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George Zhao, CEO of Honor Device, presents a new product, Honor Magic5 Pro, at the 2023 Mobile World Congress. Image Credit: REUTERS

Barcelona: The UAE, Saudi Arabia and other MENA countries are key for Honor’s overall global strategy, with focus not just on smartphones but an entire spectrum of devices, a top Honor executive has said.

On the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, George Zhao, CEO of Honor Device Co. Ltd. said: “When we launched our devices in the region earlier this year, the sales exceeded our expectations. That gave us an idea of the demand for our devices in the region.

“Honor is fully committed to the MENA region, and we will deliver the full product portfolio, from smartphones to tabs and laptops to smartwatches. We will offer everything in this market.”

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What is Honor’s key focus as a technology company?

Whether you look at our interconnectivity between devices using the Magic Ring service or the call privacy feature or even the antenna designs, you will see that at the heart of all this is a better user experience. That’s what makes us stand out compared to our competitors. That’s something other brands are not doing.

As smartphone components get more expensive, how will it impact your pricing strategy? 

As a brand, we cannot combine economics and consumers. We have to keep ourselves motivated and keep inventing and innovating. We believe that if we can provide the right value to our consumers, they will buy our products. You have to keep making things better.

Let’s take the Honor Magic5 Pro for instance. It’s our top-of-the-line smartphone offering. But it’s also the most innovative smartphone we have launched till date. Whether you talk about privacy software, the AI-enabled features or the Falcon camera system that offers 100x zoom, the customer is getting a great product.

Which are the other key markets Honor is focusing on?

Honor has a very strong presence in China, and rapidly increasing its market share in other countries. Malaysia, Europe and Latin America are some examples. We have been very successful in Europe and have been fulfilling customer requirements. US, on the other hand, is a challenging market and we are working hard on it.

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Visitors use smartphones on the Honor’s stand at the Mobile World Congress Image Credit: AFP

It’s been over two years since Honor separated from Huawei. How has the journey been?

Internally, we work with the spirit that Honor is a startup. We have had to build our operations from scratch. We are working hard to enter new markets and consolidate our foothold in existing markets.

We have also been expanding our team internally to cater to these markets. We do face a lot of challenges, but the journey is really exciting.

What are your views on AI chatbots such as ChatGPT?

That’s a fantastic technology. It’s being talked about everywhere and so many people are using it. The smartphone industry can take some positives from it. How can AI can be used to enhance user experience? For instance, AI motion sensing technology in Honor will automatically capture the best moment. You no longer need a human presence to try to capture the best moment, which may pass in an instant.

We’ve seen that Honor launches in China happen earlier than global launches. What’s the reason for this? 

It’s intended to be a combined solution across all markets. Right now it happens separately because we need to work with individual markets, hardware and software partners. Look at Europe.

We have an open-market software and then the operators have some special requirements. We have to meet the requirements for all markets individually. I do believe that these launch gaps will be very close in the near future.

Honor believes in a ‘glocal’ approach. 

You unveiled your foldable Magic Vs smartphone at the MWC. How do you see the evolution of foldable smartphones?

Today, smartphones are multiple devices rolled into one. They have front and back cameras, recording facilities, complex apps, and the devices are becoming more and more powerful every year. Foldable phones can be considered something like a smartphone and tablet rolled into one.

You get two different user experiences. But today foldable phones are heavier, thicker, their battery life is a challenge. So the future will be something that can improve upon these shortcomings.

Do you see foldable phones taking over, or will they co-exist with regular smartphones?

The general smartphones and the foldables will coexist in the long term. If you see why people use foldable smartphones, it’s mostly for business-related things like working on a presentation or a spreadsheet. These requirements will exist, and so will a consumer base for them.

What steps are Honor taking to be a more eco-friendly company?

We are very particular about environmental impact throughout the process, right from procurement of supplies to manufacturing to shipping it to our consumers. We are also  improving our processes and innovating for better efficiency. For instance, we are focusing on reducing power consumption by improving battery life across our devices.

The type of material used in the devices is also important. For instance, we don’t provide chargers in the box with a select range of our devices in Europe. But this needs global cooperation.