LONDON (Reuters) - Huawei [HWT.UL] unveiled new flagship smartphones with novel smart camera and video features on Tuesday, as it seeks to sustain momentum among price-conscious consumers.
The Chinese company, which overtook Apple (AAPL.O) this year to become the No. 2 smartphone maker by units - behind South Korea’s Samsung (005930.KS) - introduced its Mate 20 phone series using Leica camera technology.
Huawei’s new premium phone line-up has four models available around the world, expect in the United States where sales are effectively banned over whispered national security concerns.
The new line-up includes the Mate 20, with list prices ranging from 799-849 euros ($925-$983), depending on memory configuration.
The fuller-featured Mate 20 Pro, is priced as low as 799 pounds at some UK retailers and list priced at 849 pounds or 1,049 euros across Europe. A comparable iPhone X Max from Apple costs 1,099 pounds in the UK.
The new phones include a new ultra-wide angle lens, as well as a 3x telephoto lens and a macro that shoots objects as close as 2.5 centimeters (1 inch).
Mate P20 models take advantage of artificial intelligence features built into Huawei’s own Kirin chipsets.
Features available to Mate 20 users include being able to isolate human subjects and desaturate the colors around them in order to highlight people against their backgrounds.
Huawei incorporates bigger light-sensing chips than rival phones to take better pictures in low-light conditions.
Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza said that in a highly commoditized smartphone market of look-alike phones, Huawei is managing to differentiate itself with camera and personalization features.
“With the Mate 20, Huawei is setting the bar for what users can expect from photography using a smartphone,” Cozza said.
The Chinese phone maker managed to surpass Apple to take the No. 2 spot in the second quarter, industry data shows, despite being effectively excluded from the U.S. market.
However, Apple commanded 43 percent of the premium market and a lion’s share of profits, CounterPoint Research estimated.
“Huawei is clearly ticking all the key boxes needed to displace rivals – and not just Android-powered rivals,” said Ben Wood, research chief of mobile industry consulting firm CCS Insight.
Wood said Huawei’s move to match Apple iPhone’s characteristic swipe gestures and face unlock features on its Mate 20 Pro could, in theory, make it easier for committed Apple buyers to switch, although he said that was unlikely near term.
“But it’s clear that Huawei has an eye on the future and is ready to take share from Apple if the time comes that a loyal iPhone owner decides to try something else,” he said.
The new premium phone line-up from the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker includes four models, the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X, with a 7.2 inch display screen, and a Porsche Design limited edition phone.
Additional reporting by Sijia Jiang in Hong Kong; Editing by Susan Fenton