Huawei Makes a Big Move for the US Market

Huawei is already an established brand among carriers, network providers and Asian consumers. But will Americans buy Huawei as a standalone brand in itself? One of the world’s biggest mobile phone and smartphone makers, The Chinese company is eyeing a big push into the U.S. smartphone market this year.

Photo shows a Huawei booth at CeBIT 2012 in Germany. Huawei is making a big push for the U.S. market, and will market itself as a brand independent of mobile carriers this year. (Photo Credit: AP)

Huawei has already gained a foothold on the U.S. market, although not as a brand independently. AT&T currently carries re-badged Huawei smartphones under the American network, like the AT&T Impulse 4G, Fusion and MediaPad. However, this year, Huawei wants to make a name for itself, bringing it at par with other Chinese brands that have made it big in this market, like Haier and Lenovo, as well as other Asian brands that are now popular in the west, such as Samsung, LG, HTC and Acer.

But while Huawei previously relied on AT&T to market its products, it will now start selling its smartphones and featurephones under all four major U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. The Chinese company will now market its own products, and is hoping to ship about 100 million mobile handsets globally, 60% of which are smartphones.

Huawei is actually a big player in the mobile market, with US$ 1 billion sales in 2011. Most of this is not in mobile phones, though, but in networking equipment for carriers, and wireless cards for notebook computers. Smaller carriers like Metro PCS have sold phones with the “Huawei” brand since 2010, but AT&T simply rebadges its smartphones.

But in the U.S., “device makers have to continuously brand themselves,” says Francis Hopkins, a spokesman for Huawei in the country.

Analysts say Huawei will need to establish itself with a flagship device, much like Samsung with its Galaxy S3, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. Huawei has its Ascend line, which had been marketed as “the world’s thinnest smartphone” earlier this year. However, the Ascend D still doesn’t work with U.S. networks, and Huawei will need to find itself a “hero device,” or a flagship phone to establish the brand among American consumers.

Now the question is whether Americans will buy a Chinese smartphone. Americans already do, as virtually all smartphones are assembled in China anyway. But this time, it’s a Chinese-designed and Chinese-built smartphone that’s being marketed. Consumers — and Huawei — will know for sure once the brand is launched independently of carriers this year.