Huawei, Blackberry - and the battle for third place

 

Chinese company Huawei claims its new product is "the world's fastest smartphone"

In a baroque palace near the Barcelona seafront, hundreds gathered to sip wine, eat tapas - and watch what could be the next superpower of the mobile phone industry unveil its latest product. And if I were an executive at Blackberry or Nokia who had sneaked into the Huawei event at Mobile World Congress, I might have sleepless nights about the threat to my business from the fast-growing Chinese company.

While Samsung and Apple have run away into the distance in the smartphone race, with 52% of the market between them in the last quarter of 2012, the rest are scrapping for third place. And who managed to sneak ahead of the likes of Nokia, Blackberry and HTC? Huawei, the telecoms infrastructure giant - virtually unknown as a phone brand in many parts of the world.

The company knows that may change next quarter as the jostling for the number three spot gets more intense. But the scale and tone of its Barcelona event underlines its ambitions. The phone unveiled - the Ascend P2 - looked much like any other high-end device on the market, though the company made big claims about its capabilities. It is apparently now the fastest 4G smartphone on the market, capable of supporting download speeds of up to 150Mbps.

That will be nice when the networks capable of delivering those speeds are up and running - but I'm sceptical about whether "specs" really sell that many phones. It's the fact that Huawei has the resources to cut margins to the bone and offer a top-of-the-range experience at a mid-market price which may prove more important.

Huawei describes its Android-powered Ascend P2 as the world's "fastest" smartphone

But rather than the avalanche of statistics rolled out by the head of the consumer business Richard Yu, it was the presentation by the global brand director Amy Lou which really made an impression. "Today is the day Huawei really grows up," she said, before going on to say that the company aimed to make its brand as well-known as any on display in Barcelona this week.

Nokia and Blackberry are two of those famous names, and they face a different challenge from Huawei - reviving brands that have very quickly gone out of fashion. At a preview event, I interviewed a Blackberry executive Carlo Chiarello, who had got off the plane from Canada just a couple of hours earlier. He insisted his firm was well placed to grab the number three position, seeming confident of winning back the deserters: "We've got a large base of loyal customers, we're concentrating on bringing Blackberry people back."

When I asked about the mood at the Waterloo headquarters since the launch of Blackberry 10, he described it as "ecstatic" - which seemed a bit excessive. But at least the company which had been drifting for years now has a story to tell - if only its executives can learn to put it into plain English.

With Android and Apple so dominant, you might think there was no room for another operating system, whether it was Blackberry or Windows Phone. But tell that to Mozilla, which held a press conference unveiling progress with its Firefox OS mobile operating system. Seventeen mobile operators have signed up to sell Firefox phones made by Alcatel, LG, ZTE - and soon Huawei.

The smartphone landscape was looking pretty settled but perhaps we are about to see everything change once more.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 80.

    The tone of this article sends the message 'anything the Chinese do will be fantastic & take over the world' wrong - this is a country which has no clean drinking water system, is poisoning millions of its people with polution and the vast majority of the population still plough the fields with horses !! Innovation will win the next cellphone race not unlimited money 'a bit faster' is not enough.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 79.

    I've had an iphone, 2 android phones and am currently using a Nokia 920 Windows 8 phone. It is simply stunning and leaps ahead of the others. Whether its too late for them to come back, only time will tell.

    Interesting that the new H2 in this article looks much more like a Nokia 920 than it does an iphone.

    The innovation is not coming out of Apple any longer, thats for sure.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 78.

    75/ Its not completely different, I know you were talking about a Chinese company. But a company, regardless of national identity, spying on its users is equally wrong. I do believe the iPhone 5 does not have this spyware anymore after the outcry from users after it was exposed.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 77.

    I am not really comfortable with using telecom products from Chinese companies .We all know they like to monitor their own people let alone foreigners.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 76.

    #73
    Well if you believe the stuff you are typing may I suggest the latest gadget from Apple?
    It's called the iHat, it's a lovely design of sculpted tin foil you can wear on your head to stop "the enemy/aliens" reading your mind.

    What's left ot it anyway!

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 75.

    74.busier_than_P
    Carrier IQ is an American company... completely different.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 74.

    73. Take it youve never heard of Carrier IQ, a user tracking / spying software in Apple phones. But that was allowed in by Apple itself.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 73.

    70.laughingdevil
    Putting spying equipment in Apple products, for example, would constitute an act of war if the Americans discovered it. I doubt they would risk it.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 72.

    The writer of this article seems to have a gaping knowledge gap about the subject matter, with the tagline for the article on the linking page "Which mobile firm will win the battle for 3rd place behind Apple and Android?" Android is not a 'firm'! "With Android and Apple so dominant, you might think there was no room for another operating system". Apple is not an operating system! iOS is!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    They can bring out all the phones they want, nothing for me will better the current Samsung S3 which for me is the perfect size phone and usability is amazing coupled with great apps. Android for me is streets ahead of anything else, because they get it.

    Also as a developer it is so much easier seeing your product online a few ours after publishing, something Nokia needed to grasp and didn't.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 70.

    #68
    Are you really so niave?
    Almost all phones are made in China, including Apples
    If they were openly hostile enemy state I'm sure they'd stick monitoring kit in ALL of them!

    Or would they go "hey, can't spy on these apple folk, we'll only spy on those who buy from us direct"?

    Really?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 69.

    Samsung has unmatched hardware currently, Apple is midrange and not worth comparing. HTC's One looks a great phone but lacks SD storage, no other company fully matches what Samsung is offering and until they do Sam will be the market leader. As far as OS goes, unless someone comes up with a fully open source rival to Android then no one is going to touch it, its streets ahead of all other OS

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 68.

    67.bmacmedia
    Why would anybody buy a smartphone made by an openly hostile enemy state?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 67.

    Footnote: Britain is investigating claims of possible security threats posed by Chinese telco giant Huawei, which was barred last year from tendering for Australia's NBN contracts.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 66.

    50 - Chris - "The only reason Android does so well is because its cheap, sleek looking and google does an amazing job of HIDING how unsecure the operating system is."

    So how do you hide unsecure code in an open source project? Anyone can view / build the android source. The way you hide bad code is by making your source closed ala apple and MS.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 65.

    Carlo Chiarello tells us that the BlackBerry 10 is "bringing to market a differentiated value proposition". That really makes me want to rush out and buy one. And BlackBerry wonder why they're no longer considered "cool".

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 64.

    #59 Exactly!
    RCJ could actually have blogged on say Apples Smart Watch patents. Or the recent hacking of MS/FB/Apple, and why there seems to be a rise in corperate hacking and how people can protect themselves, why Sony have announced a PS4 with no hardware, or he could even look at other types of tech.
    They say smartphones have reached saturation point, well perhaps smartphone reporting has too

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 63.

    @laughingdevil

    "Better specs" do not necessarily make a "better" device. Not everything is about power and speed, Apple have made a very large pile of money by figuring out how to market this idea.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    14. Bruxical
    The Chinese save a fortune on R&D, they just steal everyone else's idea's[sic].
    ---
    "Intellectual Property" has been a millstone around our necks. It's an idiot idea which permits stupid (but wealthy) people to 'own' ideas they could not produce themselves. If the Chinese have made a fortune by ignoring the legal construct of IP, what does that tell you about its intrinsic value?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 61.

    Blackberry should be worrying. To date, I have been a loyal user of the brand and on trying the Z10, was quite impressed. However, I have to buy my own phone and the price they are asking for the Z10 is unrealistic, considering their current situation. If I'm having to tie myself into an 18 to 24 month contract, I am not willing to pay such a high price, for a phone with an uncertain future.

 

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