HONG KONG, April 28 (Reuters) - Chinese smartphone maker
Huawei Technologies has come under fire from users for
"cutting corners", after it said it used a mix of less advanced
and powerful chips in its flagship P10 model due to tight
supplies of the parts.
The company's mobile chief Richard Yu said on April 20 that
Huawei used a mix of less efficient eMMC flash memory cards and
high-performance Universal Flash Storage (UFS) cards in its
latest P10 phone "due to severe shortage in the supply chain."
Yu said user experience shouldn't be impaired because of
product design adjustments, but consumers took to online forums
to counter that speed testing results showed varying
Huawei has also had a marketing stumble over memory chip
specification in its other high-end Mate 9 model - illustrating
both how a global memory chip shortage is causing problems for
smartphone makers, and the challenges Huawei faces in trying to
overtake Apple Inc with its top-end phones.
Previously, Huawei highlighted the UFS feature as one of the
stand-out specifications in its Mate 9 line, unveiled in
November, saying the chip was 100 percent faster than a typical
But, last week, it removed that UFS description from its
official website, without explanation. It also removed from the
Huawei app store a third-party speed-testing software called
Androbench, which it used to tout the P10's performance at its
That triggered more consumer ire online, with some users
accusing Huawei of selling substandard products for the same
price. Huawei reinstated the description late on Thursday, and
told Reuters it had temporarily removed the description "to
avoid confusion" while it checked to confirm that all Mate 9
phones support UFS 2.1 flash.
"How dare you cut corners on such an expensive flagship!
Conceal the differences at first and then say the differences
don't matter once busted," one user posted on Weibo, China's
popular Twitter-like board.
The Shenzhen Consumer Council said on its official Weibo
account that it received 32 complaints from users on the issue.
In a letter to Huawei staff on Thursday, later posted on his
Weibo account, Yu said the controversy over the phones' memory
performance was a "wake-up call", and that he had previously
reacted to consumers "in an arrogant way".
UFS boasts a faster performance than a typical flash storage
card, and is crucial for playing the high-resolution games and
media content popular among Chinese device users.
Samsung Electronics Co has used UFS flash memory
cards in its high-end phones, including the Galaxy S8 that went
on sale last week. Apple doesn't reveal what memory card it
Memory chips are in tight supply due to production
bottlenecks and strong demand from high-end smartphone makers.
Both Samsung and SK Hynix - which together
control nearly half the global NAND flash memory market - warned
this week that the tight supply will continue through this year.
There are also concerns of potential supply disruptions amid
rising tensions with North Korea over its nuclear and missile
Any interruptions to their manufacturing operations could
prompt large customers to trigger a contractual term known as an
"allocation", to secure more of their suppliers' limited supply,
industry executives say.
In his staff letter, Yu said Huawei set up a "customer
listening taskforce" that will take a series of actions.
In reply to Reuters queries, the company said no decisions
had yet been made on whether that could involve compensation for
users or a product recall.
Mo Jia, an analyst at consultancy Canalys, said the issue
had been overblown, though Huawei had been overly aggressive in
"It's rare for companies to tout such specific details of
flash memory, which is almost unnoticeable for ordinary users,"
he said, adding supplies of key parts had not kept pace with the
Chinese smartphone market, which grew by around 10 percent in
the first quarter.
(Reporting by Sijia Jiang; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Ian