Huawei looks to take on Samsung, Apple with mid-tier smartphones

Huawei has unveiled two mid-range smartphones with features borrowed from its flagship P9 handset as it looks to challenge Samsung and continue to aggressively take market share.

The 5-inch Nova and 5.5-inch Nova Plus devices were launched at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin on Thursday as the Chinese handset maker looks to strengthen its portfolio to find growth in a global slowing smartphone market.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Key specs of the two devices include:

  • Slightly rounded edges to make it more comfortable to hold
  • Dual slot for a SIM card and MicroSD or two SIM cards
  • USB C slot for charging
  • 2 days battery life on the standard Nova with 2.2 days on the Nova Plus
  • 12 megapixel camera on the Nova with 16 megapixels on the Nova Plus
  • Fingerprint sensor on the back

Huawei Nova Plus

The release of the Nova series marks a further push by the Chinese network and electronics giant to try and challenge Apple and Samsung's dominance. Earlier this year, Richard Yu, the head of Huawei's consumer business group told CNBC that the company plans to surpass Apple as the second-biggest smartphone player in the world in three years and leapfrog Samsung by 2021.

By bringing premium features to a mid-range device, analysts said the company could command higher margins and get scale.

"Huawei want to position themselves as a premium brand because they want the margins that will give them. But what they want to do is establish that premium brand not just to sell high-end smartphones, but mid range smartphones with higher margins," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

"They don't want to be a niche player but a mainstream premium player in the market. They are starting to increase the premium push against Samsung."

Huawei Nova

Huawei is the world's third-biggest smartphone vendor with a 9.4 percent market share in the second quarter of 2016, up from 8.6 percent in the same period last year, according to IDC. It's consumer device business saw revenue in the first half year of 2016 increase by 41 percent year-on-year to 77.4 billion yuan ($11.6 billion).

As the smartphone market cools, analysts said that these flagship-like phones at lower price points will drive the market.

"Those mid-range devices are becoming capable and they are replacing some sales of high-end devices so you do get some customers moving down to that mid-tier so there is a definite market for these kinds of devices," Daniel Gleeson, senior consumer technology analyst at Ovum, told CNBC by phone.

The success so far of Apple's iPhone SE also means there is appetite for these smaller devices like the compact version of the Nova.

Huawei also used the IFA conference to launch an 8.4-inch tablet called the Mediapad M3, with enhanced audio features, aimed at people using the device for entertainment.

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