Huawei to skip annual update of its flagship Mate smartphone in latest sign that US sanctions are taking a toll

·2-min read

Huawei Technologies Co will not update its high-end Mate smartphone series this year as the company remains hobbled by US trade sanctions, marking the first time since the brand was introduced in 2013 that it will not get an annual refresh, according to local media.

Huawei had been expected to launch a new 5G Mate smartphone in September, powered by the a new generation of Huawei’s own Kirin chip, but that plan has been abandoned, according to a report by LatePost on Wednesday.

Huawei declined to comment on the report.

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Huawei is still blocked from buying semiconductors made with US software and equipment after being added to the US Entity List in 2019. Citing national security concerns, Washington requires foreign chip makers that use US technology in their production lines to apply for a licence before they can sell chips to Shenzhen-based Huawei. The ruling also covers global foundry leader Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), which had been making Kirin chipsets for HiSilicon, Huawei’s in-house chip design unit.

Eric Xu Zhijun, a rotating chairman at Huawei, said earlier this year that the company could not find any manufacturer willing to make chips for it, and that its stockpile of semiconductors was draining. As a result of the US restrictions, Huawei’s chip purchases from Japan dropped to US$8 billion in 2020, down from US$10 billion the year before, according to Xu.

Huawei’s Kirin chips were designed in-house by HiSilicon, but US sanctions prevent them from being manufactured at TSMC. Photo: Handout
Huawei’s Kirin chips were designed in-house by HiSilicon, but US sanctions prevent them from being manufactured at TSMC. Photo: Handout

Huawei is now shifting its focus to maintaining existing smartphone customers, which includes providing new replacement parts for existing phones at a low price, as well as officially launching its own operating system HarmonyOS, according to the LatePost report.

Last October, the company launched its Huawei Mate 40 Series, the latest in the line, which can be upgraded to the HarmonyOS 2.

HarmonyOS 2 is expected to run on up to 300 million smart devices by the end of this year, including 200 million Huawei smartphones and 100 million third-party devices, Huawei said at the launch event for the latest version of the OS, which aims to work as an alternative to Android.

Huawei’s smartphone shipments have plummeted since last year under the pressure of US sanctions, accounting for only 15 per cent of the mainland China market in the first quarter of 2021 compared with 29 per cent in the same period a year earlier, according to data from Counterpoint.


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