CES quick take: Can Huawei compete in the difficult U.S. smartphone market?

If you're not Samsung, Motorola or, say, Apple, it can be hard to penetrate the consciousness of the U.S. phone buyer.

ces honor 5x

Even if you’re a global company like Huawei -- one which is becoming known as a manufacturer of Android smartphones -- it’s hard to become a player in the U.S. market, especially if you’re competing against companies such as Samsung and, need we say it, Apple. Huawei seems to be taking the conservative approach -- and that impression wasn’t changed by its announcements during this week’s CES trade show.

For example, among its announcements during its press conference on Tuesday, it featured the Mate 8, a premium 6-in. stylish phone with a large range of desirable features. After about a half hour of extolling the new device, Huawei offered a list of the countries that the phone would be available in -- which did not include the U.S. Instead, we were told that the Nexus 6P would be available in a new gold color. Nice, but not the most exciting news to report.

Admitted, the 6P, which is one of Google’s latest flagship phones, has gotten extremely good reviews (including by our own JR Raphael) and while it’s Google’s name that is usually associated with it, the manufacturer’s name is visible -- and therefore, associated.

But other than that, most of Huawei’s U.S. phones have been in the lower- and mid-price range, such as the Huawei P8 Lite, a lesser version of the P8 (which is not available in the U.S.). And the company today unveiled a rather nice-looking $200 unlocked phone, the Honor 5X (pictured above), which it plans to sell in the U.S. in the end of January. A phone that, while it appeared in the company’s CES booth, was not mentioned in the press conference (or, if it was, it was mentioned so quickly that I missed it).

So Huawei seems to be conducting almost a quiet campaign to make its brand known among U.S. users. That has its dangers -- most companies that are known to produce low-cost phones tend to stay in that arena -- but if it offers quality products (with the occasional stealth high-end entry such as the Nexus 6P), it may eventually become a name to contend with in among U.S. smartphone buyers.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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