MUNICH (Reuters) – Huawei [HWT.UL] directly challenged Apple’s (AAPL.O) new iPhone 11 with its new Mate 30 smartphone range on Thursday, highlighting its own apps brand while sidestepping the critical issue of access to Google (GOOGL.O) services.
Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, launches the Mate 30 smartphone range at the Convention Center in Munich, Germany September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
At a glitzy launch in the German city of Munich, the Chinese firm said its new Mate 30 Pro and Mate 30 devices were more compact, their cameras superior and wraparound screens brighter than the latest Apple iPhone.
Top salesman Richard Yu showcased the new models in the first such event since President Donald Trump hit Huawei with a U.S. export ban in May..
“It’s got a large screen but it’s very compact in your hand,” Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business, said of the phone, whose fate in Europe will hang on whether customers buy a device lacking access to software and apps supported by Google.
Yu said the new phones would offer their own app gallery and the company would spend $1 billion on incentives to promote its Huawei Mobile Services app ecosystem. Huawei did not say when the new phones would be shipped in Europe.
Huawei said the Mate 30 would be priced from 799 euros ($884), the top-end Mate 30 Pro from 1,099 euros and the Mate 30 Pro 5G from 1,199 euros. It also revealed a new Porsche design version which will be priced at 2,095 euros.
By comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 5G retails at $1,299, and the iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999, but lacks 5G connectivity.
Yu also showed off wearables including the GT-2 smartwatch and the Earbuds 3 wireless headphones, which he said had the best noise-cancellation performance on the market, as well as smart TVs boasting artificial intelligence features.
“Despite all the concerns surrounding Huawei, and the challenges it faces, it remains defiant and prepared to soldier on,” said telecoms and media analyst Paolo Pescatore.
Washington has effectively banned U.S. firms from supplying Huawei, alleging it is a national security risk as its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy, something which Huawei has repeatedly denied.
The No.2 smartphone maker expects the U.S. ban to cost it $10 billion.
Huawei’s new phone launch has been marked by uncertainty over whether buyers of the flagship Android device will be able to use apps supported by Google (GOOGL.O), a unit of Silicon Valley giant Alphabet.
Holding the launch in Europe underlines the importance of the 500 million consumers in the region, where Huawei has lost five percentage points in market share since the U.S. ban, even as buyers rallied to its brand at home.
Huawei has been running an online marketing campaign here with the slogan “Rethink Possibilities”, recruiting fans to spread the word about the launch.
The Mate 30 range will run on an open-source version of Android – and not on the current version licensed from Google, a source familiar with the matter said before the launch.
The smartphones will not be able to use Google Mobile Services to use the Play Store and download apps like Gmail, YouTube or Maps. Instead, Huawei will offer its own interface that will allow users to access some Google apps.
Yu did not directly address the Google issue in his presentation.
Without those Google features, analysts say consumers won’t want the phone – unless Huawei can find a way to convince them that its features are unmatched and the alternative software offering is stable and easy to use.
Huawei says the phone’s ‘brain’ – the Kirin 990 chipset unveiled at a recent tech fair in Berlin – outperforms the Qualcomm-powered (QCOM.O) 5G phones already on the market from market leader Samsung (005930.KS).
In particular, the ‘big core-tiny core’ configuration of the hardware means it can run power-hungry applications like artificial intelligence or support online gaming, while saving battery on routine tasks.
“Huawei has Apple soundly beaten when it comes to form factor design but even these beautiful-looking devices are going to struggle to see any volume without the Google ecosystem,” analyst Richard Windsor said in a note before the launch.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Writing by Alexander Smith; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Keith Weir