Honor president for India Charles Peng at the launch of the Honor 9X. (Image source: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)
In 2020, Honor, Huawei’s sub-brand, wants to go beyond smartphones in the Indian market. “We plan to bring more IoT devices to India. Laptops and Smart displays will definitely be coming as well,” Charles Peng, Honor India president told indianexpress.com on the sidelines of the Honor 9X launch Tuesday.
For Honor and parent company Huawei, 2019 was a rough year given the sanctions imposed by the US government. The sanctions put a big question mark over the future of Android on its phones and even Windows on its laptops given US companies were not allowed to trade with Huawei. Currently, Huawei and Honor have a six month extension, where they are still allowed to continue licensing deals with US companies.
But in India, Honor is not too keen to comment on this on-going issue. When pressed about whether the issue with US, impacted their product lineup for 2019, Peng said, “I can't talk about policy, but what I can share is that our product today is launching with Google’s Android OS.” But Honor was to sure emphasise at launch that the phone comes with Google’s apps preloaded on the device, and that it was on Android 9, and would be upgradeable to Android 10. Regarding updates, Honor has said that the new products are only launched, once they were sure of updates, and had the go-ahead from all teams.
Still, the company did not specify a date or timeline for these updates. In India, the presence of Android is crucial given the OS dominates the market, unlike China, where Google Play services are not accessible.
On laptops and Smart TVs, Honor has indicated that the products will be made available by the first quarter or early second quarter. But which is coming first?
On laptops and Smart TVs, Honor has indicated that the products will be made available by the first quarter or early second quarter. (Image source: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)
“There are two separate teams working on bringing the laptop and the smart displays to India. We will see which one is ready to launch first,” Peng said, adding that for Honor it was crucial to understand different segments in India, which is why they were expanding beyond phones.
Last October, the Honor Smart Vision display in 55-inches was announced for India and the company said it would bring the product to the market by the first quarter of 2020. This is a 4K HDR display, powered by Huawei’s own processor and comes with an AI-powered pop-up camera. In the laptop segment, Honor has its MagicBook, which is powered by Intel’s processors and AMD processors and the brand had earlier indicated it will bring both variants to the market. These are already being sold in Europe and China.
All the details on Honor 9X, Honor Magic Watch 2 and Honor Band 5i. Read more here.
Honor executives indicated that with these new products it will have to rely on importing them to the Indian market first, before it can start manufacturing them in the country. But it does not wish to price the laptop too high either, though this won’t be an affordable device either. In China, the MagicBook is available in both Intel and AMD Ryzen chipset variants. The Intel variants are much more expensive starting at Yuan 4899, which is nearly Rs 50,000 on conversion.
But Honor won’t be the only brand that plans to expand beyond smartphones in India. This is a strategy that many other smartphone brands are also adopting in the market. OnePlus, Moto and even Nokia have launched TVs.
Realme has big plans on this front as well, including a smart TV and fitness tracker. One player which has been pretty successful with this is Xiaomi, which has managed to capture the smartphone market (27 per cent share in Q3, 2019) and the smart TV market (33 per cent share in Q3, 2019) in India, according to numbers from research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).
Honor 9X has a triple 48MP camera and a pop-up selfie camera as the USP with a price point of under Rs 17,000. (Image source: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)
The Honor 9X: A bit late to India?
The timing of Honor 9X’s launch does raise some questions given that the specifications it supports were already being offered by rivals like Xiaomi, Realme, Samsung and others for most of 2019.
The Honor 9X has a triple 48MP camera and a pop-up selfie camera as the USP with a price point of under Rs 17,000. But for Indian consumers these specifications are not new. Peng admitted that at times it might appear that they were late in the market, but the focus in 2020 was going to be on providing quality products.
But for Honor and Huawei, the India smartphone market has not really seen success. The last time the brand was among the top five was back in the second quarter of 2018, according to Counterpoint’s numbers with a three per cent market share. Since then it has never come in the top-five position, despite having products across every price point.
5G products in India?
And what about flagship phones such as the Honor View 30, which has so far been limited to China? Its appearance would boil down to 5G networks in India, which will likely take a long time, given even the spectrum auction has not yet started in India
“The View 30 Series is a 5G device. If in India, the 5G network is not available, will Indian consumers buy a 5G device,” Peng asks, adding that this is a decision that will require some more time and thinking from the company.
More 5G devices are expected to roll out in many parts of the world this year from all big brands, but the one issue will be the added cost, given the newer 5G-ready chipsets and modems are expensive. And this is also an issue that Honor is grappling with. “We have to know that India 5G network is going to be available before we bring flagship devices. Right now, if we bring a 5G device, the consumer will pay more for what they won’t necessarily be using,” he points out.