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Huawei Swoops into the US Market with P8 Lite Smartphone & Talkband B2 Fitnessband

by Cliff Raskind | Jun 05, 2015

Ahead of a major US launch for Huawei, press and analysts gathered this week in New York to preview the P8 Lite smartphone and Talkband B2 fitness band with Jawbone's UP Smart Coach support.

 P8 Lite

While we would have liked to see the Honor brand land on US shores, the P8 Lite is a good trial for Huawei’s quality smartphones in a lucrative US market that is gradually warming to the idea of unlocked phones. At an estimated US$ 160 wholesale/US$ 250 retail the P8 Lite is an attractively designed and arguably well spec’d mid-tier Android device. It represents continued innovation in the fiercely competitive US midrange smartphone market.  Most notably, the P8 Lite has a semi-premium “fit and finish” with an angular-edges unibody design weighing less than 5 oz., metal-like trim and a 5” Gorilla Glass 3 covered 1080x720p display. While ZTE does offer a 6” display at a 20% lower price point, we like the 13 MPx shooter (plus 5Mpx front facing). Perhaps most importantly, the P8 Lite comes standard with a best-in-class 2 year warrantee, includes free shipping and US-based support.  

P8 Lite

More broadly, the e-commerce route to market is comparatively low cost/low risk and offers Huawei the potential for social tailwinds if GetHuawei.com can attain some online buzz. At about 5% of the US market in 2014 the online/unlocked channel is set for 50% to 100% growth in 2015, representing the most frictionless market entry path for US newcomers (or for re-entry as we recommend for Sony). The online route does impose a ceiling on penetration that can only be shattered with heavy ad spend, shelf space with US electronics , and of course operator ranging (be it subsidized or unsubsidized). Costly and risky propositions to be sure. Fortunately for Huawei, the P8 Lite will also sell on Amazon.com as well as online via BestBuy, B&H and Fry’s Electronics’ online stores and some select brick and mortar shelf space across these retailers.

Talkband B2

On the wearables front, Huawei also launched the Talkband B2 fitnessband for the US market at appx. US$ 115 wholesale/US$ 179 retail. The B2 is the 2nd generation of Huawei’s signature BT-headset-hid-inside-a-fitnessband form factor for hands-free calling.  It represents a new and novel concept for US buyers, that while differentiated will likely be far less resonant than is the case in Asia in our view. The style is decidedly upscale among both wrist-bands and even smartwatches (i.e. goldtone metallic and brown leather strap is available for a 11% price premium). The band is also among the most comfortable available.  Another plus is that it is compatible with smartphones that run both Android 4.0 or Apple's iOS 7.0, or later.

talkbandb2

 






The B2 is very simple to setup and use, and at 2 days of battery life offers the owner additional peace-of-mind, as opposed to being measured in hours.  This pulled off with relatively modest tech specs and an uncompetitive sensor array. The B2 has 96KB of memory, 512KB of on-board storage (16MB of external storage via BT), a 90mAh battery and has a 6-axis motion sensor but no heart rate sensor. By not going with Bluetooth LE, and instead relying solely on BT A2DP, the B2’s battery life is also not as long as it might be. The 128 x 88 pixel resolution 0.73” PMOLED touchscreen is simple and miserly on power. While the B2 offers a fashionable silver/gold reflective tint on select models that is capable of turning heads, it is unfortunately is almost unreadable in outdoor sunlight. The B2 also lacks a full range of phone alerts and notifications.

 Partnering with Jawbone, Huawei’s B2 is the first non-UP fitnessband to be supported by the UP Smart Coach app, which is a huge plus and will give instant appeal to many fitness conscious US buyers that are interested in “turning their fitness data into a fitness advisor”.  The partnership will offer reciprocal benefit as UP and others have been losing ground to the organic + inorganic growth of the Under Armour fitness ecosystem. We predict this will likely be the first OEM partnership of several for Jawbone’s UP.

 All in all the Talkband B2 passes the fashion and practical convenience tests (comfort, battery life, etc.) and does a limited number of fitnessband functions very well. Unfortunately, however, it leaves you wanting more on the features and functionality for the price— namely in phone notifications and heart rate monitoring.

Related Devices reports:

VALUE SHARE: Global Smartphone Revenue, ASP and Profit by Vendor by Price Tier : Q1 2015
Q1 '15: Huawei: China & LTE Drive Growth
Global Fitness Band Vendor Marketshare: Q1 2015

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