BEIJING – Fighting under US sanctions, Huawei on Monday unveiled a foldable smartphone with an 8-inch (20-centimeter) wide screen to showcase its technological prowess, but said it will be sold only in China.
The Mate X2 highlights the challenges for Huawei Technologies Ltd. after Washington cut off access to US processor chips and Google services. Last year, Huawei fell from the world’s best-selling smartphone brand to sixth place.
Huawei says the Mate X2, its third foldable phone, has sharper images and better sound for movies and games. It runs on Huawei’s most advanced processor chip, the Kirin 9000.
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The phone offers “a truly immersive experience,” said Huawei’s consumer unit president Richard Yu at a launch event broadcast online.
Huawei, China’s first global technology brand, was hit by being included on an export blacklist by then-President Donald Trump in 2019 as a security risk, an accusation the company denies. Huawei sold its Honor smartphone brand at a cheap price in November to focus resources on high-end models.
The Mate X2 will start at 17,999 yuan ($ 2,785), according to Yu.
Monday’s launch “says a lot about how you still want to tout your advancements in technology, even if commercially speaking your shipments will be seriously hampered,” IDC’s Bryan Ma said in an email.
Executives previously said that Huawei stockpiled chips and other components in preparation for a possible outage in the United States. It’s unclear how long those supplies will last.
Huawei designed the Kirin line that powers its most advanced smartphones, but relies on third-party manufacturers, including Taiwan’s TSMC, to make them.
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The Trump administration stepped up sanctions last year by preventing TSMC and other global producers from using American technology to make chips for Huawei, including those designed by the company.
Chinese officials accuse Washington of abusing national security complaints to crack down on rising tech competitors. Huawei denies allegations that it could facilitate Chinese espionage.
Without Google Music and other pre-installed services, Huawei’s smartphone sales, including the Honor, fell 22% last year to 188.5 million, according to Canalys.
Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, said on February 9 that he did not expect new US President Joe Biden to lift Trump’s sanctions, but expressed confidence that the company can survive. Huawei, based in Shenzhen in southern China, is also the world’s largest manufacturer of switching equipment for telephone networks.
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Huawei’s smartphone unit is increasingly reliant on its local China market, which accounts for more than 70% of sales, up from 50% in 2019. The loss of Google services had no impact in China, where They are not licensed and Huawei already used local services. alternatives.
The ruling Communist Party of China has spent billions of dollars trying to build its own chip industry. But domestic producers lack the technology to make chips for Huawei’s more advanced products.
“The bigger question is how long will their current stock of components last,” said IDC’s Ma.
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Huawei has yet to report 2020 sales and earnings, but Ren, the founder, said they were better than the previous year. Huawei said that revenue for the first nine months of 2020 increased 9.9% to 671.3 billion yuan ($ 100.4 billion).