George Zhao, president of Huawei sub-brand Honor, vowed to challenge Apple and Samsung by becoming a top three smartphone brand by 2022, as the company bolstered its global focus with the unveiling of the artificial intelligence (AI)-powered View 10 and the mid-range Honor 7x at an event in London.

Speaking at the launch, Zhao said Honor “was now very confident about its business model” after trying a lot of different things over the past year and it was now embarking on a global expansion strategy to establish itself as a high-end brand in China, the US and Europe.

Spelling out Honor’s ambitions, Zhao said the overseas market outside of China, its home market, would prove important in the company’s attempts to grow rapidly to become a top five brand in three years and, even more ambitiously, challenge the market leaders as a top three brand in five years.

Honor revealed its overseas revenue in 2017 contributed 15 per cent of its total, compared with 85 per cent in China, but is targeting growing the figure to 60 per cent by 2022.

Zhao (pictured, right) told Mobile World Live the company had not identified a specific market where it wants to grow as part of its global push, but earmarked increased traction in markets including India, Russia and Indonesia.

“We see our global strategy as very balanced,” he added.

Zhao also said the company was not sure its predominantly online sales business model would work in the US and Europe, but it gained confidence following the success of the Honor 8 and Honor 9 devices.

Previously, he said, the company “had not made a real effort in the global market”.

Honor’s parent Huawei made similar statements about challenging for the top-spot in the global smartphone market, and overtook Apple in September to take second spot.

Zhao described Huawei and Honor as a “dual brand”.

Honor View 10
The Honor View 10, which will launch in France, Germany, India, Italy, UK, US, Spain and Russia on 8 January 2018, was the second smartphone to be unveiled at the glitzy event, but no doubt the most impressive.

Indeed, the device’s launch markets provides further indication of where Honor sees its growth coming from in the future.

Presenting the device, Zhao highlighted its “revolutionary mobile AI” capabilities, stating the phone marks the beginning of a “new AI era”.

While Honor launched an AI-powered device in China in 2016, Honor Magic, Zhao suggested the global ecosystem was not ready for an AI-powered device until now.

He said the latest device was the “smartest AI enabled smartphone on the market today”, with one key indicator based on fast image recognition: Honor View 10 can recognise 33 images per second, compared to iPhone X capability of 16 images and two on the Galaxy Note 8.

Comparisons with both rival devices did not stop there. The Honor View 10 features a “thinner body” at 6.97mm compared to iPhone X’s 7.7mm and 8.6mm on the Note8. A battery capability of 3750mAh is also superior, Zhao said.

Much of the Honor View 10’s AI capabilities are fuelled by the device’s Kirin 970 chipset (which also powers the Huawei Mate 10), and includes a Neural-Network Processing Unit which Honor said is able to power a series of new AI applications.

Zhao demonstrated how the device can recognise different scenes, translate languages in real time (through a partnership with Microsoft), and understand user’s behaviours in different ways.

Like the recently launched iPhone X and Samsung’s S8, the phone features facial recognition, but also includes fingerprint unlock technology.

Zhao also talked up intelligent notification lock features and technology which ensures the display is always on if you are looking at the screen.

The executive added the device can also recognise its users’ eyes, meaning the phone cannot be unlocked if the person’s eyes are closed or if the phone is held up to their face while they are sleeping. It will feature EMUI 8.0 software.

In terms of specifications, the Honor View 10 features a full image screen spanning 5.99 inches with an 18:9 display ratio. It sports a 16MP colour plus 20MP monochrome dual lens camera, and a SuperCharge feature to charge the phone to 50 per cent in 30 minutes.

It is available with 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage, which can be increased via a microSD card.

Zhao likened the phone to the Huawei Mate 10 in terms of features, but it stacks up more favourably on price. It will go on sale for £449 in the UK (the equivalent of $600).

Honor 7x
Following its initial launch in China in November, Honor rolled out its mid-tier Honor 7x across a number of markets including the UK, US and India.

The Honor 7x is the company’s first smartphone to feature a full view display and it is “designed like a flagship product”, Zhao said.

The 7x features a 5.93-inch display, a 16MP colour camera and 2MP monochrome dual unit. It packs 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage, which can be expanded to 256GB.

Showcasing the phone’s durability, given it comes equipped with a “four corner safety airbag design”, Zhao slammed the device on the floor during the demo.

Priced at £269.99 ($360), Zhao added the Honor 7x could emerge as a leading choice for those users who desire a bezel-less phone on a budget.

He also said the market would eventually evolve so all low-end smartphones feature full view displays.