There was a hot dog stand just outside the Battersea Park in London. The striking sign, blood red and a typographic nightmare, promised quick salvation for the hungry stomach. I was famished and the thought of a warm but certainly pricey hot dog on a cold London spring day was becoming an enticing proposition. It didn’t help that I was stuck in a queue outside Battersea Evolution, a large event venue within the park, with a few hundred journalists.
All of us were waiting to step through the glass doors, lured by Huawei’s promise of a smartphone to trump all smartphones. It was a slogan I had heard many times before, only to be let down by incremental improvements masquerading as revolutionary changes.
A sudden shower, typical of London’s weather tantrums, sent everyone scurrying for shade. The orderly queue disintegrated like a sandcastle in high tide. There goes my hot dog, I thought.
I went through the lackadaisical security check and entered into another queue to show my QR code. From there, a tunnel filled with enough lights to set off an epileptic fit awaited me.
Stepping from the dreary climes of the park into the midnight dark confines of Huawei’s event venue was quite the change. Red light bathed the attendees and obnoxiously loud logos of Huawei and Leica plastered the temporary hoardings. Yes, this was the launch of the Huawei P9 and the official reveal of the much-talked-about partnership between a Chinese company and a German firm in an English country attended by more than 1,000 people from over 170 countries. We were the poster children of globalisation, and we were here to continue spreading the religion of consumerism to our readers. The priest? Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Technologies Consumer Business Group, who has a Twitter account although it has remain inactive for two years. (Of course that says more about the state of the once dominant social media platform than about Yu and Huawei, who remains active on other channels like WeChat and Weixin.)
If he’s not careful, Huawei might suffer the same fate that Twitter seems to have fallen into. Fates of consumer technology companies mimic London weather – sunny one hour, depression the next. Yu is betting that its Leica-engineered cameras will propel Huawei to the front for the foreseaable future, at least until it thinks of another collaboration to keep attention-starved consumers interested.
It’s clear the Huawei P9 is positioned to challenge the iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7. Yu’s presentation was peppered with so many comparisons of the three smartphones that I started thinking the marketing departments of both firms would start jumping up and down with joy at the free publicity.
Huawei wants to “reinvent smartphone photography”, which is really just marketing spiel to appeal to folks who fancy themselves photographers for using more than five filters. But Henry Cavill said it on stage so it must be true. Yes, the British actor was at the press conference, causing a near stampede as journalists became starstruck fans and ran to the front taking photos of a man talking about taking photos. I learned that Cavill was a technology geek. Sure, that sounds sexy when you’re Cavill, not so much when you’re me.
Is the P9 any good? Well the Leica camera is a revelation. There’s even an entire coffee table book filled with glossy magazine-worthy images of landscapes, people and models shot by the P9 that each journalist got. The battery supposedly lasts for close to two days. The chip is manufactured in house and is Huawei’s finest work. And it has a front facing camera that is the best in the business because the world is in need of better selfies. Five decades ago, we were advancing technology to land people on the moon. Today we’re on a quest for more striking #ootds to get more social validation. On that front, Huawei is certainly completing its objectives.
My quest for the hotdog though still remained unfulfilled. If Huawei can achieve better selfies, I certainly can buy a measly hot dog. Oh, and the Huawei P9 is supposedly coming to Singapore in end May. You didn’t hear it from me.
Read an in-depth review of the Huawei P9 and more about the firm’s partnership with Leica in the May issue of AUGUSTMAN.