Huawei has just outed four new Android phones at Mobile World Congress, all set to swell the growing ranks of the Android Army some time this year. Illustrating how flexible Android really is, Huawei has specced each phone very differently.
While you may never have heard of Huawei, you may well have used one of their devices–the company is behind many 3G roaming broadband USB sticks which often get re-branded by the particular cell phone network in question. They’re also one of our former Most Innovative Companies, and Huawei has also released Android phones before.
The premier phone from the new Huawei line-up is the U8800 which has a 3.8-inch touchscreen, HSPA+ tech for potential T-Mobile compatibility and running Android 2.1 (it’s pictured above). It’s a serious device getting Nexus One levels of attraction–and it’s obviously styled to match this market. On the other hand, the U8100 and U8110 are both targeted at a lower price level and have just a 2.8-inch touchscreen but sport two cameras: A rear-facing 3.2 megapixel, and a front-facing one for VoIP video calling. They’re also more youthfully styled. But none of these compares to the oddness of the U8300 which has a shocking color scheme and a strange front-facing QWERTY keyboard that looks like it should almost be a folding unit, but is actually fixed in place.
Android is clearly tempting Huawei to stretch its legs in a new market, with the benefits of an open-source nature for the OS and the ability to leverage (for free) all those lovely apps in the Android Marketplace. The fact that a relatively unknown Asian manufacturer can suddenly stump up with a range of promising Android devices proves Google-favorite HTC isn’t necessarily supreme. If Huawei’s odd U8300 comes at the right price and successfully piques the interest of a particular market segment (perhaps SMS-loving, IM-addicted late teens) then it could easily snap up many a customer at HTC’s expense. But it might also demonstrate the weakness of the Android OS model–these phones are clearly extremely different beasts, and apps that run well on one won’t necessarily work at all on a different one. With the app stores booming into a multi-billion-dollar market, that may be the issue.