LONDON: Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on Tuesday launched what it said was the world's thinnest smartphone, which it hopes will take on high-end rivals like Apple and Samsung in the global market.
Bidding to extend its market reach outside China, Huawei chose London to unveil its Ascend P6, which is just 6.18mm thick -- the June 18 launch date reflecting the dimensions.
"Our theme for this product is elegance with an edge," Richard Yu, the chief executive of Huawei's consumer business group, told an audience of industry figures and journalists at the Roundhouse.
The north London venue is famous for small-scale concerts and has previously hosted rock icons such as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.
Huawei hopes the Ascend P6 will take on its competitors on style and technology, but also on price -- it has a recommended retail price of 449 euros ($600).
The phone will be available in 19 countries by the end of July, including China, France, Germany and Italy, with more than 100 others to follow.
"We want to provide better products, more innovative products with better design," said Yu.
"Our competitors? For me, it's not in the same level as this product, the (Samsung Galaxy) S4, (Apple) iPhone 5 and 6," he said.
However, he acknowledged: "We need time to build our brand and win the trust of consumers."
Nick Woodley, lead designer from the firm's London design centre, said the phone was inspired by sheets of paper.
It weighs 120gram, has a 4.7-inch (119.5mm) touchscreen and boasts two cameras -- an 8MP camera on the back and a 5MP camera on the front. Getting rid of the regular slew of camera scene settings, it has auto scene recognition and an automatic face enhancement tool which allows users to boost their "beauty level" by factors of one to 10. The unveiling of the phone in London was a stand-alone event, unlike previous launches at trade shows. Starting as a provider of telecom network equipment, Huawei has sought to make inroads into mobile devices by selling smartphones under its own brand over the past three years.
The company, founded by a former engineer in the Chinese army, has also found controversy abroad for its traditional line of business. Huawei has a reputation for secrecy which the company has tried to shed after US claims it was a security threat. The US Congress last year warned network equipment supplied by Huawei could be used for espionage and called for its exclusion from government contracts and acquisitions.
Huawei has denied those claims and accused the US government of protectionism. The British parliament's intelligence and security committee also recently lambasted the government for failing to monitor the widespread use of Chinese equipment in Britain's broadband and phone networks.
It raised concerns about claims that Huawei has links to China's army and government and so could be involved in spying on communications in Britain. In China's highly competitive smartphone segment, Huawei held a 10.1 percent share in the first quarter of this year, according to consultancy Analysys International.
This is higher than Apple's 6.4% but below the 17.3% held by market leader Samsung.
"The handset products Huawei launched before were relatively low-end and low-priced," said Wang Jun of Analysys International.
"The launch of this higher quality handset is related to Huawei's own strategy of product excellence."