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Huawei Go Global With The Mate 9

The modern smartphone market was a cutthroat industry with little room for upstarts even before the trio of major Chinese players got involved. Now Huawei is looking to follow in Samsung’s footsteps and remake itself as a global brand.

ChannelNews had the chance to sit down with some of Huawei’s Australian team and listen to their pitch for why the company’s next big smartphone – The Mate 9 – will be the first big smartphone of 2017 and the key to Huawei’s ambitious metamorphosis.

Set for launch on the 7th of February, the Mate 9 features a staggering 4000mAh battery, a wicked-fast Kirin 960 processor and a refined version of the dual-sensor camera featured in last year’s P9.

You can read more of our impressions of the handset here.

Huawei have drilled the featurelist of the Mate 9 down into four quick and clean descriptors: “Always On”, “Always Fast”, “Always Sharp” and “Always Stunning”.

They say a dual SIM version will be available through JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and other retailers for an RRP of $999 while a “Space Grey” single SIM variant (featuring the same CPU, RAM and storage capacity) will be available through carriers Vodafone and Optus.

Regarding the company’s past efforts, Head of Marketing for Huawei’s Consumer Business Group Marc Di Giacomo says that “what we’ve learned from playing in different regions is that some strategies work for different markets.”

He says the Leica affiliation has driven a lot of popularity in Western Europe but less so outside of that.

Giacomo says that while “our aspiration is to become a premium brand”, the company doesn’t want a media spend war with HTC and Samsung.

While he agrees that recent stumbles by Apple and Samsung represent an opportunity for Huawei to gain ground on its biggest competitors, that kind of market success is “not going to be handed to you.”

He notes that features are becoming more critical to success in the smartphone arena.

“Camera is becoming an extremely important part of why people buy a mobile phone,” Giacomo says.

According to him, “the market is naturally moving to that desire for better cameras” and Huawei is jumping at the chance to fulfil that demand.

Huawei Ambassador Kristian Dowling was similarly enthused as he explained the nuances that seperate the Mate 9’s rear shooter from both competitors and the company’s previous efforts.

In terms of the camera itself, it has the same lenses (as Apple’s iPhone 7) but the monochrome sensor has been upgraded to 20 megapixels. This black-and-white sensor works in tandem with the smaller 12-megapixel color sensor to capture both vivid color and rich detail.

What’s more, the depth of field in images can be altered after the fact. Users are able to gently glaze the background of a shot, similar to what the new iPhone 7 does.

According to Dowling, the results are “just a lot more natural looking.”

The key difference here between the Mate 9 and the iPhone 7 is that the two cameras in Apple’s flagship don’t communicate. They just pick up where the other leaves off, engaging when images are taken a certain distance.

“It works okay when it works but it’s really kind-of cumbersome to use,” Dowling says.

“I think they’re on to something,” he says.

He’s dubious of the camera-attachments like those offered with the latest Motorola and Samsung phones.

“People don’t want attachments, they want everything built in. People would rather something be thicker than have to attach something to it,” he says.

Dowling asserts the idea of the dual-camera feature isn’t so much to technically match the performance of a Leica camera but to “mimic” the look of photography produced by the iconic German brand.

While the camera is certainly regarded as the centerpiece of the Mate 9 proposition, battery life and processing gains are also something that Huawei are pushing hard on.

GTM Director Peter Adamovic says that battery life is a “critical pain point” for the predominantly male consumers that Huawei see as their core customer base.

He goes on to emphasise importance of the machine learning technology at work in the Mate 9. Over time, the phone promises to learn from your individual patterns of use and find more efficient ways of allocating CPU, RAM and ROM resources.

Adamovic says they’ve been building this for five years, emphasising the partnership with Android behind the feature.

Like Huawei in general, it’s quiet, hard-working and waiting for a well-earned rise to the spotlight that could arrive at any moment.

Whether or not that moment will be February 7th is up to consumers.

The Mate 9 will be available from JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and Optus and other participating retailers at an RRP of $999.

Look for ChannelNews’ full review of the Mate 9 in the near-future.

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