Ovum attended the global launch of Huawei’s latest flagship high-end smartphone, the P9, in London on April 6. The impressive device features a dual front camera (with two 12-megapixel sensors, one monochrome and one color) co-engineered with luxury photography brand Leica and a slim 5.2-inch design. Huawei says the P9 is 43.8% more energy-efficient and charges 180% faster than the iPhone 6S while being thinner and smaller. Huawei also launched a larger variant of the device called the P9 Plus, which features a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen, a 3400mAh battery, and a pressure-sensitive screen using proprietary “Press Touch” technology. The devices will be available in Europe and Asia from April 16, with prices ranging from €599 to €749 for the 64GB P9 Plus.
P9 is a fair contender to iPhone 6S and Galaxy S7 but sales will remain comparatively low
Huawei shipped 108 million smartphones in 2015, a 44% jump versus 2014. Among those, the Huawei P8 (the P9’s predecessor) only shipped 4.5 million units. Although value and profit generators, Huawei’s premium smartphones remain niche products. Nevertheless, Huawei impresses more with each iteration of the device, featuring the type of technology and innovation that not many of its competitors can afford. Huawei is rightly capitalizing on last year’s achievement and reinvesting in its premium product portfolio to improve its brand image, which is crucial to its success outside of China.
Differentiation based on photography technology is commonplace among leading high-end smartphone vendors, with HTC, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony all claiming to have the best cameras on their devices. The partnership with Leica provides the premium brand validation that Huawei needs, but few people may recognize that – Leica has less than a 1% share in the camera market. In fact, Huawei might be driving more consumer awareness of the Leica brand rather than the opposite.
Overall, Huawei’s P9 compares well with the best high-end Android smartphones out there at a very competitive price point. It is likely to sell fewer than 10 million units but will bring significant benefits to Huawei’s overall brand value perception outside of China, boosting sales of its other products such as the popular Mate and Honor smartphones.
Smartphone Market Update: Apple’s Success Beyond 2015, TE0004-001046 (October 2015)
Ronan de Renesse, Lead Analyst, Consumer Technology