Huawei’s Commitment: Working Overtime to Meet Soaring Smartphone Demand
Huawei said on Monday it was “working extra hours” to meet surging domestic demand for its smartphones after the Chinese tech company last month quietly unveiled its first 5G-capable handset, despite U.S. sanctions that had cut off vital chip supplies since 2020.
“We thank all our national people for their strong support,” said Richard Yu, CEO of the consumer business group, at a launch event. “Currently, we are urgently working extra hours to manufacture our handsets to allow more users to get to experience our products,” he added, suggesting that the company was struggling to meet demand for its latest Mate 60 Pro, Mate X5 and Mate 60 models.
The CEO did not reveal any technical information about its latest smartphones, such as their 5G connectivity and the semiconductors used in them, but confirmed that the new Mate 60 Pro can be used to make satellite phone calls.
The highly anticipated launch event came after Huawei quietly put its first 5G-capable Mate 60 Pro smartphone on sale on Aug. 29. The new smartphone shocked markets as it showed that Huawei was able to develop its products despite the U.S. cutting off its access to advanced semiconductors because Washington considers the tech company a national security threat. Huawei has denied such allegations.
During the event in Shenzhen, which was livestreamed, the audience was heard chanting “yao yao ling xian” — meaning “taking an advanced lead” — from time to time.
Huawei on Monday also unveiled several new products — tablets, smartwatches, smart displays, wireless earbuds, smart glasses and smart automotive platforms, some with chipsets developed by the company.
It has refreshed its smart displays V5Pro with a new Honghu 900 chipset made in-house with AI computing features while its new wireless earbuds FreeBuds Pro 3 bear its Kirin A2 chip which was also developed by Huawei, said Kevin Ho, chief operating officer of its consumer business group. Both chipsets do not require the most cutting-edge chip production technologies, industry executives said.
Huawei claims its latest tablet, the Mate Pad 13.2, is the world’s “lightest and thinnest” with an advanced flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, an advanced technology that has become a key criterion in premium smartphones made by Apple and Samsung Electronics. China’s OLED display champion BOE Technology Group is a rival to Samsung Display and South Korea’s LG Display.
The tablet is also equipped with NearLink, Huawei’s new generation of short-range wireless connection technology. This technology is also employed in its M-Pencil, which makes its data transfer speed six times faster than Bluetooth, according to Yu. The Chinese company was briefly forced to suspend its membership of Bluetooth SIC, a global alliance for the Bluetooth standard, as a result of U.S. export controls. That incident spurred the company to develop other compatible technologies.
Huawei also said it would launch a more powerful smart automotive platform for its first electric sedan, the Zhijie S7, with partner Chery Automobile in late November, which it claimed would surpass Tesla’s premium Model S in all specifications.
The CEO added that the company’s own Harmony operating system, Huawei’s alternative to Google’s Android, has reached 700 million users.
Ivan Lam, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, said Huawei had not given up on its consumer business, particularly in China, in the face of disruptions.
“It has worked hard to continue introducing devices such as wearables, smart TVs, tablets and earphones. For example, its smartwatches are still ranked No.1 in the domestic market,” said Lam, who believes Huawei could rise again to become one of China’s top three in the last quarter of this year if sales of its flagship smartphone continue to surge.
“However, we do see they could have some bottlenecks to keep up its production to meet customers’ demand. We have to monitor if their key components production could go smoothly,” said Lam, although he admitted that Huawei’s smartphone comeback was likely to be contained in China’s domestic market this year and next.
Edison Lee, an analyst at Jefferies, estimated that more than 2 million Mate 60 Pros have been sold, but fewer than half a million units have been delivered. “This is either a carefully thought-out marketing strategy to avoid a head-on fight with iPhone 15 series in the latter’s first few weeks of launch, keeping consumers hungry for the Mate 60 Pro, or could imply production constraint at the 7-nanometer production line in China,” he said.