In this file photo from Thursday, May 16, 2019, a man looms near the Huawei logo in Beijing. Struggling under US sanctions, Chinese tech giant Huawei has unveiled a new flagship foldable smartphone, but says it will only be sold in China.
AP Photo / Ng Han Guan, file
BEIJING (AP) – Struggling under U.S. sanctions, Huawei on Monday unveiled a foldable smartphone with an 8-inch (20-centimeter) wide screen to show off its technological prowess, but said it would only be sold in China.
The Mate X2 highlights the challenges for Huawei Technologies Ltd. after Washington cut access to US processor chips and Google services. Huawei rose from the world’s best-selling smartphone brand to sixth place last year.
Huawei claims the Mate X2, its third foldable phone, offers sharper graphics and better sound for movies and games. It runs on Huawei’s most advanced processor chip, the Kirin 9000.
The phone offers “a truly immersive experience,” Huawei Consumer Unit Chairman Richard Yu said at a launch event broadcast online.
Huawei, China’s leading global tech brand, was undermined by then-President Donald Trump’s 2019 export blacklisting as a security risk, a charge the company denies . Huawei sold its low-cost Honor smartphone brand in November to focus its 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 it still wants to market its technological advances, even though commercially its shipments will be severely hampered,” IDC’s Bryan Ma said in an email.
Executives said earlier that Huawei had stockpiled chips and other components for a possible cut in the United States. It is not known how long these supplies could last.
Huawei designed the Kirin line that powers its most advanced smartphones, but relies on outside manufacturers including Taiwan’s TSMC to make them.
The Trump administration stepped up sanctions last year by preventing TSMC and other global producers from using U.S. technology to make chips for Huawei, including those designed by the company.
Chinese officials accuse Washington of abusing national security complaints to suppress growing tech competitors. Huawei denies accusations it could facilitate Chinese espionage.
Without Google Music and other preinstalled services, sales of Huawei’s smartphones, including Honor, fell 22% last year to 188.5 million, according to Canalys.
Huawei 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 in the company’s survival. Huawei, headquartered in Shenzhen in southern China, is also the world’s largest manufacturer of switching equipment for telephone networks.
Huawei’s smartphone unit is increasingly dependent on its Chinese home market, which accounts for over 70% of sales, up from 50% in 2019. The loss of Google services has had no impact in China, where they are not licensed and where Huawei was already using local alternatives.
The ruling Communist Party in China has spent billions of dollars trying to build its own chip industry. But domestic producers lack the technology to manufacture chips for Huawei’s more advanced products.
“Rather, the bigger question is how long their current inventory of components will last,” said Ma of IDC.
Huawei has yet to report its sales and profits for 2020, but Ren, the founder, said they were better than the year before. Huawei said revenue for the first nine months of 2020 increased 9.9% to 671.3 billion yuan ($ 100.4 billion).