Huawei to unveil foldable 5G phone, made from its own tech
Richard Yu unveiling the 5G modem Balong 5000 chipset in Beijing on Thursday.
Beijing - Heavy spending in own chips can reduce company's annual components bill, help insulate it from US-China trade beef
Published: Thu 24 Jan 2019, 6:50 PM
Last updated: Thu 24 Jan 2019, 8:55 PM
Chinese tech giant Huawei announced plans for a next-generation smartphone that will use its own technology instead of US components, maneuvering to gain a competitive edge and sidestep US complaints it is a security risk.
The leading supplier of network switching gear for phone companies, Huawei Technologies is spending heavily to develop its own chips, an area where the US dominates. That can reduce Huawei's multibillion-dollar annual components bill and help insulate it against possible supply disruptions when US-Chinese relations are strained.
The handset, billed by Huawei as the first foldable fifth-generation smartphone, will be unveiled next month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the industry's biggest annual event, said Richard Yu, CEO of the company's consumer unit.
The phone is based on Huawei's own Kirin 980 chipset and Balong 5000 modem. The company says the Kirin 980, released in August, performs on a par with Qualcomm's widely-used Snapdragon 845.
Sales of Huawei smartphones and other consumer products rose more than 50 per cent last year over 2017, showing "no influence" from Western security warnings, Yu told reporters. He said the consumer unit's sales topped $52 billion, or more than half of the $100 billion in annual revenue the company has forecast. Huawei has yet to release 2018 results for the whole company.
"In this complicated political environment, we still maintain strong growth," Yu said.
Chinese companies are competing with Western tech suppliers in telecoms, solar power, electric cars, biotechnology and other fields. The ruling Communist Party's plans for state-led development of such industries, along with robotics and artificial intelligence, helped triggered a trade war with President Donald Trump.
Both sides have raised tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other's goods in the dispute over American complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. Washington also says Chinese technology plans violate Beijing's market-opening obligations.
Huawei surpassed Apple as the No.2 global smartphone brand behind Samsung in mid-2018. It uses Qualcomm in its high-end fourth-generation smartphones and earlier Kirin versions in lower-end models. The company, based in Shenzhen near Hong Kong, also has developed chips for servers and mobile devices. Apple and Samsung Electronics already make their own chips.
Qualcomm has far more smartphone chip technology but Huawei is catching up, said Xi Wang of IDC.
"Generally speaking, Huawei's chips are equal to Qualcomm chips in performance," Wang said. "Not only at the mid-level but at the high end, Huawei can compete with Qualcomm."