A few years ago, few people had heard of Honor but today, the Chinese brand is well-known among young people (and not only, it's propagating popularity further afield too) and is proving to be a valiant competitor in the smartphone market against other major manufacturers. The Honor 9 shows the evolution of the brand since its humble beginnings so we decided to have a chat with Honor CEO George Zhao to ask him about what strategy Honor is following and what the future holds for Honor.
From Honor 6 to Honor 9: an obvious evolution
In 2014, Honor presented the Honor 6. If in the past, the Honor name was in any way associated with a negative connotation, things have changed a fair bit for the brand as it can now stand tall next to LG, Samsung, Apple and obviously Huawei.
You can tell the Honor 9 has inherited some genes from its beloved predecessor, the Honor 8, but it also introduces some visible innovations like the 3D curve glass body, the fingerprint scanner on the front panel and the Glacier Gray color, which joins a renewed Sapphire Blue variant.
To create a smartphone like the Honor 9, Honor also had to rely on others partners, including Monster and Huawei
As George Zhao said in our interview, the Honor 9 is seeking to attract a younger audience with its new look but it also hopes to entice them with an optimized dual camera with 2x zoom, and an improved sound system through a collaboration with Monster. The price tag of $495 makes this smartphone even more interesting in the eyes of the younger generation and those who are youthful at hear because, as specified by Zhao at the launch event of the new device, the brand also caters for both.
Answering to the needs of users is Honor's goal. One aspect users have asked for is the best multimedia experience - so to achieve this, Honor chose to work with Rezo, a German musician and YouTuber who used the Honor 6 to film his videos. To create a smartphone like the Honor 9, and therefore to satisfy users involved in music production, photos and video and gaming experience, Honor also had to rely on others partners, including Monster and Huawei. And these two names being involved makes everything clear...
The relationship between Huawei and Honor
Several hardware components on the Honor 9 come directly from the Huawei P10, which was launched at the MWC in Barcelona in 2017. If you look at the technical specifications of the two devices, the processor, internal RAM, battery and camera are the same. Honor, for that reason, has entered the smartphone market under Huawei's wing but concentrated on selling online. And in China, as pointed out George Zhao, Honor is now ahead of Huawei in online sales.
Honor also began selling its products in physical stores and independently manages and makes decisions on production and the technologies that will be used in its products. Nevertheless, for some technologies it must still rely on Huawei's in-house team. From what George Zhao said, it seems that Honor wants to break away more and more from its parent company, Huawei, to build its identity though without renouncing Huawei's contribution in the production phase of its smartphones.
A strategy that is reminiscent of Apple?
It might seem to be a risky statement, and perhaps it is. But there are some elements that have led us to make this leap. For the launch of the Honor 9, the Chinese brand made the link to follow the live stream event available. This was a move that was taken from Apple and its products, which has now also been adopted by other brands including OnePlus.
Does Honor's partnership with Monster in the audio industry not remind you of Apple and Beats? The man who is CEO of Monster Inc, Noel Lee, appointed the purchase of Beats Electronics by Apple in 2014 for $3 billion. Whether the collaborations with Monster and Beats, which are two well-known brands among young people and among lovers of music, can improve the sound offerings of these smartphones and capture the attention of young users remains to be seen. Even the target audience of the two brands aren't as different as it might seem at first glance.
In May, Huawei unveiled the new MateBook line (X, E and D) in Berlin, Germany. The device came equipped with Windows 10. For years, Apple's Air and MacBook Pro series were the landmarks in this field but now Huawei, with Microsoft at its side, could become a new threat to Apple. The Chinese brand was inspired by its rival and now, in addition to its smartphone products, will try to add devices to its portfolio in order to broaden its ecosystem.
Huawei is not Honor but, as mentioned above, the two work together and if you take a step back and look at the big picture, the overall long-term strategy seems to be similar to that of Apple, a model from which so many are inspired.
What is Honor planning for the future?
We asked George Zhao for a few details on the long-term strategy of Honor. In terms of artificial intelligence, the Honor Magic was the first smartphone to implement artificial intelligence technology. This concept has allowed the brand to try out a new business model but to make it effective on some level, it must work with other partners who are present in the industry. Zhao would not confirm the arrival of an Honor Magic 2 but the brand seems open to collaboration to work in AI.
Europe, Russia, India, Japan, the United States and some Middle Eastern countries are the markets where the brand prefers to focus at the moment
On the topic of smartphones, Honor will continue to work on its successful products and George Zhao confirmed the arrival of the Honor 9 Pro next year. Although smartphones are not the only devices on which the brand is focusing (the launch of Honor Band 3 and headphones dedicated to sport, for example), Smart home is not a priority for Honor. The spirit of Honor is the young at heart and only if they require this type of device, will the brand try to meet their demands but for now, TVs and similar products are not part of the plans for Zhao and his team.
The markets that Honor has decided to dive into for now don't include Latin America. Europe, Russia, India, Japan, the United States and some Middle Eastern countries are the markets where the brand prefers to focus for the time being, to ensure a good service to its users.
It's just the beginning for the Honor 9
Honor, through the Honor 9, has wanted to mark its presence in the market. Like LG, Samsung, Apple and Huawei, Honor is playing its hand in the field and is always trying to better define its identity. To do so, it has optimized the design and features of its smartphone with help from those who have more technology and industry expertise than Honor itself.
The Honor 9 will be a success and I think it will continue to focus not on itself but rather on its users, by listening to them and leveraging the technologies available to it without looking too much to Apple and Samsung.