Huawei aims to topple Samsung and Apple in five years

by: John DyeFebruary 21, 2016

OEM of the year 2015 - Huawei

Huawei might not be a household name in the United States, but the Chinese company is the third largest smartphone seller in the world behind Samsung and Apple. Today Richard Yu, the head of device business, said that he believes Huawei could be number one in just five years.

“We are quite late in the U.S. market,” Yu confessed. And it’s true. To date, the company has only played a small role on U.S. soil, moving a paltry number of phones through online sales. If they really want to take the states, they’ll have to secure partnerships with the country’s major carriers, an endeavor they hope to make progress in over the course of 2016. The goal is to have Huawei products sold through one of the big four by the end of the year.

mate8-6p-thumbSee also: Huawei Mate 8 vs Nexus 6P16

While some may scoff at Huawei’s intention to become the leading name in the smartphone industry, a little context may make the naysayers a little more hesitant. As Yu pointed out during a meeting in Barcelona this weekend, “Four years ago, no one knew who we were. Even in China.” The company has vaulted to the upper echelons of the mobile world in just a few short years. Although the path gets steeper and the air thinner at these heights, Huawei may just have the momentum to carry themselves all the way to the top.

huawei mate 8 vs nexus 6p aa (3 of 23)

However, the company faces challenges in addition to the sheer size of its competitors. The global market for smartphones has been cooling as of late, largely due to an oversaturation of the market – especially in China. Yu says they aren’t afraid and that there is still room for growth.

The company believes they already have very solid products and that there’s a market for them, but that a lack of brand recognition is hindering their advancement. Once that hurdle is overcome, Huawei expects to become the number two smartphone seller by 2019 at the latest and the number one by 2021.

What do you think of this Chinese mobile giant’s ambitions to overtake Samsung and Apple? A possible world-rocker for the industry, or just a pipe dream? Let us know your opinion in the comments below!

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  • RacerRick55

    I had an Ascend Mate 2, one of the best phones I’ve ever used, 4000 mAh battery and 6.1 inch screen were the 2 high points. Wish it had Band 12(700MHz)….if it did, I’d still be using it.

  • SnakeSplitskin

    Nah. This market is going to change over time so it’s debatable whether they can do it. They had a winner with the Nexus 6P hardware but that wouldn’t have been the case if the Huawei name didn’t get to share the name plate with the Nexus brand. It would have been just another Chinese manufactured phone if it wasn’t also a Nexus phone.

    2016 should be an indicator if they have a chance of success in the U.S. market. Any new Huawei phones released in the U.S. this year will still be facing off against the Nexus 6P if it remains on the market. No reason to go with Huawei brand if the 6P is still available.

    • Nadia Al-Belushi

      It’s not about the US anymore. Nowadays, it’s all about the emerging economies/markets around the World. There’s a huge population of people in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia that still hasn’t embraced mobile devices. Huawei and other Chinese OEMs are going to flood these emerging markets with cheap and durable products that will be great value for money. That’s what people in those parts of the World want. They’re not looking for brands; they’re looking for something cheap and reliable, and that’s where the Chinese (and possibly Taiwanese) have a huge advantage.

      Huawei is growing in the Middle East as well. A few years ago, I didn’t know anything about this company. Nowadays, I see Huawei handsets almost everywhere I go.

      • SnakeSplitskin

        good point on international sales. Besides, once the emerging markets get their hands on their reliable phones, they will evolve just like every other market and begin to coalesce behind their favorite brand. There will be brands associated with luxury and then there will be the rest of the industry. The brands associated with luxury and status will become the must-have brand. Samsung is scoring well in emerging markets as well but it remains to be
        seen who will eventually become the “must-have” status brand in those markets.

        • Nadia Al-Belushi

          I don’t really think Samsung is seen as a luxury brand in emerging economies, to be honest. In the Middle East, I can safely say that only Apple is seen as a luxury brand. Samsung was lately overtaken by Huawei in the United Arab Emirates and several other countries in the region, if I’m not mistaken. (I read about it more than a month ago.)

          One thing I can say is that, for a lot of third worlders, a smartphone is your only computer. That’s especially true for the South Asian migrants in the Middle East. Their smartphones are everything to them. They’re not luxury goods as much as they’re a necessity for payments, keeping in touch with their families, etc. I see them use more and more Chinese phones these days, most of which are cheap but reliable.

          Those who don’t mind paying big bucks for a luxury phone will most likely go for Apple, but they’re a minority within a minority around here.

          • SnakeSplitskin

            I’m located in the USA and it seems you have more knowledge about these emerging markets than I so I will humbly defer to you. It will be interesting to see which company comes out on top and also interesting to see how quickly these countries develop and move up from their “emerging” status.

  • Sin Falace

    I think it’s possible and well warranted, I feel that it’s about time that there’s a new company at the top of the phone companies. I’m tired of Apple and Samsung with their ugly phones that hardly ever change. In Samsung’s case, that never changes. So yeah Huawei would be a great edition.

    • Shawn

      Funny how you say they never change but somehow samsung sold over 300 million last year alone which is pretty much 100 million more than even the closest in the competition= apple in 2nd! Thats a big difference! Samsungs a powerful brand to compete with!

      • Sin Falace

        Their phones still look the same, just because a bunch of people buy it doesn’t mean it’s going to look completely different.

        • Andre Senge

          Completly agree with Sin, Huawei is gonna overtake Apple sometime this year, and un muy opinion Samsung shouldn’t even be first place, they won’t forever.

    • Mehdi Morchid

      Truly true

  • Latheryin

    They will have alot of work to do to get around the rep that China based OEMs have. That will take many things. First is ditching the way they think people us their devices. There is a huge diff between Asia and the US markets on how a device is used and what attracts people to them.

    • Nadia Al-Belushi

      Chinese OEMs are by far the most exciting OEMs out there today! Just look at Lenovo’s Smart Cast concept phone and Project Tango 3D-mapping phablet. It doesn’t get more exciting than that in the mobile industry today!

      Huawei and other Chinese phone makers are gaining a lot of ground in emerging economies/markets. That’s where the future belongs. The US is not all that.

      • Latheryin

        All gimmics and have no real world use. They tried 3d once and it failed badly due to the human mind not set to work with it and doctors advising against long use of 3d. Even 3d TV have gone out that way.

        You are right. The US isnt all that. Except that is where the whole OS comes from.

        You are right they are gaining alot of ground in emerging markets but to be honest until they hit it big in the states they will still be minor players in the game. Now before you get all butt hurt about it, the reason I say this is it is far easier for someone in the states to pay $700 for a device then it is in other parts of the world. Heck $700 isnt even a weeks pay.

        • Nadia Al-Belushi

          They’re hardly gimmicks when considering the fact that this is where the mobile industry is heading. Apple and Samsung have rested on their laurels due to their success over the years. They’ll eventually go Nokia’s way if they aren’t too careful. For most third worlders, a smartphone is their only computer, so the more features a handset has, the better it will sell. Lenovo is already reaping the benefits of adding projector capabilities to its Android tablets. Now it’s ready to take it to a whole new level by introducing it to smartphones. That’s not a gimmick. That’s innovation, and it proved to be successful. No other OEM is this close to being exciting.

          Again, the US isn’t make-or-break for Huawei or any other Chinese phone maker.

          Huawei and other Chinese OEMs will flood emerging markets with cheap and reliable products. Mobile growth has slowed down in the US, and will continue to do so. That’s natural, given the fact that people aren’t going to change their phones every year just because a new one has come out. It’s all about emerging economies today. That’s where Huawei will go big, and that’s how it’ll overtake the likes of Apple and Samsung.

          Most people around the World, including in the US, are not going to spend $700 on a phone. That’s the truth. Even Samsung knows this, which is why its main focus right now is on the Indian market. But Samsung is finding it increasingly difficult to compete with Chinese OEMs in India lately.

          • Latheryin

            Phones in the US have been over $700 for many years now. Don’t think people will do it? The iPhone is well over that and every year people update and get the newest one. The projector was already done on a smartphone. It failed badly. All these things that you see China based people doing has already been done. And failed.

            China can try to flood the market but with their devices on a watch list it won’t matter really. Take Xiaomi as a perfect example. They are already banned from any government employees owning or using. There are already tons of cheap China devices here and people don’t buy them. You have to understand. The areas are very different. While you may have a hard time spending that much money. It is not uncommon here.

            If the US wasn’t such a big deal then why are they all trying to break into the market?

            India is important right now because they are just growing up.

            China based devices have alot to over come. Many people don’t trust them and with good reason. It’s simple really. China has become known for cheap knock off devices. India see alot of them in the form of Micromax devices.

          • Nadia Al-Belushi

            Smartphone growth has declined in the United States and several other developed countries, according to Gartner. This year, Apple is expected to have its first sales drop since 2003.

            Americans are saving money; they’re not spending money like they used to. This is a fact. This is exactly why US manufacturing has contracted since Q3 2015. (It’s in a recession, in fact.)

            Simply put, it’s not just the mobile industry that’s going to have slower growth in the US/West. The same goes for laptops, desktops, etc. The US and several other developed countries aren’t the place for Chinese / Far Eastern companies to go big.

            Why do you think Huawei released the Mate 8 in the Middle East and Africa long before it was released in the West?

            Huawei made 60 odd million sales in 2014. In 2015, it made over 100 million sales, most of which were in emerging economies. That’s where most of the smartphone growth will come from between now and 2030. It’ll come from emerging economies, particularly those in Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

            Who cares if the US government has banned its employees from using Xiaomi smartphones? Xiaomi, Huawei and other Chinese OEMs are flooding emerging markets around the World with their products. That’s where they’re getting their money from, and that’s how they think they’ll eventually overtake the likes of Apple and Samsung.

            I paid $600 for the 64GB version of Huawei Mate 8. Where I come from, that’s half the price of what I would’ve paid had I gone for a Samsung or Apple product. And this is a premium phone, mind you. The other Huawei products are even cheaper in comparison to Samsung and Apple’s products. That’s what’s driving up Chinese OEM sales outside the US. People want cheap devices that have good battery lives and are reliable, and that’s what they get. Trust is a relative term. People from countries like Egypt, Bangladesh and Kenya don’t share the concerns of those Americans who don’t trust Chinese products. For many people out there, Chinese products have kept them alive for many years, and that’s not an exaggeration. They have no reason not to trust companies like Huawei.

            As for phones with projector capabilities, I’ve only heard of Lenovo. ZTE has lately copied Lenovo so it seems to be working. I wouldn’t call a feature a failure when it’s actually succeeding. More OEMs are adding these kinds of features. And Lenovo’s projector phone is not just capable of beaming images. You can actually interact with the images being beamed. For example, the projector can turn your table into a keyboard. Only Lenovo has done this.

            There’s actually a good reason why Chinese OEMs are innovating and adding all these crazy new features that you seem to be underestimating: it’s because they know that their consumers (from the emerging markets) treat their phones as their only computing devices, which means their costumers want as many features in a phone as possible while still keeping the price down.

  • Why do people buy Samsung and Apple?
    Because, They are BRANDS. In my country, Huawei isn’t considered a brand.

    • Luca

      At one point, neither Samsung or Apple was a brand, as Huawei wasn’t 4 years ago. Give them time, they might make it.

      • Nadia Al-Belushi

        Well said, Luca. Moreover, branding isn’t everything. Most people in emerging countries just want a phone that is reliable and not expensive. This puts Chinese OEMs in a great position, in my opinion.

      • AbbyZFresh

        At one point, the smartphone market wasn’t as big and stangant as it was now when Apple and Samsung were early on the scene.

        Huawei faces much more competition in today’s market compared to the market in 2011-2012. And being blocked from the US for the most part isn’t helping their case either.

    • Andre Senge

      You look like you are from India, I hears Huawei has really good sales there so not sure what you are talking about unless you live in Alaska.

  • AbbyZFresh

    Good luck to them. Apple and Samsung have been on top for years for two major reasons. Strong brand recognition and ecosystem integration.

    • Andre Senge

      Doesn’t mean they will forever

  • Nadia Al-Belushi

    They will. Huawei’s on the rise! ^_^

  • Michael

    Chinese people don’t buy their own smartphones, vitamins, and cars because they don’t trust in the engineering or manufacturing. Except the poor people who have no other choice.

    • Andre Senge

      Quit being stuck in the past, things change.

    • Karly Johnston

      They buy their phones because the ones imported have a 35% tax.

    • Anon

      that was 5 years ago. actually the reverse is happening.
      xiaomi came in 1st in 2014.
      huawei came out number 1 in 2015, followed by xiaomi, apple, oppo, vivo, then samsung.
      china improves drastically in just 1 year, let alone 5.

  • Prime

    I may not be able to buy a phone that isn’t made in China, but I will sure never buy one made by a Communist supporting Chinese company. That includes you Motorola.

  • MattPM

    I have to say I think they are implementing a solid strategy. Partnering with Google on the 6p which has been a huge win. Great publicity as many publications had it as their phone of the year. Next they drop the Honor 5x with pricing that allows just about anyone to pick one up and try the brand out. It’ll be interesting to see their next move. The Mate series looks great.

  • The-Sailor-Man

    In 5 year the smartphones will be not hype(huge profit) anymore. So why not.
    No smartphone hype(profit) = No Apple.
    But Samsung will be there with new tech for sure. And all Apple’s zombies will switch the Master.

  • Jake

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that is true. Since the release of the Nexus 6P, Huawei has been making a bigger name for themselves in the west, especially in the US.

  • Karly Johnston

    Huawei still has horrible CS and updates. They cant compete globally unless they fix those two problems.

  • Simon

    You Sir, are a master of sensibly debating with cold hard facts and without resorting to cheap insults. Well done, you have opposed many people on this debate but have done it in such a way that you deserve respect.

  • Simon

    Aimed at Nadia.

  • Choda Boy

    Not buying a phone made in China.

    • Sameer Pervez (Sam)

      What about South Korea??

      • Prime

        South Korea develops technology, China steals it. Big difference.

      • Choda Boy

        South Korea is fine.

  • Giorgio, Canada

    What would be the expectation wrt Xiaomi?