By Eric Auchard
LONDON (Reuters) – Huawei [HWT.UL] unveiled new flagship smartphones with novel smart camera and video features on Tuesday, as it seeks to sustain momentum among price-conscious consumers.
The Chinese company, which overtook Apple <AAPL.O> this year to become the No. 2 smartphone maker by units – behind South Korea’s Samsung <005930.KS> – introduced its Mate 20 phone series using Leica camera technology.
They include a new ultra-wide angle lens, as well as a telephoto lens and a macro that shoots objects as close as 2.5 centimetres (1 inch).
Mate P20 models take advantage of artificial intelligence features built into Huawei’s own Kirin chipsets.
Features available to Mate 20 users include being able to isolate human subjects and desaturate the colours around them in order to highlight people against their backgrounds.
Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza said that in a highly commoditised smartphone market of look-alike phones, Huawei is managing to differentiate itself with camera and personalisation features.
“With the Mate 20, Huawei is setting the bar for what users can expect from photography using a smartphone,” Cozza said.
At its global product launch event in London, Huawei is expected to undercut Samsung and Apple’s premium phone prices, which are well above the $1,000/1,000 pound mark.
The Chinese phone maker managed to surpass Apple to take the No. 2 spot in the second quarter, industry data shows, despite facing an effective ban in the U.S. market over whispered national security concerns.
However, Apple commanded 43 percent of the premium market and a lion’s share of profits, CounterPoint Research estimated.
“Huawei is clearly ticking all the key boxes needed to displace rivals – and not just Android-powered rivals,” said Ben Wood, research chief of mobile industry consulting firm CCS Insight.
Wood said Huawei’s move to match Apple iPhone’s characteristic swipe gestures and face unlock features on its Mate 20 Pro could, in theory, make it easier for committed Apple buyers to switch, although he said that was unlikely near term.
“But it’s clear that Huawei has an eye on the future and is ready to take share from Apple if the time comes that a loyal iPhone owner decides to try something else,” he said.
The new premium phone line-up from the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker includes four models, the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X, with a 7.2 inch display screen, and a Porsche Design limited edition phone.
(Additional reporting by Sijia Jiang in Hong Kong; Editing by Susan Fenton)