Huawei spinoff Honor’s big plans for South Africa

The premium-tier Honor 50 smartphone is being launched in South Africa next month

Honor, the smartphone brand spun off from Huawei Technologies, has revealed ambitious plans for the South African market, with two new smartphones – one of them a high-end device – to be launched here in the coming weeks.

Kelvin Cao, a former Huawei executive who has been appointed as CEO of Honor Africa, said in an interview with TechCentral on Friday that the company is eyeing rapid market share growth in South Africa, and is hoping to fill some of the void left by Huawei, which no longer has access to Google Mobile Services – the suite of Google apps for Android – due to US sanctions.

Honor has no such restrictions on it, meaning it has full access to key chipsets from companies like Qualcomm and can offer Google Mobile Services on its Android-powered handsets.

Honor, Cao said, will open three retail stores in South Africa next year, one in Johannesburg, one in Cape Town and one in Durban, as it gears up to capture market share. These stores will have a focus not only on sales, but also on providing after-sales service to clients. He said Honor is working to make customer service a key part of the brand’s selling proposition in South Africa.

Honor, which was previously the budget, youth-orientated smartphone brand inside Huawei, was sold to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, a state-owned company controlled by the Shenzhen municipal government, in November 2020. This was done to save the brand after the US, under former President Donald Trump, imposed crippling sanctions on Huawei and its subsidiaries. The Biden administration has kept those restrictions in place, which has crimped Huawei’s ability to source equipment, chips and other hardware, and forced Google to stop supplying it with its apps for Android, including Search and Maps and the Play store.

Now a rival

The lack of Google services isn’t a problem in China, where Google doesn’t operate, but it’s had a severe impact on Huawei’s sales in the rest of the world.

Cao said Honor, although being birthed inside Huawei, is now a competitor to its former parent and will compete with it head-on for market share.

To grow market share in South Africa, Honor will focus on marketing and PR, while also forging relationships with the mobile operators. It also plans to target the enterprise business market, Cao said.

The Honor operation in South Africa serves as one of three “hubs” for the Africa and the Middle East region, Cao added. The other two hubs are in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. The South African market will look after key African markets, including Nigeria.

South Africa, Cao said, is one of 10 priority markets for Honor around the world. It is investing directly in the country rather than working through a distributor, as some other Chinese smartphones brands have done in the past, he said.

The company will launch two smartphones in South Africa in November, the high-end Honor 50 and the mid-tier Honor 50 Lite. The Honor 50 has high-end specs, including a 120Hz OLED screen, bokeh, wide-angle and macro camera sensors and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor.

More products will follow later, but Cao said Honor doesn’t want to flood the market immediately. Rather, it will focus on these two devices and getting consumers familiar with them first. The smartphones will be available through Vodacom, MTN and Telkom from November.  – © 2021 NewsCentral Media