June 16, 2014, 3:21 PM

Chinese telecom giant Huawei begins selling online in the U.S.

Huawei, the world’s third-leading smartphone vendor, is selling its mobile phones at gethuawei.com.

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China’s Huawei Technologies Co. has begun selling its smartphones directly to U.S. consumers via a new e-commerce site, gethuawei.com.

Huawei, the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker after Samsung and Apple according to market research firm IDG Consulting, is featuring on the U.S. site its Ascend Mate 2, a smartphone with a larger-than-usual 6.1-inch screen. The price is $299. Because that bridges the gap between the screen size of smartphones and tablets some call this type of device a “phablet.” (By comparison, the screen of the Apple iPhone 5s measures 4 inches on the diagonal and the iPad 9.7 inches.)

The site offers the Ascend Mate 2 as an “unlocked” device, meaning that a consumer can pop in a SIM card from any wireless carrier that uses GSM cellular technology to obtain service. In the U.S. the device will work on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Huawei does not plan to sell the Ascend Mate 2 through wireless carriers.

Huawei says it will provide more models on gethuawei.com in the future.

The company hopes to meet the demand from some U.S. consumers for unlocked devices. According to Huawei’s research, although most U.S. consumers buy smartphones from wireless carriers, 41% say they would like to buy a non-contract smartphone.

“The trend is that e-commerce will become an important selling place for smartphones, and gethuawei.com will become a good tool to help Huawei communicate with its end users,” says Xu Zhiqiang, president of Huawei Device USA, which is based in Plano, TX, and operates gethuawei.com. He says the U.S. unit will provide localized products and services to U.S. consumers.

Huawei is one of the world’s largest sellers of telecommunications equipment to wireless carriers as well as smartphones and tablets. Huawei’s 2013 revenue increased 13% to $39.46 billion.

While the company’s phones have been available in the U.S., they have mainly been sold under the brands of wireless carriers. Huawei plans to raise its profile now in the U.S., as it has done in Europe in recent years.

“In Europe, Huawei spent a lot of money on marketing starting two years ago and now many consumers know our brands,” Xu says. “For example, Huawei is one of the major sponsors of Spain’s soccer league and had a 5% smartphone market share in Spain in 2013.”

However, Huawei plans to focus on lower-cost marketing methods in the U.S., relying on digital media and blogs, Xu says. “If Huawei can reduce our spending on marketing, we can sell our products at lower price,” he says. “As a result, consumers can get better value.”

Speed Commerce Inc., a Dallas-based e-commerce technology and distribution service provider, has announced that it developed the U.S. web site for Huawei and will provide services related to online marketing, order management and fulfillment.

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