What the P10 launch in Canada means for Huawei

Huawei P10 blue

Later this year, Huawei will release the P10 and P10 Plus in Canada. For the first time in the Chinese company’s history, major Canadian carriers — in this case, Bell, Rogers and Videotron — will carry one of its flagship mobile devices.

As I find out in my interview with Huawei Canada’s Scott Bradley and Ron Cihocki, done ahead of the P10’s announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, it’s a milestone the company has been working toward for several years.

“We worked very hard over the last year-and-a-half on a plan that would see us effectively to market,” says Bradley, vice-president of corporate affairs at Huawei Canada, over the phone. The company had two major obstacles to climb before it could bring one of its flagship devices to Canada, according to him and his colleague.

The first, and simpler of the two, was technological. In the past, the Kirin chipset family did not meet North American regulatory requirements for Enhanced 911 Phase 2 compliance. The CRTC mandates that all mobile phones sold by Canadian carriers must support the technology, which allows 9-1-1 operators to pinpoint the location of a caller. Huawei resolved this issue with the launch of the Honor 8 last June, which includes the company’s Kirin 950 chipset.

To that effect, Cihocki says the company has invested significant research and development resources over the past several years to support to make this year’s P10 launch possible.

Huawei P10 smartphone

The second challenge, which has been the more significant of the two, has been one of brand recognition. In contrast to the company’s U.S. division, the Canadian side of Huawei’s business has managed to craft a brand narrative that means something to consumers here.

“Canada is one of the few markets where we put more money in than we take out in revenue,” says Bradley, referring to the company’s various investments in 5G technology development across the country. And while neither he nor Cihocki believes Huawei’s investment in 5G will have a major effect on P10 sales, it is something positive the company has going for it into the Canadian launch of the P10.

More relevant is Huawei’s relationship with Canadian carriers. Compared to their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, Canadian carriers and consumers have always been more receptive to the Chinese company. That fact was most apparent during the launch of the Nexus 6P.

All three national Canadian carriers, as well Videotron and Freedom Mobile, the artist formerly known as Wind Mobile, sold Google’s 2015 flagship smartphone directly through their retail channels. In contrast, none of the major American carriers sold the device directly to their subscribers. This fact, understandably, led to the Nexus 6P’s excellent sales performance in Canada.

Huawei P10 Dazzling Blue and Greenery

According to Bradley and Cihocki, of the 170 markets in which the Nexus 6P was available, Canada was its third best in terms of sales performance, and the fact that Nexus 6P did so well here that is a major reason why Huawei has decided to bring the P10 to Canada. It’s also the success against which the P10 will be measured.

In our interview with Huawei, the company wouldn’t share target sales numbers. However, both Bradley and Cihocki said they hope the P10 sells “better than the Nexus 6P.”

However, if the P10 underperforms, it won’t be the last Huawei device to come to Canada.

“We’re committed to the Canadian market,” say the two executives. “Obviously, if the P10 doesn’t do well we’ll stand back and look, but we’ve never been more excited and confident in the brand in Canada. We have a three-year plan, and we’re investing heavily in Canada.”