terribly dissimilar to Huawei's existing Ascend P7. So why has Huawei launched this new brand Honor, and what does it mean for the wider phone industry?
The simple answer is that with Honor being sold only online, savings can be made for Huawei that can be passed on to the customer. The Honor 6, with an impressive spec list, is £250 suggesting this approach has worked. It's certainly affordable, with flagship specs at mid-range prices.
Honor is also offering a more direct customer approach where users can feedback what they want built and Honor will, allegedly, plan its future kit based on those requests. But couldn't Huawei have just done this with the same name and brand?
Honor, with the tagline "for the brave", is clearly aimed at a specific customer who, perhaps, the Huawei brand wouldn't appeal to. The company calls them digital natives.
These are the younger generation who have grown up using gadgets and have never known a time before the internet and smartphones. Judging from the promotional videos Huawei wants to aim at hipster sorts who are proud to be different. While it might feel a bit forced in its attempts to be cool, Honor is doing the right thing by offering top-end specs in an affordable handset, ideal for the student and young worker crowds.
The Honor 6 comes with Cat 6 LTE 4G meaning theoretical speeds of up to 300Mbps. The catch? The UK is still a long way off from implementing those speeds on networks with EE testing it at the moment.
In fact 4G+, which manages 150Mbps, has only just rolled out in central London. So while the handset itself is future proof, except for the lack of 2K screen, the Honor brand might not be. It might grab a few headlines, but with Huawei being a major player in network hardware as well as mobile devices, it makes sense to be highly connected.
Huawei knows this is a dangerous time to launch a new smartphone brand, with fierce competition. But it claims this move won't impact Huawei and the company should flourish as a result. Honor phones are developed and manufactured at different places to Huawei handsets but it still has the expertise and experience of the parent company. Plus lots and lots of money.
The operating system is identical to that of Huawei phones like the Ascend P7. That means not only is it Android KitKat but the same Emotion UI skin over the top.
It's an area where a change could have been a smart business move, allowing the two brands to be distinctly different and less in competition. Huawei could have opted for stock Android which has worked so well for Motorola, perhaps saving itself the development costs of a new UI. As it is, the daily interation on both Honor and Huawei devices will look and feel pretty much the same and that's likely to be one of the defining experiences.
At the moment the Honor 6, the first Honor device, has its work cut out for it. The most unique selling point, Cat 6 LTE, doesn't even work yet in the UK. Combine that with the fact that people who wait a little longer can probably get a 2K screen on their future Cat 6 phone and Honor seems like a tough sell. That said it is a good phone for the price at £250, when you consider the Huawei Ascend P7 is £400 and the Motorola Moto X is £420 with arguably inferior specs.
There will be people who never buy a phone from a brand like Huawei, as some feel the quality isn't as good as more established brands like Taiwan-based HTC, or budget disrupters like Motorola, now owned by Lenovo, another Chinese super brand.
What Motorola has, though, is an established brand. It has a long visible history in consumer devices and with devices like the Moto G, Motorola has caused a lot of disruption in affordable devices. Honor might have devised something of the right formula loading the specs and aggressively pricing, but establishing a new brand needs more.
It's an interesting time for Chinese manufacturers who can afford to offer top specs for cheaper. Perhaps a new brand, that is cool and can be trusted, is just what Chinese smartphones need to go mainstream. But establishing the cool factor is the real challenge. It might win fans within tight geeky circles, but wider adoption is going to need a lot of smart marketing and a lot of time.
The tagline "for the brave" might set Honor off on the wrong foot: will only the brave dare to get an Honor phone?
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