Huawei challenges rivals with 'world's slimmest' smartphone

Huawei lived up to its earlier smartphone hype by unveiling what it called "the world's slimmest smartphone" and throwing down the gauntlet to the world's leading smartphone makers, Samsung Electronics and Apple.

Huawei's Ascend P6

The Ascend P6 is just 6.18 mm thick, weighs around 120 grams and also features a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and a 4.7-inch display. The device runs on the Android 4.2.2 operating system.

Taking a leaf out of rivals' books, Huawei also chose to launch the device during its own high-profile media event in London, rather than relying on major trade shows such as Mobile World Congress. The smartphone garnered some favourable responses from analysts, with Ben Wood of CCS Insight noting that it would open up a new market for Huawei.

"Huawei Ascend P6. Great design & quality. At right price will attract buyers who've not considered Huawei before," Wood tweeted during the event.

However, Wood pointed out a major drawback: the device does not support LTE.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi at Gartner told Reuters she would have liked to see a more original design instead of something that tries to position the brand as an alternative to Apple, but noted that overall message is that Huawei is working towards its goal of becoming a top brand by 2015.

Huawei said the new smartphone will begin shipping to China from June and to Western Europe starting in July through Vodafone, Telefónica, Orange, Hutchison Whampoa's 3 brands, O2, Carphone Warehouse, TalkTalk, Media Markt & Saturn, TIM and online via Amazon and CDiscount, with other markets to follow.

The new launch follows on from Huawei's pledge at this year's Mobile World Congress to establish its consumer device brand more firmly in the market. According to ABI Research, Huawei was the No. 6 overall handset maker in the world in the first quarter, with 14.2 million unit shipments.

On the sidelines of the smartphone launch, Richard Yu, chairman of Huawei's consumer business group, was also reported to have made comments to the Financial Times that perhaps may have not been too well received by the rest of the group. According to the report, Yu said Huawei would consider buying Nokia in order to help achieve its goal of becoming the world's leading smartphone maker. "We are considering these sorts of acquisitions; maybe the combination has some synergies but depends on the willingness of Nokia," Yu was quoted as saying. "We are open-minded."

However, Huawei later told Bloomberg that it has "no plans" to acquire Nokia. "In the whole history of our company, we have done very few, very small acquisitions," Huawei spokesman Scott Sykes said. Nokia said it was declined to comment.

ABI Research later issued a blog comment saying a takeover of Nokia by Huawei is unlikely, and suggested the comments could have been a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the Ascend P6 launch. "An even simpler explanation, may be that Mr. Yu was being quite free with his words and providing a few headaches for his PR team, as verbose chairmen and CEOs can do from time to time," added ABI analyst Nick Spencer.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Reuters article
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article

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