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Phones and watches from Nexus 6P-maker Huawei are starting to get good

Huawei's tech gadgets are beginning to walk the walk, which is great news for buyers.

Josh Miller/CNET

Phones and smartwatches may be getting more alike these days, but for Google Nexus 6P-maker Huawei, the fact that its products are getting good is the best news of all.

It means that for the first time in the six years I've been covering the company, Huawei stands a real chance. To do what? To make money, certainly. To improve its global reputation, crucially.


Click for more of Jessica's travel stories around Asia.

Mark Hobbs/CNET

A number of years ago, I said that if Huawei wanted to work on its reputation (the US government accused Huawei's networking arm of espionage), it would have to make its products better. Part of that assessment had to do with my access to Huawei phones, the best of which never made it to the US -- or even into my phone-reviewer hands at all. Some of it had to do with the quality of products compared to others on the market.

Well, now quality has improved. Builds are getting better and prices are getting lower. Huawei is catching up. Google noticed when it chose Huawei to make the Nexus 6P, Google's high-end phone to showcase the Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS. CNET loved that phone, and so do a lot of real-world people I know.

In the same vein, Huawei just launched the P9, which has a camera from world-renown brand Leica. We haven't reviewed the phone yet, but I do have one here in China, where I attended a Huawei analyst summit in the company's headquarters in Shenzhen. The P9 looks terrific, and its specs are high-end (though maybe not the highest).

The Huawei Watch and Huawei MateBook tablet we saw at MWC also played their part in boosting Huawei's image in my eyes, though neither one is perfect. The watch is big and heavy on my wrist (even with the lady-focused Elegance and Jewel bands, which are just thinner wrist straps for the same large face) -- but it has a gorgeous OLED screen and looks more premium and watch-like than most of its rivals.

Even on the low end, some inexpensive Huawei phones I saw at CES (like the Honor 5X) offer decent performance for the money, making them pretty appealing for those who buy the unlocked phone directly from the carrier.

My point is that Huawei's efforts have paid off, and now it's often recognized as the No. 3 phonemaker in the world. True, this kind of status changes regularly, but it's an indicator that Huawei is paying attention to user demands around the world. And that means that buyers everywhere should start looking to Huawei -- in addition to heavy-hitters Apple, Samsung and LG -- if they haven't already.