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Honor looks to go global in life after Huawei

Peter Griffin, Contributor. 25 January 2021, 10:11 pm

After a few years of delivering increasingly credible premium smartphones, Chinese manufacturer Huawei saw its fortunes crash in 2019 when the Trump administration effectively blacklisted it from working with US tech companies and mobile operators.

That included Huawei being placed on a US export blacklist called the Entity List. It means chip makers like Qualcomm aren't allowed to supply Huawei with components and the company's smartphones can't carry the key Google apps such as Youtube and Gmail, as well as the Google Play store which is the gateway to Android phones.

That's seen Huawei phones largely disappear from public view here in New Zealand. They are still available to buy at most local electronics retailers, but the disclaimer "HMS Device - Google Apps not supported", is the deal-breaker for many smartphone users who just can't live without Google. Huawei's global phone sales plummeted last year a result.

Huawei had a strong budget brand called Honor, which was spun off into a separate, independent Chinese-owned company late last year, in a bid to get around the trade restrictions. On Friday, Honor revealed its new 5G phone, the V40, which is powered by a mobile chip make by Taiwanese manufacturer MediaTek. But Honor said it had also secured partnerships with the likes of AMD, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm, all US companies subject to the supply restrictions affecting Huawei. 

That would suggest the company is now being treated like other Chinese mobile phone makers who still partner with US suppliers. The sensitivity around Huawei stems from the Shenzhen-based company's strength in 5G mobile network equipment and security concerns western governments, including our own, have expressed about the company's links to the Chinese Communist Party. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-25 at 10.10.20 PM.png

The new Honor V40

Off the blacklist?

The V40 launch is for the Chinese market, where most Google services are banned anyway, so the lack of Google Play support wouldn't make much of a difference. But honor phones usually find their way to other markets under the "View" brand.

Honor phones are not on the market officially in New Zealand, though some models are available as parallel imports. It is yet to be seen whether Honor will pursue a New Zealand presence to take on Android market leader Samsung, Chinese maker Oppo and its old stablemate Huawei.

Honor is also yet to confirm whether it is able to ship phones internationally with Google's full suite of services. Honor accounted for 68.7 million of Huawei's 240.6 million smartphones sold worldwide in 2019, with most of them sold to Chinese customers. 

The question now is whether Honor will pursue international expansion. It has told suppliers it needs components for up to 100 million smartphones, suggesting it is looking to expand beyond China. 

"It has been very tough in the past five months," said Honor's chief executive, Zhao Ming, at the launch of the V40.

"But the blessings and encouragement from consumers and the industry gave us courage. Honor will confidently, bravely face everything, and the new Honor that is independent will keep its glory of the past and continue to innovate."


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