All eyes are on Las Vegas for CES, the annual technology extravaganza that sets the trends for the next year. But as we’re catching a glimpse of the amazing products coming in 2017, let’s take a final look back at the year that just ended.
2016 has been a tumultuous one in the mobile industry. Profits have been elusive for all but a few phone makers. As markets saturated and consumers held on for longer to their “good enough” phones, competition between manufacturers became increasingly cutthroat. At the bottom of the totem pole, dozens, maybe hundreds of small companies struggled to make ends meet. At the top, the giants sold tens of millions phones every quarter, but didn’t forget for one second that their competitors were just a few steps behind.
In this landscape, one company stood out thanks to its great devices, business acumen, and technological leadership – Huawei.
We first crowned Huawei Manufacturer of the Year in 2015, when the company finally managed to put itself on the radar of Western customers with a blockbuster collaboration with Google for the Nexus 6P. If 2015 was a breakout year, in 2016 Huawei consolidated and built up its position, and emerged as a credible threat to the top players, Samsung and Apple.
Huawei ended 2016 with sales of 139 million units, compared to 108 million the year before. Granted, the bulk of those sales were in China, but given the hypercompetitive nature of the Chinese market, that’s no mean feat. Huawei did expand its presence massively around the world, and particularly in Europe. North America proved a harder challenge, but Huawei is nothing if not persistent.
While Huawei didn’t score another collaboration with Google, it did put out a number of standout devices that cemented its reputation as a high-end manufacturer. We’re talking about the Huawei P9, co-branded with legendary camera maker Leica, and the Mate 9 and its exquisite luxury version, Mate 9 Porsche Edition.
Huawei has a knack for high-end phones, but its budget-oriented arm proved that the company understands what most consumers actually want – affordable, solid devices. Honor phones consistently rank high in terms of value for money, stealing market share and attention from competitors small and large.
The combination of aspirational flagships and attractive mid-rangers allowed Huawei to come within striking distance of Apple and Samsung. The company made no secret of its ambition to become the world’s top smartphone manufacturer and if it maintains momentum over the next couple of years, it might just succeed. That’s not to say that Huawei is doing everything right – as mentioned, the American market is still largely unimpressed by its products; the software side of the user experience remains an issue; and Samsung and Apple are still miles ahead when it comes to their ecosystems.
That said, Huawei was a bright spot in an otherwise dim 2016. While other manufacturers impressed us with their products (OnePlus, Samsung, and Google were our runner-up’s) Huawei came on top thanks to its product line-up, massive scale, and solid business. For this reason, Huawei is our 2016 Manufacturer of the Year.