Earlier this year, Huawei launched a new brand called Honor. Mobile Geeks flew to Beijing to celebrate their 1-year anniversary, along with the launch of a few new Smartphones.
Huawei is one of the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturers. This means they make they manufacture everything – from towers to handsets. They’ve been working on building up their smartphone brand over the past few years, and they’ve been coming out with some pretty excellent devices. The Ascend Mate 7 got top scores from us.
On top of building the handsets, they are designing from the ground up and have their own line of processors called Kirin. Huawei is no small player, they’ve actually taken the #3 global spot in sales, right behind Samsung and Apple. But until recently, Huawei’s has held a traditional distribution model for smartphones, which is through network operators and carriers. In December 2013 Huawei looked to change that by launching a separate division, which we now know as Honor.
Honor is an independently operated internet brand that is light on its feet and looks to react to modern distribution models, with devices that have high-end specifications and are reasonably priced.
Fast-forward to June and the Honor 5 was launched. In the spirit of spin-offs, it is a spec monster that undercuts the pricing of Samsung and Sony devices. This Honor 6 measures 5 inches and sports a resolution of 1920x1080p, with a 445ppi pixel density.
Under the hood you can find an octa-core processor, which is made by Huawei. It’s the HiSilicon Kirin 920, which comes along with a Mali T628 graphics processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a MicroSD card slot for expansion.
It was during our trip to Beijing that we first got to go hands-on with this device, and we have to admit we were impressed. It feels very solid and it is slim enough that you can use it with just one hand.
Another important feature, and one that is often lacking in budget Chinese handsets, is the camera. We’re happy to report that we were able to get some very decent shots in the Forbidden City, and some great selfies to commemorate our good (and freaking freezing!) time. On the rear we’ve got a 13 MP shooter with auto focus and dual LED flash. It is also capable of taking 1080p video at 30fps. On the front we’ve got a 5 MP shooter.
It comes with all the connectivity bells and whistles of LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, AGPS and HPSA+. Being a Chinese handset, it runs a variation on Android KitKat 4.4.2 which Huawei has called Emotion UI 2.3. Unsurprisingly, the UI doesn’t have an App drawer, which is pretty much go for par with most Chinese handsets. Powering the device is a robust 3,100 mAh battery.
This was my first experience with Honor. Mobile Geeks hadn’t had the opportunity to go hands-on with the Honor 6 in the past. Before the evening event where we got to go hands-on with their Honor 6 Plus, we were taken on a sight-seeing tour of Beijing. And fair enough, Beijing is far (3 hours from Taipei… but the rest of the EU continent had 20+ hour flights).
We were accompanied by the lovely Gosia Gnyp and Lars-Christian Weisswange, Executive Vice President of Honor Europe, who you’ll see modeling the Honor 6 in most of my hands-on photos.
Not only is the Honor 6 a good looking phone, like most of the companies that I now refer to as “The New China”, they are looking to make products that are synonymous with quality. This is not necessarily the first thing you think of when you see “Made in China”.
Huawei knows this, which is why they spun off a separate division with Honor, which dropped the Huawei name from their handsets last December. They have since been marketed and distributed independently of Huawei-branded phones, though it is a commonly-seen mistake to see both brands written together.
There are a few reasons for wanting a new standalone brand to be created. Honor is operating differently than Huawei – they are taking notes from Xiaomi’s online distribution model. Many western markets still rely on Telcos to drive sales, but times are changing and E-commerce is massively shifting traditional distribution channels. Huawei’s move to create a independent division to deal with the future of direct sales seems inevitable.
There is another reason why Huawei would want to have a separate smartphone line that is high specced, competitively priced, a little more mainstream and targeted at the bulk of smartphone sales globally. Huawei is still ahead of Xiaomi in terms of global sales, however, the way that Xiaomi is doing business leaves a lot to be desired. They might have taken China’s #1 spot in smartphone sales, but they did so making virtually no profits.
Xiaomi earned $56 Million in net profit on sales of $4.3 Billion… that’s a profit margin of 1.8%. To put that into perspective, Samsung’s operating margin is 18.7% and Apple’s is 28.7%. If Honor were to gain a foothold in 2 or 3 markets, and avoid pegging its success in China, where Huawei is almost operating at a loss to become market leader, it would balance out Xiaomi’s success in China.
Honor is looking to gain footholds in Europe and Latin America. Even though they have spelt their name the American way, without the “U” (honour), they are not focusing on that market just yet. This makes a lot of sense, to be honest: it’s over-saturated and not where the majority of smartphone sales are going to be occurring. The US is the prestige market, not necessarily a market that will allow new brands to break in easily.
The other reason that might not get mentioned often is that Huawei has been making the news with rumors that Huawei could be involved in providing data to the Chinese government through their devices. Having a new brand would separate them from such scandal.
Honor seems to know what they are doing, taking sales from 1 Million to 20 million in just one year. And according Gartner, these sales actually earned Huawei the $3 spot globally, just over Xiaomi.
Admittedly, this is the most confusing part of the branding. If Honor is not Huawei, why are their sales being counted towards them? Regardless, it proves that this fresh-faced new kid who has a parent that knows a thing or two about making smartphones is poised to make even more waves in 2015.
If you want to check out Honor’s latest handset, we went hands-on at their launch event in Beijing. You should watch the video for the set up alone: models at a bar with a bartender doing tricks. If you want to head on over to our hands-on post, you can do that here.