You won't find Huawei's latest phone in the carrier stores. The Chinese smartphone maker made that crystal clear once more with the unveiling of its latest phone for the US market, the Huawei P8 Lite, at a press event in New York City.
Only available unlocked, or free of carrier contract, this 5-inch handset running Android 4.4 KitKat goes for just $249 (about £162, AU$320). And to buy one, you'll have to go through Amazon or Huawei's own online store, as of this writing.
"Customers should not pay for sponsorships," Huawei USA president Zhhiquang Xu said boldly on stage, referring to the bloatware found on most carrier-sold smartphones, "they should pay for the product. That's it."
This approach to drumming up your business isn't new, not even for Huawei. Most of Huawei's phones in the US have not launched through carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint. (Verizon has a Huawei handset in its lineup, the budget-priced SnapTo.)
Of course, Huawei isn't without rivals in this game. Alcatel OneTouch recently launched its Idol 3, a $249 mid range not unlike the P8 Lite, unlocked in the US. The biggest player in this game is Lenovo's own Motorola, with its Moto E Android phone going for just $119 (£109, about AU$153) unlocked to start.
So, how does it stack up?
The P8 Lite is, frankly, a mid range version of the company's recent flagship Huawei P8 release, if the name didn't give it away. However, the phone offers features not found in even some luxury smartphones, like dual SIM card support (both LTE), a 32GB microSD card slot and an octa-core processor – Qualcomm's 1.5GHz Snapdragon 615, if you're keeping score.
There's one small problem: with 16GB of on-board storage, you might want that microSD slot down the line, which happens to double as the phone's second SIM slot. Regardless, most other phones don't even offer the dual SIM feature.
Rounding out the P8 Lite's internal specs are 2GB of RAM and a 2,200mAh battery that's claimed to power up to 11 hours of talk time. All of this rests behind a 5-inch, 720 x 1,280 touchscreen – again, mid range. In the camera department, you're looking at 5 megapixels up front and 13MP around back with an LED flash.
The P8 Lite's frame measures 7.6mm thin and weighs just 4.6 ounces (130g). Alcatel's Idol 3 packs much of the same internals behind a 5.5-inch, 1080p IPS screen and within a 7.4mm frame, so Huawei's already got a fight on its hands.
You can pick up a Huawei P8 Lite for $249 from Amazon or Huawei's own online store starting today in the US. Other retailers – including Best Buy, Target and others – will sell the phone at a later date.
During the presentation, Huawei made no mention of availability or pricing outside of the US. We've reached out for comment and will update as soon as we hear back.
The TalkBand B2 and some big talk
Huawei also announced that its new fitness tracker-meets-Bluetooth headset shown off at MWC 2015, the TalkBand B2, will hit Amazon and Fry's Electronics in the US next week for $179. (Last we heard, the UK and other regions will see this little gadget sometime in September.) The firm also detailed a partnership with Jawbone in which the B2 can sync with the fitness band maker's UP Smart Coach service to turn the data it collects into actionable fitness advice.
"I think the best way to build the Huawei brand is to put more product onto the market," Xu remarked. "My mission is to build a top-tier consumer brand, and within five years to become a top three player in the smartphone market."
Xu went on to note that these mid range products are just the beginning, and that Huawei plans on competing in the flagship space in the US, too. Doing any of that without the mighty reach of the carriers will be no small task.
- Check out Google's answer to the carriers: Project Fi