A research firm said that Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) sold 1.6 million of its Mate 60 Pro handsets in six weeks, as the Chinese technology giant defied a smartphone slowdown to enjoy strong demand in its high-end smartphone renaissance. Of those sales, over 400,000 were in the last two weeks, when Apple (AAPL.O) launched the iPhone 15 on the mainland, Counterpoint Research said. The premium device, made to work on 5G mobile networks, was released in late August. Since then, Counterpoint said that it has been in high demand, with available stock bought up almost as quickly as it is delivered, creating the appearance of perpetual unavailability.
According to the research firm IDC, the company has sold around a quarter of the devices it planned to sell in 2021, the year in which it will be expected to surpass Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker. That is a strong performance, given that the overall global smartphone market contracted by 8% in the third quarter of this year.
But the success of the flagship device is unlikely to help Huawei retake pole position in Europe, where its share of the market has plunged following the U.S. blocklisting of the firm over security concerns – something that Huawei denies. The move by the Trump administration prompted several allies to restrict their use of Huawei equipment, including members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
Those restrictions have also cut into Huawei’s ability to buy critical parts from U.S. suppliers, a key source of revenue for the Shenzhen-based company. The Commerce Department has added over 100 affiliates, which effectively blocks them from buying American semiconductor chips, specialty lasers, and other products.
It’s unclear how long the retaliatory measures against the company will continue. The White House has indicated it may lift the ban as part of a trade deal, while Huawei said it would hurt its global business.
The company has responded to the U.S. block by shifting to other software and hardware sources, although that is unlikely to have much impact on its overall market share, analysts say. It has developed its operating system dubbed Harmony, which can be used on its smartphones in Europe without running afoul of the U.S. export restrictions. But it is not yet a credible replacement for Google’s Android, which usually comes pre-loaded on phones. In a sign of the need for that to change, Huawei has applied for a license from Google’s parent, Alphabet Inc, to offer its apps and services on the Mate 30. Google has not said whether it will grant the license. If the request is successful, the software will be installed on the device after it is shipped. This is the first such application by a Chinese smartphone maker. The license will cost tens of millions of dollars, independent analysts estimate.