February 23, 2014, 12:53 PM — Unveiling the Ascend G6 4G smartphone, the MediaPad X1 hybrid "phablet" and the MediaPad M1 tablet Sunday, Huawei took a big step toward proving that it should be a force to be reckoned with in mobile-device design.
U.S. consumers will have to wait a while before they get their hands on the latest and greatest Huawei devices, though. The company is mainly aiming at global markets outside of the U.S. and Canada, where the China-based company has made just a few inroads so far.
Huawei's innovative spirit was perhaps best exhibited by the MediaPad X1, dubbed a "crossover" device by CEO of Huawei Technologies Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, at a company event in Barcelona a day before the start of Mobile World Congress.
The MediaPad X1 combines smartphone and tablet features in an aluminum alloy body, with specs that put it into what market analysts have called the "phablet" product category. Its 7-inch, 1200 x 1920 pixel touch display features an unusual 80 percent screen-to-body ratio. It's 7.18mm thick and weighs in at only 239 grams.
The MediaPad X1 is powered by a 1.6GHz quad-core processor and runs on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. It sports a 5000 mAh battery that provides 21 days of standby time -- over five full days of continuous use. It offers reverse charging, letting users power other devices from the X1. A SIM card slot provides 4G LTE data connectivity and lets the device function as a phone.
The X1 also features a 13-megapixel Sony rear-facing camera and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera with Huawei's proprietary self-focus tips, preview screen, 10-level auto-facial enhancement and voice-activated, hands-free capture.
The MediaPad X will be available in China, Russia, western Europe, the Middle East, Japan and Latin America starting next month. It's priced at €399 (US$548).
Huawei started to transform itself from a contract device manufacturer into a maker of its own products two years ago, noted Colin Giles, executive vice president of the company's Consumer Business Group. Instilling a "culture of innovaton" in the company, Huawei ended up selling 95 percent of the devices that it made in 2013 under its own brand, Giles said at the Barcelona event.
"To keep up with the pace of change in the world around us the industry needs to transform itself; it's kind of like the situation of transform or die," Giles said.
Giles announced that the company will sell only smartphones from now on.
Though Huawei has managed to edge out other tier-two smartphone makers, it still is a distant third place behind Samsung and Apple. In 2013 Samsung had 31.3 percent of the smartphone market, compared to Apple at 15.3 percent, Huawei at 4.9 percent, LG at 4.8 percent, and Lenovo at 4.5 percent, according to IDC.