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Huawei drops 5G for new P50 phones as US sanctions grip

Huawei Technologies Update

Huawei Technologies announced on July 29 that the Chinese group has an alternative to Android software, but the first premium smartphone without a 5G connection.

Huawei — the world’s second largest smartphone maker as recently as last year — said the latest P50 and P50 Pro phones will run on HarmonyOS.

Richard Yu, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Group, unveiled his cell phone at a modest Chinese-only online event. This is in stark contrast to previous announcements aimed at viewers around the world. Yu does not say whether the new model will be available outside the Chinese market.

“U.S. sanctions certainly make us a world leader in 5G technology, but new smartphones can’t run on 5G wireless connections,” Yu said. “But 4G, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and AI computing algorithms can deliver as powerful performance as any 5G phone.”

This article is from Nikkei AsiaA global publication with a unique Asian perspective on political, economic, business and international affairs. Our own correspondents and external commentators from around the world share their views on Asia, and the Asia300 section details the 300 largest and fastest-growing listed companies from 11 countries other than Japan. increase.

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Most of the new premium smartphones from Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi and other Huawei rivals are 5G models. Last year, Apple moved to faster 5G technology for the finest iPhone 12 series. Plan to add 5G Nikkei Asia reported on the low-priced iPhone SE next year.

Huawei adopted 5G technology early on. In 2019, the company’s Mate 30 series is the industry’s first product with an integrated 5G chipset with a built-in 5G modem, all designed by HiSilicon Technologies in the semiconductor division.

According to Huawei, the new P50 smartphone will run on the HiSilicon-developed Kirin 9000 processor and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8884G processor.

This is the first confirmation that a Chinese company was able to secure a chipset from a US chipmaker while on the Washington trade blacklist, even though it did not have access to the 5G version. Chinese competitor Xiaomi uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8885G mobile processor in its latest flagship Mi11 phone.

Huawei store in China

Huawei’s smartphone business has plummeted since Washington blacklisted it due to national security concerns © AFP via Getty Images

According to Yu, the P50 Pro with the Kirin 9000 will be available on August 12, with retail prices up to RMB 7,488 ($ 1,152) and a Qualcomm version scheduled to be available later this year. The P50 model will only work with Qualcomm chipsets and will be available in September.

Washington blacklisted Huawei on national security concerns in 2019 and subsequently amended its export control rules to block all unlicensed shipments of chips and components from non-US suppliers.

Tighter rules block Huawei’s involvement with most major chip suppliers, including TSMC, MediaTek and Qualcomm, and limit access to the world’s most advanced chips. Chinese companies have had to rely on stockpiled chips and less advanced chipsets for the recent release of smartphones.

Huawei typically deployed P-series handsets in February or March at high-profile tech events in Barcelona and other major European cities. However, the company’s struggle to secure an important supply of chips and electronic components delayed the launch of the P50.

Still, Yu remained bright about the new phone’s features, advertising the P50 series to be able to take pictures over longer distances and in darker places than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

“Every time we announce the P-series, we are leading a new trend in the smartphone industry,” says Yu.

According to Yu, 40 million users have updated their Huawei phones to HarmonyOS. This is an important move for Chinese companies to build a new ecosystem that does not use American technology. Huawei said last month that it aims to update its 200 million existing phones to HarmonyOS by the end of this year.

The US government has banned Huawei from accessing Google’s mobile services, including popular mobile applications such as Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play. This has had a major impact on the performance of overseas smartphones of Chinese companies since May 2019.

Huawei executives acknowledge that the Washington crackdown has had a serious impact on the company’s smartphone business. The group is allocating resources to develop HarmonyOS, a proprietary version of the Android mobile operating system widely used on Samsung, Oppo and Xiaomi phones, to smartphones and the Internet without American technology. We want to rebuild the connected ecosystem.

Chinese tech giants are also actively investing and boosting domestic chip companies Overseas recruitmentNikkei Asia previously reported to maintain its technological capabilities, mainly in Europe.

According to Counterpoint Research, Huawei’s smartphone market share plummeted 20% between April and June 2020, ranking seventh with only 4% share in the first quarter of this year.

In the domestic market, Huawei fell to sixth place with a market share of 8.3%. According to IDC preliminary data, Honor — Huawei’s low-priced smartphone line sold to the consortium last November — ranked fifth in China.

“shipment [of components] Access to Huawei is very limited this year. Huawei’s longtime supplier told Nikkei. “We now want Honor to solidify its presence and rise in the smartphone market.”

According to Isaiah Research, Huawei’s smartphone shipments this year could drop to around 40 million units in 2021. Last year, it still shipped 189 million units and was ranked third in the world, but in 2019 it shipped a record high of 240.6 million units, second only to Samsung. .. , IDC data is displayed.

Eddie Han, an analyst at Isaiah Research, said: “Instead, Huawei may spend more resources building software and applications, especially HarmonyOS and ecosystem partners.”

“I think Huawei will look at other non-5G products such as laptops, TVs, wearables, the Internet of Things, and automotive electronics,” Han said.

Version of this article First published by Nikkei Asia on July 29, 2021. © 2021 Nikkei Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

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