Industry analyst Ben Wood said the P8 ticked all the boxes on design and performance, but it had a mountain to climb to position Huawei as a premium brand. Huawei, and fellow Chinese companies Lenovo and Xiaomi, are leading the challenge to the two big players, particularly in their home market.
The P8, which runs Google's Android operating system, has a 5.2 inch display screen -- slightly larger than the Samsung Galaxy S6, unveiled last month, and the iPhone 6 – and an eight-core 64-bit processor.
Made from a single piece of metal, the phone is thinner than its rivals, with a width of 6.4 millimetres, Huawei said at a packed global launch event in London.
Like Apple, the Chinese company also launched a super-size version, the P8 Max, which comes with a 6.8 inch screen.
Huawei, a major player in the telecoms network equipment market, ranked fourth in global smartphone sales last year, shipping 68 million units, giving it a 5.5 percent share, according to research group Gartner.
The market is dominated by Samsung and Apple, which Gartner said had combined sales of nearly 500 million units.
Seeking to differentiate itself from rivals, Huawei showed it could innovate, with features such as "knuckle sense", which can differentiate between a knuckle and a finger to select and share content.
It also optimised the devices' cameras to take "selfies", including an ability to adjust skin tones, a move consumer device marketing president Shao Yang said would particularly increase its appeal to fashion-conscious young women.
"Huawei didn't do very well in the past in the female market; this is the big potential market for the P-Series," he said in an interview after the launch.
"In the China market, at the over-400 euro price, there are only three brands: Huawei is maybe 10 percent, Samsung is 20 percent and Apple is the biggest," Yang said. "Only three brands play in the premium space, and we are growing quite fast."
The standard version of the P8 will go on sale within weeks in 30 markets, including China, the UK, France and Germany, priced at 499 euros, Huawei said.
Industry analyst Ben Wood said the P8 ticked all the boxes on design and performance, but it had a mountain to climb to position Huawei as a premium brand.
Huawei, and fellow Chinese companies Lenovo and Xiaomi, are leading the challenge to the two big players, particularly in their home market.