If you’re Samsung or Microsoft, you won’t like to hear what Richard Yu has to say. Yu is in charge of Huawei’s consumer business group and has seen his company quickly become the no. 3 smartphone seller in the world. In a weekend interview with the Wall Street Journal, Yu dismissed Samsung’s internal software efforts and explained why Huawei has put Windows Phone on hold for now.
China-based Huawei used to build phones for carriers as a white-label brand: You wouldn’t see Huawei’s name on the phone, similar to how HTC got its start. That changed, Yu told the Journal, when Huawei decided its phones were better than competing products and it figured to build its brand value. Based on the company’s growing sales, the strategy has worked, as only Samsung and Apple sold more smartphones than Huawei in 2013.
The company builds its handsets using Google Android, much like Samsung. Unlike its Korea-based competitor, though, it seemingly has no plans to break away with its own software. Huawei employs around 2,000 software engineers to help integrate its own services and software with Android. As for Tizen, Samsung’s own platform that could help it shift away from Android, it has “no chance to be successful,” said Yu.
Yu is slightly more optimistic about Windows Phone but says earlier attempts to use the software brought little benefit:
“We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone. It wasn’t profitable for us. We were losing money for two years on those phones. So for now we’ve decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice.”
It’s possible that Huawei will change its mind about Windows Phone thanks to a recent shift in Microsoft’s licensing strategy: To help attract hardware partners, Microsoft is eliminating fees for a handset maker to use Windows Phone. That should help reduce costs for partners but, of course, doesn’t guarantee sales or profits.
Instead, at least for the time being, it sounds as if Huawei will keep growing its sales through Android. And why not? Yu says the company’s handset profits are on the rise in China even as it turns to other shores: The $299 Huawei Ascend Mate2 for the U.S. market I reviewed this past weekend could find a following here.