With a partnership to make one of Google Inc’s flagship Nexus smartphones, China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) is gaining new prominence, which could help its efforts to win broader global consumer appeal.
Huawei was this week tapped to produce the Nexus 6P, one of two handsets unveiled this week by Google to showcase its Android mobile operating system.
The large-screen “phablet” was unveiled as a rival to Apple Inc’s iPhone 6S Plus and Samsung Electronics Co’s Galaxy Note. A second Google phone, the Nexus 5X, is to be made by South Korea’s LG Electronics Co.
“Clearly, working with Google is a vote of confidence in the technology of the product,” said Ian Fogg, senior director at the consultancy IHS Technology.
“[The deal with Google] opens up a route into the US market to raise visibility for Huawei smartphones,” Fogg said. “Huawei will be particularly pleased if this can be a bridgehead into the US market.”
Fogg said that this also helps Google, which is largely absent from China, should the US company decide to dive back into the large market.
“In its home market of China, Huawei has both mobile operator relationships as well as its own expertise in selling smartphones direct to consumers,” he said.
The Nexus 6P, which is priced from US$499 for US customers, is being sold for less than the iPhone 6S Plus and the Galaxy Note 5, which cost at least US$700.
“Once you break the direct connection between the service and the hardware, it becomes easier for consumers to buy their device separately, and it makes a Nexus more attractive,” said Avi Greengart, who follows mobile technology at the research firm Current Analysis.
The partnership could boost the prominence of Huawei, which has received media attention from US government allegations that the company is a security threat because of perceived close links to the Chinese government. The company denies the allegations.
However, some analysts say it remains questionable whether Huawei can parlay the Google deal into a stronger position in the smartphone market.
“I think people gravitate toward Nexus because it is a Google device,” said Ramon Llamas, who follows mobile technology for research firm International Data Corp.
Llamas said other manufacturers partnering with Google on Nexus — HTC Corp (宏達電), LG and Motorola Mobility, for example — have failed to get a major boost for their brands from the deals.
“Huawei could see some boost in sales, but not enough to catapult them to a challenge of Samsung or Apple,” he said.
While Chinese makers have gained ground recently — lifted in part by Lenovo Group’s (聯想) acquisition of the Motorola brand — “none of them are breaking away from the pack,” Llamas said.
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