Huawei delays ambition to be world top smartphone vendor

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Huawei says its ambition of becoming the world’s number one smartphone manufacturer will have to wait following recent events.

“We would have become the largest in the fourth quarter (of this year) but now we feel that this process may take longer,” said Shao Yang, chief strategy officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group, reportedly told CES Asia in Shanghai.

Earlier this year, the beleaguered Chinese manufacturer overtook Apple as world number two and said it believed it would overtake Samsung “earliest this year, and next year at the latest.” This was despite the fact it has effectively been frozen out of the US market on national security grounds.

Race for number one

While Huawei’s competitors have struggled with the effects of marketing saturation, the company’s feature packed but affordable devices have long been popular in its price-conscious homeland, where brand attachment is low.

Meanwhile, more advanced models like the Huawei P30 Pro have won favour with critics and consumers in Western Europe and sales have also been boosted by the mid-range Honor brand.

However, this progress has been derailed by a decision last month by the US Commerce Department prohibited American firms from doing business with Huawei, a move which means the company’s handsets will no longer receive updates for the Android operating system from Google or access to its popular applications.

The consequences of the ruling are far-reaching, with British-based chip designer ARM reportedly telling its employees to suspend all activities with Huawei.

Despite the impact on its smartphone business, the concerns about Huawei are largely based on its networking gear.

Critics fear that Huawei has links to the Chinese government and that its equipment could have backdoors that could act as a launchpad for state-sponsored espionage or a network shutdown at a time when mobile infrastructure is becoming increasingly integral to everyday life.

Security concerns

The UK has been carrying out its own assessment on the future role of Huawei in the UK’s telecoms infrastructure. A report was expected to arrive in the Spring but has not yet materialised. Leaks suggested that operators will not be banned from using Huawei kit in the radio layer of their networks, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Huawei was invited to the Technology and Science Select committee earlier this week to answer questions about the aforementioned security concerns.

Speaking to a panel of MPs, the company's cybersecurity chief John Suffolk said Huawei had never been asked to do anything malicious by any government and that it welcomed efforts the analysis of its products as it made them more secure.

He added that Chinese law did not require Huawei to compromise the security of its equipment and that it could not access the data transmitted on any of its customers networks as it is a mere vendor.

"We don't run networks, and because we don't run the network, we have no access to any of the data that is running across that network," he said.

Via Reuters

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.