NEW ORLEANS — Will Americans buy a Chinese smartphone? We're about to find out, as Huawei, one of the world's biggest phone makers, is planning a big push into U.S. cellphone stores.
All four nationwide U.S. phone companies will carry Huawei smartphones this year, says Francis Hopkins, a Huawei spokesman. That's up from one right now — with AT&T.
Only two Chinese companies are well known consumer brands in the U.S.: computer maker Lenovo, which entered the U.S. market by buying IBM's PC division, and Haier, an appliance maker with a German name.
Huawei, by contrast, is pushing into the U.S. market under its own power, and with a Chinese-sounding name (pronounced “wa-way”). It's hoping to replicate the success of gadget makers like Samsung and LG of Korea and Acer and HTC, which have formed a second wave of Asian companies to enter the U.S., after the Japanese.
U.S. phone companies are well acquainted with Huawei, which sells network equipment and accessories like wireless modems for laptops. It had $1 billion in sales in the U.S. last year, Hopkins said. Globally, it's a big seller of phones as well. The company expects to ship more than 100 million this year. Of those, it expects 60 million to be smartphones.
In a sense, nearly all phones Americans buy are Chinese. They are, after all, assembled in China. The most valuable components, the chips, come from Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the U.S. Huawei is linked to the same global phone manufacturing chain, buying the same chips and using the same factories for final assembly. The company's phones also look like other smartphones that are stylistically similar to the iPhone, and run Google Inc.'s popular Android software. What would really be different about the Huawei phones is that they're designed in China and marketed by a Chinese company.
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