Make way Apple and Samsung, Huawei has big screen ambitions

Huawei's Mate7 is a premium phablet that will sell in Australia for $250 less than its rivals

Huawei has launched a premium phablet that radically undercuts its rivals on price as it tries to grow its stake in the technologically savvy Australian market.

Consumer appetite for smartphones with screens larger than 5.5 inches is growing. This year shipments of devices with large screens are expected to increase by 209 percent from last year, compared to a 12.8 percent increase for smartphones with smaller screens, according to IDC.

Samsung may have helped popularise large-screen phones but other companies are following suit. Apple broke from custom to introduce the iPhone 6 Plus, while Huawei launched the Mate7 in Sydney overnight.

The device's screen and metal body are big steps forward for Huawei. The Mate7 is made up of more than 95 percent metal, company representatives claimed.

Beyond its luxurious look, there are upsides and drawbacks to using metal, said Shao Yang, vice president at Huawei Device's consumer business group, at the device's IFA unveiling. Using metal makes the manufacturing process more complicated and expensive. But metal is stronger than plastic and makes it possible to build slimmer devices, said Yang.

One of the things Huawei has focused on is trying to improve battery life, prioritising it over weight. People who frequently use their mobile device purchase large-screen smartphones and they shouldn't have to worry about battery life, Yang said.

The Mate7 has a 4,100mAh non-removable battery. The company has also worked on other parts of the device to make it more energy efficient, including the screen.

The Mate7 weighs 185 grams, which is six grams heavier than Samsung's Note 4, but that has a smaller 3,220mAh battery.

Like the Note, the Mate7 has a fingerprint scanner, which Huawei has placed on the back, and support for LTE-Advanced, a network technology that offers speeds up to 300Mbps. For it to work, mobile operators have to upgrade their networks.

The Mate7 also has a 13-megapixel rear facing camera and a 5-megapixel camera on the front.

Huawei continues to use in-house Kirin processors in its high-end products. The Mate7 is powered the Kirin 925, which is based on ARM's big.LITTLE architecture and uses four cores running at 1.8 GHz, four less powerful cores running at 1.3 GHz, and one extra core for lightweight tasks such as GPS. The cores can be configured dynamically depending on the workload.

Two versions of the Mate7 will go on sale in Australia, with the top-of-the-range model costing less than $700. Rivals Samsung and Apple price their introductory phablets at $949 and $999 respectively.

Huawei has committed to releasing a version of the phablet that has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage in obsidian black. The smartphone will go on sale at Dick Smith stores as a Vodafone purchase with pricing and availability to be announced. GGG expects it to be priced under the flagship version.

A second version of the Mate7, armed with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, will be priced at $699. This version will only be available in Amber Gold from Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi.

Tony Ibrahim contributed to this article. Parts were originally published in September under Huawei aims for large screen glory with metal-clad Ascend Mate 7