A man walks past a Huawei company logo outside the Huawei office in Wuhan, China. Picture: REUTERS
A man walks past a Huawei company logo outside the Huawei office in Wuhan, China. Picture: REUTERS

Paris/London — Huawei, the world’s No3 smartphone maker, is expected to use the launch of a new flagship phone in Paris on Tuesday to make fresh gains in Europe, a region where it has made strides against rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple.

With camera-rich features and starting prices that analysts expect to be aggressive, the P20 series represents Huawei’s new attempt to compete with Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X in the increasingly look-alike market for smartphones.

The P20 premium version, P20 Pro, comes with a triple camera and sensors that offer top-notch image definition among existing smartphones, Huawei said, in a clear response to camera upgrades for the Galaxy S9 unveiled in Barcelona in February.

The region is a lynchpin of the Chinese company’s ambition to become the world’s No2 phone supplier. Europe has been insulated from some of the intense competitive pressures Huawei faces from domestic rivals in its home market.

"The challenge for Huawei is to strengthen its brand personality and to steal more market share in Europe, given its absence from the US market," said Thomas Husson, a consumer devices analyst at research firm Forrester.

European smartphone markets 

"In this regard, the choice of Paris to launch a new flagship smartphone is quite new and interesting," he said.

Shipments to Europe grew more than 50% in the first half of 2017, Huawei has said. In two big smartphone markets — Italy and Spain — Huawei now ships more phones than Samsung or Apple, according to market research firm Counterpoint.

Huawei commanded 23% of the Italian market in the fourth quarter, for example.

Across western Europe Huawei’s market share has risen in recent years to 12%, Counterpoint Research estimates. Its weakest European markets are Britain, with a 5% share, and France, where it ships 6% of the smartphones sold there.

Still, it has begun to face more competition in Europe from resurgent Nokia phones, run by HMD Global, and Chinese rival Xiaomi, Counterpoint analyst Peter Richardson said.

The market gains in Europe have helped Huawei offset its exclusion from the world’s most profitable market for phone sellers, the US.

Targeting Huawei, the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission said last week it planned to take "proactive steps" to ensure the integrity of the country’s communications supply chain.