Mid last year, Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, which handles our favourite tech segment, mobile, was quoted in a Bloomberg interview saying that the company planned to exit the budget smartphone market altogether.
“We want to focus on the high-end and mid-range market. We give up the ultra low-end,” Yu was quoted by Reuters around the same time.
For some of us, that presented an interesting conundrum since in particular, the Kenyan mobile phone market is very heavily invested in pricing. For a moment, we thought that last year’s Y series smartphones – the Huawei Y7, Huawei Y5 2017 and Huawei Y3 2017 – were the last we were seeing from the Chinese device maker. Boy, were we wrong!
Fast forward to the final quarter of 2018 and we have not only seen the company release sequels to those devices, keeping the momentum it started 3 years ago when it unveiled the second-generation Y-series smartphones in the Kenyan market, but also done so using different approaches like going with online retailers and mounting price guess competitions pre-launch to excite the masses and get them interested in the devices.
In fact, if anything, there’s been more buzz locally about these 2018 Y-series devices than there has been about the pricey and (mostly) out of reach high-end options in the P and Mate series. From the look of things, that is not about to change.
Huawei Y7 Prime 2018
For the better part of 2018, since it went on sale in the country in April, the Huawei Y7 Prime 2018 has been Huawei’s best sub-Kshs 20,000 smartphone, its answer to the various alternatives offered by rivals Tecno, Infinix, Samsung, HMD Global and the like.
Packing a big display, a lower mid-range Snapdragon processor, a big battery and two cameras at the back, the Y7 Prime 2018 promised its users a rare match between its reasonable pricing and its impressive feature-set, at least on paper.
For the most part, Huawei delivered on this one and, to date, it remains a solid offering at its Kshs 17,000 price point.
Huawei Y5 Prime 2018
The expected hard-to-miss performance issues (because of its feature-set) aside, the Huawei Y5 Prime 2018 is hard to ignore in the sub-Kshs 10,000 smartphone segment. Alongside the various options in the market, including solid alternatives from the likes of Tecno, Infinix and Xiaomi, it manages to stand out because of its high endurance (that battery lasts and lasts), its looks and its camera which is surprisingly good in low-light scenarios. Heck, there’s even face unlock, a feature that one can’t find on rival Nokia-branded devices.
As such, it is not hard to see why Huawei Kenya managed to sell 10,000 in the first month of the Y5 going on sale.
Huawei Y9 2019
So far, as we have already seen, Huawei already has a Y-series smartphone for the 0-9,999 and 10,000-19,999 ranges, what about the competitive 20,000-29,999 segment?
Then answer, depending on what time of the year 2018 this question has been asked, varies. This is because there have been several solid offerings from the Chinese device. The Huawei P Smart, availed in the local market at the start of the year, for instance, remains a solid option.
However, just like its name implies, going into the new year, 2019, it is another budget Huawei smartphone, the recently-launched Y9 2019, that is expected to lead the charge.
It is not hard to see why.
The Huawei Y9 2019 is as feature-packed as they come. In fact, at its Kshs 25,000 price point, it manages to undercut the Huawei P20 Lite which has been Huawei’s budget smartphone king in the local market both because of its Kshs 32,000 starting price but also because of its feature-set which comprised a Full HD+ display that was hard to find in the rest of Huawei’s budget lineup, a competitive Kirin 659 processor etc.
The Y9 2019 has a much bigger display, even more storage internally, has a much bigger battery that lasts and lasts, a better processor (Kirin 710), fast face unlock in addition to a design language that closely matches that of the P20 Lite.
To sum it up, it’s hard to find something in the market that matches what the Huawei Y9 2019 offers: an excellent camera experience, long battery life, good looks, a crisp display, over-the-top performance and more for its price, thus crowning what is already a good year for the budget smartphone.