We got to sit down with James Zou, Head of Honor Sales and Services Department Overseas, to talk about how Honor is growing in the Middle East market, and the company’s entry into the gaming industry.
Here’s what he had to say.
Can you give us a brief history of Honor as a brand?
As an independent brand from Huawei Group, we started initially from the Chinese market and we did very well because of the online business model. It’s quite a different business model from the previous years, including Huawei. We approached the market in a different way, and went with a light and quiet business model. It’s running very well on the e-commerce side and we are currently the number one e-commerce smartphone brand in China. Bear in mind that we observed global market in e-commerce and tested in various countries including Asia and India, which is booming as well. [Results] in the European market and Middle East are also quite amazing. So we see this kind of potential with Honor brand, but that is mainly from the business model point of view.
As an independent brand, let’s say, we are different from Huawei and we want to be more energetic, younger and as we say, “For the Brave”. It’s a kind of different brand positioning.
Honor is known as a budget brand – any plans of going premium?
That depends on how you define a premium brand. For sure from the brand image point of view, we also position ourselves as a premium brand and have different models for the high price band, if we say high price phones. We have the P series, which is in the high price band. In the other price band, our plans are also to launch the premium designs, but also [bring a] cost-effective product to the market.
What made you enter the gaming industry with the Honor Play?
From our observation of the market, gaming had become more popular on the smartphone. Even games such as Fortnite, which is very popular in both kids and students. When my kid plays Fortnite with his classmate, he turns off the Wi-Fi and used the 4G because of the latency. He wanted to kill the others and but sometimes because of the latency from the Wi-Fi, by 2, 5 or 10 milliseconds, you will be killed by others. Some of the pros, they use the best 4G network because we tested in most of the network, where the Wi-Fi latency is around 50 millisecond even 100 millisecond, which is pretty good. The 4G network, I dont know how much it is in Dubai, but in most scenarios, a good LTE 4G network offers you a 20 millisecond. Thats the reason some people choose the LTE network for play Fortnite.
From our point of view, more people use the mobile phone to play different kind of games. Latency and speed of the network is a pretty important criteria, when people choose what kind of device to play the game. That is one of the major point. The smartphone wireless network became an important [factor] in the gaming.
What challenges did you face while making a gaming-centric phone?
One of the challenges we faced was the smooth gaming experience in the smartphone. GPU became more important, battery had to become very long lasting and those kind of things, if we talked a few years ago, were not feasible. But now because of the chipset, battery, power consumption, management, all this are more and more ready. So this moment, Honor launched the Play based on all these reasons. We talk about network latency, battery and CPU, which is a Kirin 970 plus GPU Turbo. All this kind of things makes the experience when you play with your smartphone. Personally I call it a Nintendo Switch experience. Even though we are not there yet to compare ourselves to a professional gaming console, that’s our target. I strongly believe that in a very short time the smartphone gaming experience will reach the levels of Nintendo.
Some felt the GPU Turbo was ahead of its time. Do you agree?
Yeah, the Play as a series or a portfolio has become a very important product. Even though you say it is a little bit earlier, honestly it depends on what kind of gaming experience you are expecting. Some of the people say 35-40fps is more than enough, in most of gaming that is enough. And while some of the pros [feel] they need to stay at 50-60fps, that’s where the GPU Turbo is a must. Lets take Fortnite, which I think is also popular here. Some of the kids who play Fortnite in school, use an iPad even though their teacher says “No more games in the iPad.” But when they play after school, they cannot stay with 30fps on the iPad because the experience is not good. Some of them switch to the Nintendo, they switch to the PS4 because they want to get the 60fps. Once you stay with 60fps, you can never go back. If you only play on normal smartphone, then it’s fine, because best experience is 30fps.
Its like the 4K or 8K TV, once you stay with the 4K TV you never switch back to the normal TV. Once you really experience the 60fps gaming, you can never go back.
What are your plans for the Middle East market?
From the marker point of few, even for me this time, I can visit Dubai to understand the market and [when] my team here talk about this market we see this huge opportunity. In the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries we see huge opportunities and people are really demanding high-tech, good-quality products. My background is from Italy, where I was the general manager for a few years and we see some of those things happen in Europe and the UK. For instance in Italy we got around 30 per cent market share and if I could consider Huawei and Honor, it is more than 30 per cent and some of the companies are losing market share due to a lack of innovation and small kinds of things such as super-fast charging and the GPU Turbo, the first one to talk about dual cameras. We were the first ones to launch that kind of technology, but we are also the first one to introduce the full screen to the middle range of price band. All these kinds of things help us to bring exciting stuff to the smartphone. This helps the company gain more share in the European market. That will also be happening in the Gulf region.
People are expecting a new brand that is able to bring exciting stuff to their smartphones so we have a quite high expectation in this market. I spoke to my team and we are expecting some countries that by the end of this year as Honor brand able to break through 10 per cent market share.