This company wants to take down Apple, Samsung: 'We never hide our ambition'

Visitors crowd the Huawei stand at the 2016 CeBIT digital technology trade fair on the fair's opening day.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images

Apple is about to face its biggest challenge yet: Its most formidable Chinese rival, Huawei, just launched a high-end phone in the U.S. on Thursday.

The Huawei Mate 9 will be available in the U.S. through Best Buy and Amazon on Friday for $599.99, according to Richard Yu, the director and CEO of Huawei's consumer business group.

The world's No. 3 smartphone maker by volume hopes to become No. 2 within one or two years, Yu said — that means knocking down Apple or Samsung.

"We never hide our ambition," Yu said at a speech at technology trade show CES in Las Vegas, adding: "We have a vision to make the world's best smartphone."

Huawei shipped 33.6 million smartphones worldwide in the third calendar quarter, according to IDC estimates, behind Apple's 45.5 million and Samsung's 72.5 million. Now, the company will be infiltrating Apple's biggest market, American smartphones.

Yu took aim at Apple several times during his speech, noting the cheaper Mate 9 is thinner than the iPhone 7, has a longer battery life and faster charging. Huawei was also the first phone to sport dual cameras, like the iPhone 7's, Yu said.

The Mate 9 also has help from Apple's rivals, with integration of Google's virtual reality platform, DayDream, and Amazon's artificially intelligent assistant, Alexa.

"'Genius' is no longer in the domain of a chosen few," the Mate 9's promotional video said, showing a picture of a lightbulb. Apple, of course, is known for its Genius Bar and recently introduced an ad featuring bursting lightbulbs.

Of course, there are big shoes to fill. Both Apple and Samsung are expected to put enormous effort into their next generation handsets. For Apple, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone could be a a chance to revive sluggish sales growth; for Samsung, its a chance to recover from its recall of the Galaxy Note 7.

Still, executives from Google and Amazon both told the audience there is even more to come in partnership with Huawei, including a Google augmented reality feature and more Alexa features.

Huawei is also aiming to be the world's biggest spender in research and development, Yu said, and has poured resources into its own chips, machine learning and artificial intelligence, to conserve power and keep the Android platform from slowing down over time.

After being a relatively obscure employee-owned telecom provider a few years ago, Huawei's worldwide sales grew 23 percent in the third calendar quarter, a period where Apple and Samsung saw sales fall, IDC estimates. Yu is part of the reason why.

"Our company is a different management style than other companies," Yu said. "We call it collective wisdom. We are not only diligent…we are also flexible."

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