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As I write this, I am at the pool of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Bali. I’m telling you this not just to rub it in (although there is of course a degree of that) but it’s really to emphasize the hospitality shown to me by my new friend in the Telco market, Huawei. Who? You may ask and up until fairly recently I would have been right beside you. You see Huawei are a telecommunications equipment company that burst onto the mobile phone market in 2009. A brave move some would say; since it’s a market that had globally already become a wasteland for some major mobile phone brands and a market that had essentially become dominated by two leading names. But on the flip side it also seems like an obvious choice for a globally leading ICT (information communication technology) solutions provider to launch devices that work on their (and other peoples) systems. Anyway, launch they did and to a very respectable level. But with the amount of ‘noise’ and chatter out there from the market leaders, the Huawei story has somewhat passed us by, I guess that’s why we found ourselves in Bali.

Huawei felt it was time to start giving us information about their success to date and more importantly their vision of the future, so with that in mind they invited 800 people from 8 South Pacific countries to join their conference and share in their story.

The conference took place in the Nusa Dua conference center and it was an all singing/all dancing affair. It seems that their original stance was to produce a phone that was functional and yet very price conscious. Their marketing revolved around the core aspects of the mobile phone use and its functionality plus it was aggressively positioned to target the less than financially flush audience. Although the name they chose for the phone was open to misinterpretation (IDEOS) they let the device itself do the talking and the critics rated it well.

With speeches and facts and figures all out of the way, it was time for the big reveal, the new P9. To help ease us into the new device a seemingly endless flow of models paraded along the stage – making it more of a fashion show than an introduction to a new smartphone – but it all became clear with the help of another brand’s logo and the P9 co-engineer – Leica!

With over a century of experience in the high end professional camera business, Leica is one of ‘THE’ brands when it comes to photography. Through a very strategic and tight knit partnership, Huawei have poured all this optical know-how into their new P9. They are quick to tell you that this is not just a badge share scheme, this is a true relationship where the Leica engineers have worked in conjunction with Huawei to put professional grade imaging into the hands of smartphone users. I won’t bore you with the tech speak here but the dual lens approach offers up some magical (and easy to use) photos that you’d be hard pushed not to think they came from a very expensive DSLR. The reason Huawei have invested so much on reinventing smartphone photography is hardly happenstance, extensive research has uncovered that in 2015 us humans (and apparently a few animals) took over 1 trillion pictures and it is estimated that around 80% of these will be taken on a smartphone!

Having a leading edge professional camera on your phone is one thing but it takes more than that to win over a mature (and loyal) smartphone audience. So Huawei have made their phone a looker too (something they have accentuated in their marketing by having Scarlett Johansson and Henry Cavill as ambassadors). The P9’s unibody is virtually bezel-less with its 5.2″ screen going nigh on edge to edge. It’s slim; a shade under 7mm and the camera lenses are flush – this will probably mean a lot to you depending on what device you currently have.

We were invited to experience the new phones for ourselves and around the back of the stage they had set up a display suite complete with a ‘models behind the scenes’ photo op. The P9’s feel very comfortable in your hand, the apps and functions are intuitive and as for the camera, I barely touch the surface of what they are capable of (even in monochrome), you really need to try it for yourself.

Huawei had also taken the opportunity to give us a glimpse of the rest of the devices they have on offer, namely wearables and notebooks – all in all it’s a smart looking family.

During the presentation, Huawei delivered their strong company ethos. Focus, perseverance and breakthrough. Their ambition is to be a consumer loved brand, increase win-win relationships and to gain a market share well into double digits territory. In terms of focus, Huawei have set out to ‘listen’ to what their customers and the market itself ‘we listen to understand’ Is how they phrase it – which is refreshing in a telco world that is keener to show and tell. It would appear that they are already putting their money where their mouths are in the perseverance department, having invested $37billion in R&D over the past 10 years and are a leading patent filer within the industry.

Their ‘breakthroughs’ seem to be continual and ever evolving. In terms of their devices, the phones are getting smarter, lasting longer and are more and more stylish. Their wearable tech is chic and immersing and their notebooks are impressive. But it doesn’t seem to stop there. Customer care is something they are taking very seriously with 1-2 year screen replacement and a ‘no blame’ attitude plus their win-win philosophy summed up by ‘our partners health is more important than revenue’ – Which in turn brings us Back to the hospitality

With the work all wrapped up, it was time to let our hair down and bathe in this challenger brands accomplishment. We were going to be taken to a secret location for an unforgettable gala night experience and told to dress to impress. With the latter in mind, Huawei had taken the liberty of thinking for us and sent each of us a sarong (which I have to say is a very complicated piece of clothing for a guy to wear).

Under cover of darkness we were all coached up to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana cultural park (GWK) which was all lit up by candlelight. Its vast stone staircase was covered in red carpet with Balinese musicians and dancers dressed in traditional costume lining each side of the route. To the sound of native drumbeat, we hitched up our skirts and climbed the stairs (that sounds weirder than it actually felt). The gala was set in the lotus pond area of the park, a huge flat space surrounded by flattened rock face and overlooked by a Garuda.

Our night of entertainment commenced with a traditional dance with a modern flair beat and then came a heartfelt speech of gratitude from …. This was followed by Kecak dancers, fan dancers and then fire dancers – needless to say; there was a whole lot of dancing going on. Finally a concert from soul singer Evelyn Feroza (flown in from Malaysia) took us through to the gala’s end.  All the while; Fine food (in four courses) was delivered to our tables, oh and wine, lots of it, evoking toasts and plenty of smiles all round.

The night was fun and action packed and as stated on the brochure, truly unforgettable, it was a great rounding off to a seriously impressive conference. Oh and a perfect place to get our P9 phones out and capture every moment!

So Huawei, who are they? As I sit here by the poolside reveling in the afterglow of a fabulous convention, they are a mobile tech company that develop easy to use and relevant smartphones, have a strong vision for the future and more than take care of their partners. They really are ‘the new choice’ in smartphones.

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