Tech Transformers

Huawei fires shots at Apple, Samsung with new device

Can Huawei take on Apple and Samsung?

China's Huawei launched a luxury smartphone and gave more details about its new smartwatch on Wednesday as it looks to shake the dominance of Apple and Samsung at the high-end of the device market.

The flagship Mate S features a curved back and a pressure touch screen, a piece of technology used in the Apple Watch and rumoured to be in the U.S. electronic giant's next iPhones.

The screen would allow someone to just press down on a picture to enlarge it, rather than pinching the screen for example. Huawei said that a user can weigh items on the screen as it works on pressure touch.

"The Huawei Mate S redefines how we incorporate touch technology into our smartphones, breaking through the conventional way of touch screen control and ushering in new imagination for human-machine interaction," Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group said in a press release.

Huawei has packed the Mate S with a plethora of features as it looks to differentiate itself from other devices on the market. The phone has a fingerprint scanner which the Chinese firm says allows users to control other functions including answering a phone call and getting rid of notifications on the screen. Huawei has also included a feature called "knuckle control" which lets a user draw something on the screen with their knucle to start an app. For example, if someone draws a "C" on the screen with their knuckle, the camera will start.

"It's very reminiscent of Samsung's approach of taking every single bit of technology and packaging it into a single device. It is 'specsmanship' in a market of near identical smartphones from a multitude of different phone makers," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, where the device was launched.

Huawei said the Mate S will be available in a "couple of weeks" and will be priced between 650 euros ($732) and 750 euros, making it the company's most expensive device to date.

The 'next Samsung'?


Huawei has grown rapidly in the smartphone market recently with both its own branded devices as well as through its Honor brand, mid-tier handsets designed to appeal to a younger audience. The Chinese giant is the world's third-biggest smartphone maker and in the second quarter, saw shipments rise 48 percent year-on-year to 29.9 million units, according to research firm IDC.

Analysts said the Mate S release shows Huawei flexing its muscles as it becomes more confident in its ability to tackle the top smartphone players.

"Huawei as a company has the scale in terms of in-house design and distribution to become the next Samsung, but out of China," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

"The reason Huawei wants to be at the high-end is that the margins are much stronger and having successful flagship devices with a premium design provide a halo effect which helps its entire range of handsets," he said.

Huawei smartwatch


Huawei also gave more details about its smartwatch that it unveiled earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The Huawei Watch with a 1.4 inch screen and stainless steel case, goes on sale in western Europe Wednesday priced between 399 euros and 699 euros depending on what version the user buys. U.S. users can pre-order the device today while consumers in the UAE, U.K. and Japan will have to wait until October to get their hands on one.

Huawei CEO sees future growth

The Chinese electronics group is trying to position itself in the mid-to-high-end of the nascent smartwatch market with both the price and design, with the watch coming with different straps and the option for a rose gold case. This is the segment in which both Samsung and Apple operate, and even LG with its new Urbane Luxe smartwatch. Huawei even says the wearable is inspired by Swiss timepieces as device makers try to make smartwatches trendy.

Huawei's wearable comes with fitness functions such as a heart rate tracker like many other devices on the market, and runs Google's Android Wear operating system which will allow Android and iOS phone users to connect this smartwatch to their handsets.