Make no mistake about it, Huawei and ZTE are gunning for the big boys. Both companies introduced leading-edge flagship smartphones during Mobile World Congress in separate bids to become top-tier device makers.
Huawei announced the Ascend P2, its main device for the first half of 2013. It is a thin smartphone that features a 4.7-inch 720p HD display with a pixel density of 315 pixels per inch (just a smidge under the 326 ppi that Apple uses to define the iPhone's Retina display). The display has a contrast ration of 1000:1, and brightness of 500 nits.
The device is powered by a 1.5-GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM. It offers 16 GB of onboard storage and supports microSD cards. The P2's camera rates 13 megapixels and includes a flash, backside illumination and a 1080p HD video capture. It supports LTE Category 4, which can theoretically support download speeds of 150 Mbps.
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The P2 runs Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and comes packed with Huawei's "Emotion" user interface. The device has a 2,420 mAh battery, and Huawei claims the P2 includes advanced power management tools to make sure the battery lasts all day. The Huawei Ascend P2 will hit Europe during the second quarter for €399. Pricing and availability for the U.S. have yet to be announced.
During the presentation of the device, Huawei constantly compared it to the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. The company made no bones about saying that its device is superior to those of its competitors.
ZTE delivered the same amount of bravado when it announced the Grand Memo, a phablet with a 5.7-inch 720p HD display. The Grand Memo is impressively thin and has one of the largest screens among the current phablet crop.
One of the standout features of the Grand Memo is its engine. It is among the first smartphones in the world to use Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 800 processor, its top-of-the-line chip. ZTE didn't specify the processor's clock speed. The processor is paired with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of onboard storage. It has a 3,200 mAh battery to help keep the screen illuminated for as long as possible.
The Grand Memo has a 13-megapixel main camera and the ability to capture 1080p HD video. The device measures 8.4-mm thick. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and comes with ZTE's extensive user interface overlay and customizations.
ZTE hasn't announced pricing or availability yet.
Both companies specifically said they want to become top-three providers of mobile devices. Huawei already is the third-largest mobile phone maker by volume. More to the point, both also want to be among the top five smartphone makers in the world. In order to do that, they'll have to displace longtime incumbents Apple and Samsung, a feat that is surely more easily aspired to than accomplished.
Apple's iPhone was the single best-selling device during the fourth quarter of 2012, and Samsung is prepared to announce its own flagship device for the year.