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  3. Interview with Huawei’s head of mobiles for Western Europe, Walter Ji

Interview with Huawei’s head of mobiles for Western Europe, Walter Ji

How has the P20 range been received in Western Europe?

When we launched the P20 and P20 Pro in Paris, it went down really well. In Western Europe, the product was out of stock within the first few weeks. This isn’t something we expected.

The innovation of the P20 and P20 Pro, especially the camera with the 5x zoom and low-light capabilities, has really excited the European market. And our partners and our consumers agree.

Has the improved camera tech in the P20 Pro led the larger, more expensive Pro model to outsell the standard P20 here in the UK?

The P20 Pro is performing a little better in the UK than the P20, with triple cameras and 5x zoom.

But, from an experience point of view, the products are not too different. But what consumers seem to love about the P20 Pro is improved camera and the Twilight colour.

In fact, this colour for the P20 Pro has been really popular. Right now, we’re out of stock of the Twilight colour. So consumers are crazy about the Twilight colour. It’s very special.

The reason why the P20 Pro is outselling the standard P20 is probably down to a combination of factors. The cameras are great as well in the P20. You still get the AI features and the fantastic low-light performance. But for sure, people are more attracted by the P20 Pro’s triple cameras.

The other reason is the Twilight colour is something special. So it’s definitely attracted more attention.

And after only four weeks of being on public sale, the P20 Pro has already overtaken last year’s P10 Plus.

So, the P20 has outsold last year’s P10 then?

Yes, it’s outsold its the P10 Plus by 316% to become the most successful device ever sold by Huawei in Western Europe.

Does this mean that Huawei is going to concentrate exclusively on premium handsets in future, or will it still continue to make mid-range phones, such as the P Smart?

If you look at the investment put into research and development, we’ve put more than $45 billion in 10 years. Even last year, we invested close to $10 billion. See, that’s a lot of money.

So we continue to invest in high technologies, innovation and also the good design that we can provide to our consumers. Which means we’re focused more on the premium segment.

But we will also provide smartphones at mid and entry levels.

How do you see that strategy aligning with Huawei’s sister brand Honor, which is known for creating great mid-range phones?

Honor is our internal brand. So it’s completely separate. They have their own brand stories and the product design language is different.

We think that the Huawei brand is more for the premium users who want the latest technologies, best design, best quality and best experience. For the Honor brand, we’re focused more on the young and the fashion-conscious consumers.

What consumer feedback have you had about the P20 range?

If we look at the feedback for either the media or the consumers, it’s been great.

The P20 has been on the market for almost two months now. People are crazy about the cameras. They struggle to believe that a smartphone can take a photo that’s this high quality and this artistic. The camera captures images that are even clearer than anything you can see with your naked eye. People are amazed by the quality in the smartphone in almost all scenarios.

The users are crazy about the design too. The blue one, the black one and the particularly Twilight colour are really attractive.

And the user experience is convenient and very easy to use. That’s something people appreciate.

Also, nowadays people are using their smartphone more and more, both at work and at home. So battery is very important. That’s why we’ve used the innovation of the P20 and P20 Pro regarding the super-fast charging system. And also the safety security system for the battery. That’s something consumers appreciate very much.

Huawei has used artificial intelligence so that the P20 can learn its user’s habits to help the battery last longer. Can you see AI becoming even further integrated into smartphone technology?

Yes, for sure. In fact, we were the first with an AI chipset last year in September. So now we have been doing much more applications for the AI chipset.

And for the P20 and P20 Pro, we have used AI in the camera, which means we can take photos and it understands the scenarios. It then adjusts the parameters according to the situation, whether it’s a dog or a flower or whatever to help you get the perfect photo. The camera can recognise the objectives for better photos.

Also the AI chipset understands the consumer’s behaviour and optimises the system to be more efficient. There are even more AI applications coming over the next few months for this generation, so it’s my conclusion that AI will change the smartphone dramatically.

And especially nowadays when people are more and more concerned about data privacy. So the device technologies that Huawei is promoting from last year are important because all the information is possessed on the device itself. It’s changed the cloud, which means that data privacy will be much more secured.

What’s been your marketing strategy in the UK?

The UK is a very important market for us. This year’s P20 and P20 Pro has already outsold the P10 and P10 Plus by 316%. So we will continue to collaborate with the local partners, such as EE, Carphone, and so on. It’s a very important channel for us to promote a product in the market.

We understand that in the UK, the consumers are demanding innovation from a premium brand. So that’s why we do our best to bring new innovation products to the market. It can be recognised by our partners and our consumers.

That’s why, if you look at the P20 Pro product this year, we received a lot of awards from most of the tech medias and lifestyle medias. And if you look at social media, such as YouTube or Facebook or whatever, the comments regarding the P20 Pro after one month’s usage, are very positive.

So that’s the way we need to continue to convince our partners, convince the media, and convince consumers that we’re a credible, innovative brand.

We also recognised that the best way to engage with consumers was to engage with their daily lives, engage with their culture. You remember our campaign for the P20 Pro? We talked about the new renaissance in photography. So that’s something that really inspires young people, who want to be more creative, who want high quality photos without paying for a professional camera, which would cost a lot more than a smartphone.

The P20 Pro really touched their hearts and inspired them to be new professionals with just a simple, easy-to-use smartphone. So a new renaissance campaign really appeals to young people in the UK, especially those who are artistic and work in a creative area.

What are Huawei’s goals for the next five years? Are you looking into smart-home devices and other electronics?

We want this brand to reach every person, every home, every organisation, to build more communication and connect the world.

So the consumer base for which I am in charge focuses mainly on smartphones at this stage. But our ambition is to bring this brand to every person, every home, every organisation to build a better, more intelligent, connected world.

For sure, we are going to build our technology and our innovation to expand our smart devices, not only for smartphones but also for smart homes and even more than that.

Whether it’s smartphones, appliances or even cars, we believe that in the coming future, everything will be connected. So that is the direction our research and development and our innovation is going in.

How do sales of the P20 in the UK compare with other regions of Europe?

As I mentioned, the UK consumers are much more demanding for innovation and rely much more on their brand.

Now, we’ve reached 30% market share in Spain and Italy. And last year in the UK we only had a few percent. And nowadays we might reach around 10% in May this year. So in terms of the situation in the UK, it’s behind the other big countries, like Italy, Spain, Germany and France.

But if you look at the growth in the UK market we achieved for the P20 and P20 Pro, we are seeing huge growth compared to the P10 and P10 Plus. So the UK is leading a little bit. And we’re happy for the recognition from the market.

Throughout June and July, we plan to do more campaigns and also bring P20 Twilight colour to the UK market in early June. So that will also be important for the brand, giving more choice for people who like the P20.

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