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Huawei smartphone's AI cameras can tell your cat and car apart

Chinese maker's affordable new handset detects photo subjects and picks best mode

Huawei's Nova 3 can be had for the equivalent of $480, considerably less than Apple's entry-level iPhone XR.

TOKYO -- China's Huawei Technologies is aiming for a younger set of Japanese customers with its newest smartphone, which comes with artificially intelligent cameras and a relatively modest price tag.

The main back-facing camera on the just-released model, the Nova 3, draws on AI technology to recognize 22 kinds of subjects -- food, cars, cats, even pandas -- and automatically choose the appropriate shooting mode.

The phone also offers upgraded selfie capabilities, with an AI-powered 24-megapixel front camera that can blur backgrounds to imitate the effect of a single-lens reflex camera. Both the front and back cameras are equipped with dual lenses.

"We're targeting a segment of younger, trend-sensitive people," said Wu Bo, head of Huawei's device businesses in Japan and South Korea, before the Japanese rollout of the SIM-free phone on Friday.

Keeping the price point low, at 54,800 yen ($480), is a part of that strategy. The Nova 3 will set customers back considerably less than Apple's latest entry-level phone, the iPhone XR, which starts at $744.

The Nova 3 features a 6.3-inch liquid crystal display, with a narrower bezel than Huawei's previous models.

The Chinese company controls the third-largest share of the Japanese smartphone market, at 10.6% for the three months to June, behind a dominant Apple as well as Sharp, according to Tokyo research company BCN. Huawei apparently hopes to increase its share by undercutting its competitors.

The company is also preparing to release a new smartwatch-style device with a 0.95-inch screen and water resistance up to 5 atmospheres of pressure -- enough for swimming. The device is expected to go for 11,880 yen when it hits shelves in Japan on Oct. 19.

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