Huawei launches an online store to sell its own unlocked phones

Remember Huawei's Ascend Mate 2? The decidedly mid-range phablet that, among other things, can charge lesser phones for you? When the company revealed the thing at this past CES, about the only thing it didn't proclaim was when you could get one in the US. Not so any more: Huawei says it's going to sell for $299, and you can lay claim to one right now. Normally, that wouldn't be such a huge deal. After all. everyone runs pre-orders promotions, right? What's really new here is that Huawei has launched an online store -- -- that promises some shiny new Huawei hardware on a regular basis, plus a slew of free goodies to go with it.

Let's say you pick up an Ascend Mate 2 after all -- you'll get a SIM card with a month of free service, along with a case, and 20GB of cloud storage courtesy of Bitcasa. Zhiqiang Xu, the newly installed head of Huawei's US devices group, was quick reassure a gaggle of reporters in New York that there would be plenty of new unlocked devices making their debut in the Get Huawei store as time marches onward.

So yes, that's pretty neat if you're itching to pick up some solid hardware without breaking the bank. Make no mistake, though: this is a big, big bet on Huawei's part. It's striking out on its own and trying to directly convince people that Huawei phones are worth owning, that the brand has value beyond just being a magnet for espionage allegations. In some ways, it's a culmination of the work Huawei's been doing to improve its international image -- the United States is one of those markets that can be tough but worthwhile to crack, and the company clearly isn't giving up without a fight.