Huawei unveils its next folding smartphone – and it will run Harmony OS

Huawei Technologies has taken the wraps off its latest high-end foldable smartphone, hoping to stake out a place in a fast-expanding category despite dwindling expectations that Washington will roll back Trump-era sanctions anytime soon.

Huawei’s Mate X2 features an 8-inch screen when opened out and a 6.45-inch one when closed. It’s powered by the company’s own 5G Kirin 9000 chip and came days after Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei vowed to keep its smartphone business, dismissing reports China’s largest tech company is considering selling the business because of US restrictions.

Once the world’s biggest smartphone maker, Shenzhen-based Huawei’s shipments plunged in past months after its inventory of chips dried up. It’s been forced to dig into its stores to power flagship devices for 2021, after Washington cut it off from American technology and key chip-making suppliers like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

“We have prepared enough capacity for Mate X2, the capacity is growing on daily basis,” Richard Yu, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer electronics unit, said at a launch event in Shanghai on Monday.

The company’s running phone production at close to minimum capacity to preserve its existing cache of components and prolong the life cycle of its devices, spurring product shortages at retailers across the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

Harmony OS

The Mate X2 will go on sale in China on 25 February, priced at 18 999 (R43 600) for a version with 512GB of storage. It’ll run a version of Google’s Android tailored for China, which lacks the US company’s core apps and commercial features, but can be updated to Huawei’s own Harmony operating system in April.

Yu said on Monday that more of the company’s top-tier phones will be powered by its in-house software rather than Android in future.

Huawei in 2019 found itself thrust into the heart of US-Chinese tensions after the White House labelled it a national security threat and imposed a series of trade restrictions. Those curbs curtailed its growth and forced the company to sell off its low-end Honor devices arm last year.

Ren has urged the new US administration to adopt an “open policy” towards Huawei, which in turn would benefit its American suppliers. But Biden’s nominee for commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo, said during her senate confirmation process she knew of “no reason” why Trump-era curbs shouldn’t continue.

Huawei’s smartphone shipments dived 42% in the last three months of 2020 while its biggest competitors Samsung Electronics, Apple and Xiaomi all gained market share, according to researcher IDC.  — Reported by Nate Lanxon, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP


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