BERLIN -- Huawei detailed its Android plans today, showing a half-dozen devices going on sale in October, a reworked version of the Android interface, and more of its ambition to grow into a company that regular people recognize.
"We are changing from an ODM [original design manufacturer] to a company trying to build our own brand, and we understand the importance of innovation," said Dennis Poon, who as Huawei's global user interface design director is on the front lines of some of that innovation. At the IFA consumer-electronics show here, he showed off version 1.0 of Huawei's Emotion UI, a reworked version of Android's stock interface that's designed to be easier to use.
Sprucing up Android is a tried-and-true method that Motorola, HTC, Samsung, and others have used to make their devices stand out, though it's not always clear whether the new designs are an improvement, and many of the changes aren't much more than skin deep.
Huawei's Emotion UI tries to fix one thing that the company has found confuses people: the separate home screens, with a user-selected array of widgets and apps, and the pop-up app grid, with the full collection of each. Emotion UI, like iOS, has just has one unified collection of icons, though unlike iOS people can drop in widgets for things like playing media or showing weather.
Good hardware also is crucial to Huawei's ambition, though, said Lars-Christian Weisswange, vice president of devices for Western Europe, and the company revealed four Android phones and two Android tablets that will join its Ascend P1 phone. (The company has pledged to release Windows 8 devices, too, but wouldn't comment on them today.)
Huawei isn't much of a brand outside its native China, but it's a big company that's growing beyond its telecommunications hardware market. It had 2011 revenue of $32.4 billion -- 75 percent from customers outside China -- and 44 percent of its 140,000 employees are in research and development, the company said.
The new devices, all running Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich, are as follows:
The new top-of-the-line model is the Ascend D1 Quad XL, with a very high-resolution 330 pixel-per-inch 4.5-inch display. It's also got a 1.2GHz K3V2 ARM chip designed by Huawei itself, a 2,600mAh battery, a microSD card slot, an 8-megapixel rear camera, and a 1.3-megapixel front camera. It should cost 499 euros (about $624) with no contract, and it's 11.5mm thick.
The Ascend G 600 has a 4.5-inch QHD display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM, a Gorilla Glass screen, 2,000mAh battery, 8-megapixel camera, and 299-euro ($374) prices without contract.
The Ascend G 330 has a 4-inch WVGA display, 512MB RAM, a dual-core 1GHz processor, 5MP camera, 1,500mAh battery. It should cost 199 euros ($249) with no contract.
The Ascend Y 201 Pro is geared for younger buyers and has lower-end specs including an 800MHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a 3.5-inch display, 1400mAh battery, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It should cost 129 euros ($161) with no contract.
For tablets, there's the larger MediaPad 10 FHD, which has a 10-inch, 1920x1200 display, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, a 6,600mAh battery, a microSD card slot, 802.11b/g/n networking, and an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front camera. It's 11.5mm thick, weighs 598g, and should cost 429 euros ($536).
The smaller tablet is the MediaPad 7 Lite, with a 7-inch WSVGA touch screen, 1.2 GHz single-core processor, 1 4,100mAh battery, 1.2GHz processor, ports for microSD, USB 2.0, and HDMI, a 3.2-megapixel rear camera and front camera of unannounced resolution. It is 11mm thick, weighs 380g, and should cost 249 euros ($311).
Huawei pledged to upgrade the D1 to Android 4.1 aka Jelly Bean, but in regard to the other devices said only that it hoped to offer the upgrade, and it didn't commit to a particular timeframe.