* Huawei's Ascend P7 billed as world's slimmest phone
* Company hopes to rival Samsung's Galaxy S5, Apple's iPhone
* Aims to sell 10 million phones by early next year
By Leila Abboud
PARIS, May 7 China's Huawei Technologies
launched its second flagship smartphone, the Ascend P7,
on Wednesday as part of its effort to crack the upper tier of
the mobile market where Apple and Samsung
The mobile - billed as the world's slimmest phone at 6.5 mm
thick - will go on sale in 31 markets, including Britain,
Germany and China, starting this month for 449 euros ($630)
without a SIM card or service contract. It will not be sold in
the United States.
Huawei, best known as a maker of telecom network gear where
it competes with Sweden's Ericsson, has become the
world's third-biggest smartphone manufacturer behind Samsung and
Apple only three years after launching its own branded mobiles
Its consumer device business, which accounted for about 23
percent of sales last year, grew nearly three times faster than
its telecom equipment business last year.
Huawei's smartphone success was built on selling mid-priced
models in the fast-growing Chinese market as well as appealing
to price-conscious consumers in western Europe, but the United
States has proven tougher to break into.
Its global smartphone market share grew to 4.9 percent from
4 percent in 2012, but still lags far behind Samsung's 31.3
percent and Apple's 15.3 percent, said market research firm IDC.
With the Ascend P7, which succeeds the P6 launched in June
2013, Huawei hopes to create a hit to rival Samsung's Galaxy S5
and Apple's iPhone 5S, said Shao Yang, vice president of
marketing for the consumer business.
"We want to provide a premium product but not charge a
premium price," Shao Yang said in an interview.
"Our screen, materials, camera, and power consumption are
just as good and sometimes better than the Galaxy and iPhone."
The company aims to sell 10 million phones by early next
year, compared with 4 million sold to date for the P6. To that
end, it plans to spend $300 million on global marketing this
year to improve its brand image.
The P7 is compatible with high-speed fourth-generation
mobile networks that have been rolled out by telecom operators
in much of Asia and Western Europe. China and parts of Latin
America are building such 4G networks, which allow for at least
five times faster web surfing, this year and next.
It has a five-inch touchscreen, as well as an 8 megapixel
front-facing camera and a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera
designed for low-light conditions.
The 449 euro price tag for the P7 makes it cheaper than
Apple's iPhone 5S, which starts at 699 euros in Germany and 709
euros in France. Samsung's Galaxy S5 costs between 580 and 680
euros in major European markets.
($1 = 0.7177 Euros)
(Editing by Susan Thomas)