History of Honor: what is the future after Huawei?

history of honor

Il November 17, 2020 is a memorable date for the world of smartphones. For the first time, a telephone manufacturer has found himself forced to sell its sub-brand. Yes, you understand: I am referring to the sale of Huawei Brand Honor. Since then, the two companies have gone their separate ways and this 2021 has effectively marked Honor's return to the scene, first in China with the V40 series and now in Europe with the launch of Honor 50. Precisely for this reason, today I want to tell you about the history of Honor, why it was founded and what future to expect from the rebirth of the brand.

Before even talking about Honor, it is necessary to open a parenthesis on the company that founded it. I have already discussed the birth of Huawei in the 80s in this video, so let's go straight to the anni 2000, when Huawei began to make a name for itself outside of China in the sale of services and infrastructure, be it modems, telephone antennas or cell phones. If this was possible it was both for merit but also thanks to the historical context in which this happened.

History of Honor: the importance of sub-brands

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Those were the years in which we began to hear about New Economy and how the progressive diffusion of the internet was giving fortune to many web companies. Such a frenzy was unleashed that small newly born companies found themselves splashing out on the stock market for no real reason; soon, this speculation sparked what we know today as dot-com bubble. Many companies in the West found themselves forced to substantially reduce investments, including in Research and Development. And if this was a disgrace for them, it was instead a huge opportunity for Huawei, which took the opportunity to invest a minimum of 10% of all revenues in Research and Development. From that moment, Huawei's popularity began to grow, and between 2003 and 2004 it decided to start its journey in the world of consumer telephony, first with the C300 in 2G and then with the U626 in 3G.

In those years, Huawei also joined the Vodafone for making their phones: I'm sure many of you have had a Huawei phone in their hands without knowing it was from Huawei. But it is at MWC 2009 that we are witnessing the launch of a very important smartphone. I'm talking about the Huawei U8220, that is, the second smartphone in history to mount Android, beaten for only a month by the HTC Dream.

But its successor, the Huawei U8860, a smartphone from 2011 still branded Huawei but which was marketed under the name of "Huawei Honor". Yes, the story of the company starts here. At the time, however, "Honor" was just a name that Huawei used for some phones, a bit like Samsung still uses the word "Galaxy" today. Among other things, it is curious to note that, in 2010, OPPO launched a smartphone called OPPO Real Me. Does it remind you of anything? And just like OPPO, which in 2018 made "Realme" its sub-brand, Huawei also decided to making Honor an entity in its own right, with which to offer Android smartphones at more affordable prices. Not surprisingly, at CES 2012 Huawei decided to diversify and start targeting the most prestigious market with its first top of the range Ascend P1.

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Huawei vs Xiaomi: Honor was the key

It should also be considered that the birth of Honor came immediately after the 2011/2012 two-year period, that is, the moment in which a very important company was being born in China for the evolution of the sector. You may have already understood: I am referring to Xiaomi, which immediately broke the market with smartphones with a premium flavor but for all budgets. Huawei understood that it had to prepare for a competition that would become increasingly fierce and, after the Honor 2 of 2012, in 2013 it launched the series Honor 3, consisting of various low-cost models such as Honor 3X e Honor 3C, designed to compete especially in emerging markets.

But this would not have been enough, because if Xiaomi had managed to break the market it was thanks to the founder's nose Lei Jun, which even before Xiaomi had founded Joyo.com, which in a few years became the largest e-commerce in China at a time when the concept of E-commerce it was still something poco explored. Such was the success that Amazon decided to buy it and thus found Amazon China. This experience made Lei Jun understand that the future of the market would be online, and Xiaomi immediately focused a lot on online sales to simplify the life of buyers and reduce costs. An intuition that Honor he did not fail to grasp, deciding to create his own store vMall where to sell their phones exclusively.

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That was enough for Honor to have a strong success. It went from a value of 100 million in 2013 to 2,4 billion in 2014, the year in which it began its diffusion outside China, starting from Malaysia with the Honor 3 series and then with Honor 6 in Europe. An Honor 6 that represented the desire to expand the catalog and not remain bound to only entry-level production. A strong Honor 6 from the same Kirin 925 that we found on Huawei Mate 7, with the difference that Honor 6 cost around € 400, while Mate 7 reached € 600. The expansion of the Honor brand reached 74 countries in the course of 2015, and therefore the time came to bring the vMall online store also in Europe. Noteworthy of that period are Honor 7, but also Play and Play Note, that is the first phablet and the first tablet of the company.

Huawei conquered the USA thanks to Honor

2015 was a very important year, because it marked Huawei's will to use Honor as the keystone for its entry into the USA. Will that materializes at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, where the mid-range is presented to the American public Honor 5X. A considerable milestone, if we consider that Honor managed to enter the American market unlike Huawei, if we exclude the collaboration with Google for the Nexus 6P. A small success that was also repeated at CES 2017, where the next Honor 6X it was acclaimed by various American newspapers. But Honor continued to feel the desire to prove that he was capable of doing something more ambitious.

We come to an important chapter in the history of Honor. This chapter is called Honor Magic, an intriguing blend of a daring curvy design and a range of new, cutting-edge features based on artificial intelligence. An almost conceptual smartphone that, for the first time, was entirely Honor branded and not a rebrand of Huawei. It's a shame that this futuristic sense got a bit lost with Magic 2, albeit with the last one Magic 3 and his photographic sector this taste is partially highlighted.

Speaking of the avant-garde, I also quote Honor View 20, that is what in 2019 was in effect the first in the world with that punch-hole screen that we find today on almost every smartphone, as well as the first with a 48 MP camera with Pixel Binning, resulting in some ways a spiritual heir of the historic Nokia 808 PureView and its 41 MP.

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The ban against Huawei arrives

I mentioned Magic 3 earlier, so let's take another leap forward. Let's move from 2016 to 2019, a year that marks a huge watershed for Honor's history. The 15 Maggio 2019 the then Trump presidency signed the executive order which he inserted Huawei inside the infamous Entity List. This is because of the alleged ties with the Chinese government that would make it a threat to American security, not to mention violating the law by bypassing the trade blockade with Iran. An order that overwhelms Huawei, cutting it out of the game: being in the Entity List means not being able to buy goods and services that use American-derived technologies from any global company.

This means no longer being able to deal with a whole series of companies necessary for survival. In particular Google, decreeing the disappearance of Google services from smartphones and tablets, and TSMC, the chipmaker to whom I dedicated this video and which controls more than half of the chip production worldwide. And among these there was also the entire production of HiSilicon, the chipmaker who up until that moment was making the System-on-a-chip of the Huawei and Honor smartphones. Not only that: the block also included Qualcomm, therefore in a few months Huawei and Honor would have found themselves without chips and with water in their throats.

huawei ban donald trump

Despite this, 2020 was paradoxically a prosperous year for Huawei and Honor. Tracking the sales numbers is not easy, given that the data of the two brands were merged, but according to analysts, Honor reached its peak in mid-2020, with 13% of the Chinese market. Numbers that obviously were due to the growth that took place in the years before the ban, the fruits of a momentum now interrupted by the American ban. In a few months, Honor went from 13% to 5% in China, while in Europe it stepped out of the spotlight at the end of 2019, after the launch of Honor 9X. A great pity, given that in 2020 the promising trio Honor 30, 30 Pro and 30 Pro + made its debut, with a camera worthy of the podium of DxOMark. But we didn't know anything about the 30 series, because if in China the absence of Google services was a non-problem, for us it meant cutting our legs, especially at the high end.

Huawei decides to sell Honor

Months go by and so we return to November 17, 2020, the date mentioned at the beginning of the video. Huawei puts pen to paper what was previously only an indiscretion that was floating around in the air. Huawei decides to sell Honor, a decision made for "ensure Honor's survival". A bitter sale but which ends with a positive note, wishing Honor to "continue to create value for consumers and build a new smart world for young people". We thus arrive at 2021, what we can define theyear of Honor's rebirth. Since it is no longer owned by Huawei, it exits by right from the Entity List, thus being able to return to having to do with Google, Qualcomm and all the companies previously involved in the American ban. A great opportunity for Honor, which in the first months of 2021 kicks off a real restructuring.

First of all change the commercial strategy, aiming at the offline market rather than limited to the online one as up until that moment. Second, the desire to expand its ecosystem between notebooks, tablets, wearables, smart TVs and so on to compete at 360 °. But above all, thirdly, throw yourself headlong into premium market. To this day, Honor has made a name for itself with products such as Honor 8, that is smartphone aesthetically beautiful, with some top-of-the-range features but with various compromises to aspire to that price range immediately below that of the top of the range.

This was the strength of the old Honor, but the new Honor has decided to be daring. This is demonstrated by the presentation of the Magic 3 series, with a Honor Magic 3 Pro + from 1.499 € which obviously has been widely criticized. If you look at the smartphone itself, there is nothing to criticize: OLED screen at 120 Hz, Snapdragon 888+ 5G, 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, a 4.600 mAh with 66W charging and a photographic compartment top of the class. The reason why it was criticized derives from the image of Honor that the public has had for years, that is, that of a brand that is affordable in terms of quality / price ratio. But we also notice that Honor wants to raise the bar from the desire to embrace the new form factors, with a folding now around the corner and even a rollable device which could compete with OPPO X.

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The choice made by Honor of embellish your brand it is more than legitimate but it will take time for the public to welcome this change, even if everything suggests that it started on the right foot. Also because it will be necessary for this transition period to end in which Honor must dispose of Huawei's legacy. Legacy that we find right in putting the Honor 50 and side by side Huawei Nova 9, two smartphones clearly born years ago, when the companies were still one. Detaching from Huawei is not easy, but sales are proving him right: within a few quarters, in China Honor is rise from 5% to 15%, in spite of the forecasts that they gave it at 2%. At this point we are curious to know the near future of Honor in Europe, perhaps with a Magic 3 that seems to have what it takes to compete with the most famous brands even in the high-end.

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