More HarmonyOS-compatible devices coming to SA

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Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei says more devices powered by its HarmonyOS operating system (OS) will be released and will reach South Africa.

South African consumers have only been able to experience the features of the Chinese telecoms firm’s operating system through the Huawei Watch 3.

On Friday, Huawei SA hosted a media briefing to provide an update on Huawei Consumer Business Group (CBG) in SA and give details on the product offering in the local market.

Akhram Mohamed, CTO of Huawei CBG, said beyond 2021, the company plans to expand availability across its hardware ecosystem.

“We’ve been talking about Harmony [OS] for quite some time. Now that we’ve gotten the first Harmony device to reach South African shores, there will be more Harmony devices released in the future.

“As that happens, you expand the hardware ecosystem that will be complemented by the software ecosystem.

“If people don’t have Harmony devices, it’s difficult to experience its benefits. Once you get more devices coming out that are Harmony-compatible, the use cases and benefits will increase.”

In June, Huawei unveiled its first line of products that would be powered by HarmonyOS: the Huawei Watch 3 and Huawei MatePad Pro tablet.

When Huawei unveiled HarmonyOS in 2019, it said it would be used on devices targeting the Chinese market, adding the OS will first be used for smart devices like smartwatches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems and smart speakers.

Mohamed indicated Huawei Watch 3 comes equipped with Celia, Huawei’s artificial intelligence voice assistant, which is a function of HarmonyOS.

Unfazed by competitors

Despite the influx of more competition in SA’s smartphone market, Mohamed revealed Huawei is confident in the consumer base it’s established over the years.

Over the last two years or so, more Chinese smartphone brands have made their devices available locally. Taiwanese consumer electronics and smartphone manufacturer HTC also alluded to plans to re-enter the South African market.

Noting the mounting competition, the Huawei CTO said the smartphone maker has established itself as a tier one, premium brand.

He explained: “We moved and we started focusing on mid- to high-end. This is the range above $400. Huawei is still in the top two in the country.

“I think it will be very unfair to look at holistic market share in terms of volume because we don’t even play in the sub-$200 price point. And we know these are the volume drivers and this is what drives total market share in the country. Our concentration is to bring in products that are going to be offering quality in terms of build but also user experience.

“Overall in SA, compared to our counterparts and the rest of the world, we are doing exceptionally well, and I think this is testament to the brand value we have established locally. Consumers still trust the Huawei brand. If not, we would not be selling out on our PCs and other devices as much as we are doing.

“We are very confident that throughout all the challenges that we’ve experienced, we are still doing well from a brand reputation [point of view].”

Huawei Consumer Business Group SA CTO Akhram Mohamed.
Huawei Consumer Business Group SA CTO Akhram Mohamed.

Mohamed noted there are a couple of areas Huawei is focusing on for 2021 and beyond, including software enhancement and improvement.

“Globally, we’ve also put a big focus on self-driving vehicles, automation, in-car entertainment systems and telematics and so forth. We’ve focused on consumer products, but now we will be taking that innovation and transferring it to the enterprise.”

Hitting the sweet spot

Commenting on the latest smartphone offering − the nova series − Mohamed noted Huawei has established its P series of smartphones as its photography flagship.

For the nova series, the company is creating this as a segment on its own; just like how it has for the P series and Mate series. “The reason for this is that...the demand of people working and playing from home has driven up the demand for consumer electronic devices. At the same time, the pricing is very important.

“Nova is going to be established as the lifestyle offering. This doesn’t mean the others don’t complement your lifestyle, but it’s more than just a communications device and has been extended to be about fashion, entertainment and pricing.

“Because of the economic pricing we find ourselves in, everybody would love to have the best out there but not everybody would want to pay as much as you would for other devices. At the same time, as a business, you can’t take every flagship and cut down prices, it’s just not financially viable.

“What you can do is bring certain aspects of the flagship experience, functionalities and technologies…into the nova series.”

From a wearables perspective, Huawei has the number one brand awareness in the country right now. Additionally, it is in the top two in terms of market share, according to Mohamed.

“In a short space of time…that is phenomenal. What we have found through our research is that there are a couple of drivers for this – one being that Huawei has great products – we are bringing in more products into the market across different price bands.”

In addition, the demand increased substantially over lockdown, he stated. “With people being at home, they aren’t able to go to the gym, and want to be able to exercise but also track and monitor that.

“When you become more aware of health and fitness in your general lifestyle, you want complementary devices to help you do that. When that happens, demand peaks but also there is another demand where the pricing needs to be right – the devices need to be affordable.

“The introduction of devices like the Huawei Watch Fit,GT2E and Band 6 – all of these have contributed to the increase in demand because they came in at that sweet spot that consumers were demanding.”

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