2011: the year of Huawei’s transformation into a top five mobile player?

When Huawei released its MediaPad tablet in Singapore last week at the CommunicAsia 2011 conference it was something of a coup being the world’s first Android tablet to run Honeycomb 3.2 and the company’s 2011 product showcase held in Sydney today was further evidence of Huawei’s commitment to making serious inroads in the mobile consumer market.

Showing off nearly 40 new (and current-model)  handsets and devices to media and industry the company largely until now seen in the mainstream as a background device manufacturer today proclaimed its intention of becoming a global top five handset vendor “in the next two years” according to Alex Huang Director of Huawei’s Devices Division.

Huawei’s Honeycomb 3.2 MediaPad.

It’s not off to a bad start either with 1.5 million IDEOS smartphones sold since launching the brand 10 months ago (and handsets now constituting the company’s fastest-growing business).

The MediaPad that the company showed off today direct from its Singapore release was running Android Honeycomb 3.1 but Huawei has indicated it will be making 3.2 available as soon as possible via an over-the-air update. (Honeycomb 3.2 will be tailored to the more compact dimensions of a 7-inch tablet display whereas the majority of tablets favour larger 9 or 10-inch screens and is expected to be the last Honeycomb update prior to Google’s introduction of Ice Cream Sandwich — Android 4.0 which will run across both smartphones and tablets.)

The Sonic which runs Gingerbread on a 3.5-inch HVGA display.

The tablet which we’re likely not to see in local release until the latter stages of Q3 sports a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor with 1GB RAM 8GB internal storage a 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS display and 5MP/1.3MP rear/front cameras. At just 380g it’s a pleasure to hold weighing significantly lighter than 9 to 10-inch devices and providing a reminder that the 7-inch form factor’s sheer portability means we shouldn’t write the smaller format off just yet.

The “hero” smartphone on show today was Huawei’s new Sonic handset. Launching next month the as-yet-unpriced model runs Android 2.3 on a 3.5-inch HVGA display and features a 3.2MP camera plus NFC. Also of note was the X1 which we wrote about yesterday as Optus’s entry into the $99 smartphone stakes.

As yet unconfirmed for the Australian market: the Spark.

In addition to scheduled Australian releases Huawei took the opportunity to demo a number of unconfirmed handsets today which may or may not see the light of day here. Among these Gingerbread models such as the 8MP Honour 5MP Spark and 5MP Vision feature stylish designs and mid-to-high-end specs which indicate Huawei is not only focusing on the budget segment of the smartphone market.  

The public face of the company’s new direction is its new Australian consumer site a colourful update to the staid presentation of their business web site and where Huawei’s own words playfully announce their own 2011 coming out party: “We’ve been around since 2003 but don’t be surprised if you’ve only just heard of us because until recently we’ve worked behind the scenes with 3 Vodafone Optus and Virgin Mobile.”