Huawei displays resilience with Mate XS launch

February 25, 2020 13:46
A Huawei employee demonstrates the features of the Mate XS, the company's latest foldable-screen smartphone model. Photo: Reuters

Huawei Technologies is boldly pursuing its campaign in the smartphone market, refusing to slow down amid the novel coronavirus outbreak and growing pressure from the US government.

The world's largest telecommunications equipment maker on Monday unveiled its latest foldable-screen smartphone model, the Mate XS, which boasts faster download speeds and longer battery life. Its predecessor, the Mate X, was launched just a year ago.

The company also announced that it will launch “the world’s most powerful 5G flagship”, the P40 series, on March 26.

The Mate XS offers a more durable display with a redesigned hinge. It also features a faster processor, the Kirin 990.

However, in view of the US ban, Huawei cannot offer the full Google Android experience on the new device.

The latest folding phone will be sold in China and overseas markets starting next month at a suggested retail price of 2,499 euros (US$2,710).

It will compete with Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Fold and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, as well as Samsung Galaxy S20 series and other upcoming 5G smartphones in the next few months.

The foldable-screen smartphone is still a niche product in the market.

Not all users are eager to use such a big screen for their smartphone; some would opt for a tablet if they wanted a bigger screen.

Also, the technology for the folding screen is not yet mature. Many users fear the phone could be easily broken, especially in the case of the Mate XS, whose screen is exposed when folded.

Nonetheless, Huawei has made the device as durable as it could be. It uses a “quad-layer” construction for the screen. There are two layers of polyamide film on top, which are stuck together by a clear adhesive. Below is the flexible OLED display.

Then there’s a softer polymer layer that acts as a cushion and a final layer to connect it to the main body of the device.

The design of the hinge has also been improved, making the phone much smoother and more durable compared to the original Mate X.

The Mate XS and P40 flagships should help Huawei maintain its business momentum in the market, despite the adverse impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on production and consumer demand.

Market watchers believe smartphone players will suffer a significant drop in global shipments in the first quarter as most of the manufacturing facilities in China have not returned to normal capacity since the Lunar New Year holiday.

Prior to the epidemic, Huawei already saw slower sales last year, allowing Apple and Samsung to place first and second respectively in the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter.

According to Strategy Analytics, global shipment reached 375 million units in October-December 2019. Apple grabbed a 19 percent slice of the market, while Samsung had the second biggest share. Huawei slipped to third place with a 15 percent share.

For the entire year, smartphone shipments totaled 1.4 billion units. 

The latest figures indicate that Huawei is suffering from the US ban. Its Mate 30 series did not come with the Google Mobile Service, and this must have affected the buying decision of European customers, who have attached most of their smartphone activities to Google services.

Still, Huawei is actively building its 5G ecosystem globally through its equipment business. The company said last week that it has so far been awarded 91 commercial 5G contracts and shipped over 600,000 5G Massive MIMO Active Antenna Units (AAUs) for the next-generation mobile service.

So Huawei pursues its efforts to maintain dominance in the global 5G market, proving very resilient in a very tough business environment.

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EJ Insight writer