New York – Huawei unveiled its second unlocked phone for the U.S. market in as many months. The launch is part of Huawei's two-prong strategy to supplement sales of its locked phones to carriers with sales of unlocked phones directly to consumers via its website, e-tailers and brick-and-mortar stores.
Last year at this time, the company launched its first unlocked phone, the $299 Ascend Mate 2 6.1-inch LTE phablet, and followed up in April 2015 with the $179 LTE SnapTo. The latest phone, available today at GetHuawei.com and Amazon, is the $249 P8 Lite at $249 with Android 4.4 KitKat, 5-inch HD display, 1.5GHz octa-core processor, dual LTE SIMs, and LTE bands for the T-Mobile and AT&T networks.
The P8 Lite will be rolled out soon to Fry’s online and offline stores, Best Buy’s website, B&H’s online and offline stores, and Target.com. It will also be available to other dealers through distributors and master dealers, said Carmen Moreno, marketing and advertising senior manager.
The AscendMate2 has been sold by such retailers as Walmart online and brick-and-mortar stores and the online stores of Best Buy, Fry’s and BrandsMart. SnapTo retailers include BesyBuy.com, BrandsMart USA, Newegg.com, and the Fry’s online and retail stores.
During yesterday’s product unveiling here, Huawei Device USA president Zhiqiang Xu said the opportunity for unlocked-phone sales began to increase about two years ago as U.S. carriers began shifting away from subsidizing phones with two-year contracts. The shift gives consumers the ability to compare prices of unlocked unsubsidized phones with unsubsidized carrier-locked phones, opening up opportunities for unlocked phones with “great value,” he said. Consumers also get the opportunity to choose from a wider variety of phones for GSM networks.
Added channel sales manager Zachary Haney, “Consumers have become aware of the cost of handsets as carriers back out of subsidies.”
Xu also vowed to launch more mass-market and premium phones in the U.S. to build the brand and, in the next five years, put Huawei into the top three smartphone players here.
Also to boost its unlocked-phone sales, Huawei unveiled a two-year warranty program and talked up strengthened post-sale support available through a U.S.-based call center offering over-the-phone and online-chat help. A support app is also preloaded on the phone.
To compete with carriers’ installment-payment plans, Huawei launched 3-, 6- and 12-month payment plans for phones sold on the company’s web site to “alleviate” up-front costs, said open-market EVP Haitao Cui. The unlocked market in the U.S. is “growing but new,” he said, pointing out that many consumers still don’t understand the concept.
Also to boost sales, Xu said the company has improved product quality to reduce its failure rate to less than 5 percent and that the Fusion 3 phone launched through AT&T has experienced a failure rate of only 0.1 percent.
With the new phone, Huawei set a price of $249 because the majority of devices on the market are either premium devices costing $500 and more or entry-level devices below $200, Haney said. The phone offers premium features and performance at a more affordable price than major vendors who spend lots of money on advertising and promotion and to support carriers, he said.
The new phone will be promoted to consumers via digital advertising starting this month and social-media campaigns, with offline advertising to support national retailers, Moreno said.
The phone’s other key features include 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 32GB memory card slot, LTE Category 4 speed, 13- and 5-magapixel cameras, main-camera LED flash, ability to adjust focus after taking a picture, and ability to take pictures without unlocking or waking up the phone.
In another introduction, Huawei is bringing its second-generation TalkBand wearable, the TalkBand2, to the U.S. today at $179 at GetWuawei.com, with the device coming soon to Amazon.
The TalkBand2, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress, delivers fitness-tracking functionality, and it is the first activity tracker not made by Jawbone to integrate with Jawbone’s Up fitness-tracking phone app, which integrates with 3,000 Jawbone-partner apps and Cloud services.
The wearable’s rectangular touchscreen doubles as a detachable Bluetooth in-ear hands-free headset. It features a six-axis sensor to record motion, the duration of deep and light sleep, and provide consumers with tips on improving their sleep patterns. It also triggers a phone’s camera for taking selfies and comes with a Find My Phone feature.