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Classic smartphone brands get a spring in their step at MWC (+video)

Classic smartphone brands get a spring in their step at MWC (+video)

Huawei, now the third-largest smartphone vendor, started with low-cost phones and now offers the premium P10

BARCELONA -- Venerable smartphone brands Motorola, Nokia and BlackBerry got new life at Mobile World Congress 2017, but that was primarily due to the influence of Chinese and Finnish manufacturers that have licensed the names.

One new Android smartphone, the BlackBerry KEYone, was launched by TCL Communication, based in Huizhou, China. The phone has both a touchscreen and a physical keyboard, with 52 keys that can be used as shortcuts to find apps and functions. It goes on sale in April for $549.

HMD Global of Espoo, Finland, launched three budget Android phones under the Nokia brand — the Nokia 3, 5 and 6, starting at $147 with screens ranging from 5 inches to 5.5 inches in size. A 2000 classic handset was revised — the Nokia 3310 — but with a slimmer size and a color screen.

Chinese vendor Lenovo announced the Moto G5 and G5 Plus with prices starting at $178. Only the G5 Plus will be sold in the U.S. It will be available on Motorola’s website for $229 for the 16GB version.

The business model for the Lenovo- and HMD-throwback branded phones seems to be to gain market share with low-cost devices, much as Huawei of Shenzhen, China, has done for years, said Kevin Burden, an analyst at 451 Research. Huawei pursued a model of introducing low cost phones for years, and has now grown to become the third-largest phone maker in the world. In the U.S. however, the company is in 10th place, according to market research firm IDC.

In addition to its low-cost approach, Huawei in January announced the Mate 9 smartphone at a pricey $600; and at MWC launched the P10 and P10 Plus featuring Leica camera optics. The P10 starts at €650 ($687) with 64GB of storage. Neither will be sold in the U.S., but could be purchased unlocked. They have radio bands that work with some U.S. carriers.

Burden said it will be difficult for Huawei to be a challenger to Apple and Samsung in the U.S. smartphone market any time soon. However, he said Huawei could reach the top market share globally in a few years, given its aggressive marketing, design and manufacturing approach.

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