When you don’t get much backing from U.S. network carriers, getting your phones in customers’ hands is extremely difficult. That’s the situation China-based Huawei has faced here, even though in its highly populated home country it is No. 6 in smartphone market share, just behind Apple(s aapl). Huawei has decided to take matters into its own hands, opening an online store for U.S. consumers and offering a new off-contract phone for pre-order.
The new GetHuawei storefront is open for business although you can only purchase one phone at the moment. But it’s a big one: The $299 Ascend Mate2 has a 6.1-inch display.
You might think the phone is high-end based on its size but it’s decidedly a mid-range phone on paper. That big screen, for example, has 720p resolution, which isn’t bad but certainly not a flagship-quality specification. Also helping keep costs down is Huawei’s choice of a 1.6 GHz Qualcomm(s qcom) Snapdragon 400 chip and 16 GB of internal storage; memory can be expanded with a microSD card.
For this off-contract price, however, the whole package seems capable of running Android(s goog) 4.3. The phone can connect to speedy LTE networks on the road and 802.11ac Wi-Fi at home. The 13-megapixel backside illuminated camera sensor can capture 1080p video at 3o frames per second while the front-facing camera uses a 5 megapixel sensor. And Huawei says the massive 3900 mAh battery will last for 12 full hours of web surfing on a single charge.
Will direct sales make a huge impact here in the U.S. for Huawei? Not likely although it could help the company gain a loyal following as more consumers move from subsidized to off-contract purchases. Without broad carrier support, Huawei really has no other choice but to sell direct if it wants to get a foot in the door of the U.S. phone market. It’s the right idea but as Nokia(s msft) found out the hard way by trying the same approach unsuccessfully for years, there’s no guarantee of success.