By Francis Bahene Tumwekwasize
In a strategic move that has ignited the tech world, Huawei Technologies has staged a remarkable comeback in the smartphone market, unveiling its second 5G-capable marvel in just over a week. This time, it’s a sleek and innovative foldable phone, hitting the market days ahead of its arch-rival, Apple, and their highly anticipated launch event.
The Unveiling of the Mate X5
On a bustling Friday, Huawei Technologies took the smartphone world by storm with the introduction of the Mate X5. This awe-inspiring device follows hot on the heels of the surprise release on August 29th, the Mate 60 Pro. What makes these releases particularly significant is that they mark Huawei’s triumphant return to the 5G phone arena using in-house chips. This achievement comes on the heels of Washington’s decision to cut off the company’s access to critical technologies, making it a truly remarkable feat.
Quiet Success with Significant Impact
Despite their relatively quiet entrance into the market, both the Mate X5 and Mate 60 Pro have sparked intense interest among Chinese consumers and raised concerns among U.S. authorities. Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, enthusiastically welcomed the Mate X5, stating on Weibo, “The best foldable phone is still going to be Huawei. Let’s welcome another handset, the Mate X5, to join our pioneer program.”
A Glimpse at the Mate X5
Preliminary reviews of the Mate X5 in China have shed light on its cutting-edge features. This remarkable device is powered by Huawei’s 5G-capable Kirin chipset, a testament to the company’s prowess in chip development. Notably, this chipset is also found in the Mate 60 Pro, as confirmed by teardowns. Interestingly, it is manufactured by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), raising questions about the effectiveness of U.S. export controls in slowing China’s technological advancement. It’s worth mentioning that both Huawei and SMIC have consistently denied any allegations of security risks.
Huawei’s Global Presence
Despite the challenges posed by Washington’s restrictions, Huawei has managed to maintain its competitiveness in certain segments. In the first half of 2023, it held nearly 15% of the global market for foldable phones, as reported by Canalys. Impressively, these shipments were primarily in China, and not all devices supported 5G connectivity. Huawei’s distinction as the first Chinese company to introduce foldable phones in early 2019, shortly after Samsung, has played a pivotal role in its enduring presence.
Apple’s Upcoming Move
As the tech world eagerly awaits Apple’s annual product launch event in California, one question looms large: will the tech giant introduce its own foldable phone? The answer remains uncertain, making Huawei’s bold move all the more intriguing.
Huawei’s Changing Fortunes
Once a dominant player in the global smartphone market, Huawei has seen a significant shift in its ranking since the U.S. imposed restrictions on vital chip access. Apple, in contrast, has managed to maintain a strong presence in China, primarily due to its premium offerings. Data from Counterpoint reveals that Apple secured the top spot in China in the final quarter of 2022 and the first quarter of this year, holding over 20% of the market share. In the second quarter, it remained in the top three with a share just above 17%, on par with Oppo and Vivo. This is a notable transformation considering Apple’s iPhone market share in China was only 9% in 2019, when the U.S. initiated its crackdown on Huawei.
A Boon for Chinese Competitors
Huawei’s struggles have inadvertently benefited Chinese smartphone manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi. These companies have expanded their market shares over the past three years as Huawei grappled with chip supply challenges.
In conclusion, Huawei’s release of the Mate X5, a 5G foldable phone, just ahead of Apple’s much-anticipated launch event, underscores the company’s resilience and determination to maintain its position in the ever-competitive smartphone market. While challenges persist, Huawei’s ability to innovate and adapt remains a testament to its enduring legacy in the tech world.
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