Huawei Gets a Grip on Smartphone Design

LAS VEGAS -- 2012 International CES 2012 -- While most smartphone vendors are playing up their software, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. 's first flagship phone for North America, the Ascend, is all about being the phone that feels the best in your hand.

It can also boast being the thinnest smartphone on the market -- for now, at least. At only 6.68mm thick, the Ascend beats out reigning champ, the 7.1mm Motorola Mobility LLC Droid RAZR. It also sports a super-AMOLED screen, a dual-core processor from Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s latest operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich. The Ascend will run on HSPA+ networks and supports global roaming.

At a press conference here introducing the Ascend, Huawei execs talked up its design elements. Richard Yu, chairman of Huawei Device, said the device's compactness is the result of new technology the company developed for molding and injection, as well as by using customized key components and a robust frame.

"The most important thing about the smartphone is the screen, so we celebrate it in a smart way with a never-ending screen," added Hagen Fendler, chief of handset design for Huawei Device. He said to expect the same look and feel in future Huawei smartphones.

The Ascend will begin launching in March in Europe, Asia-Pac, North America, Middle East and China. Yu said Huawei is talking to its carrier partners about a U.S. launch, and that it also has a number of Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphones planned for the 4G-friendly market.

Pricing for the Ascend hasn't been announced, but Yu said it will fall in the $400 range before operator subsidies. Why this matters
North America is a particularly important market for Huawei. It already has a number of prepaid handsets here, but launching a successful, high-end smartphone, and building brand awareness, will be crucial as the company competes against the likes of High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) and Samsung Corp.

The design specs of the Ascend, plus its inclusion of Ice Cream Sandwich, make it a solid first try. If it introduces an LTE version later this year, it stands a good chance of solidifying itself as a player in the States.

For more
Huawei has been working hard on being more than just a low-cost brand in the U.S. Read up on how.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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