While Apple has the lead in the U.S. when it comes to the smartphone market, there might be a new competitor headed its way. Recent reports from Bloomberg noted that Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. were both in discussions with U.S. carriers to bring their flagship phones to the U.S. by next year. Now, it seems like that report was correct about Huawei, with an executive confirming that it would dramatically increase its U.S. presence in 2018.
Huawei already sells budget devices in the U.S., but not through carriers — you can instead purchase them on Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and other retailers. Both Huawei and Xiaomi are specifically said to be negotiating with carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, but we have yet to hear any specifics.
“We will sell our flagship phone, our product, in the U.S. market through carriers next year,” said Richard Yu, Huawei’s president of consumer business, in an interview. “I think that we can bring value to the carriers and to consumers. Better product, better innovation, better user experience.”
According to Yu, Huawei will start with its flagship, the Mate 10, but other phones will follow. Yu also said that we can expect more information come to CES in January.
This isn’t the first time news has surfaced of Huawei’s attempt to break into the U.S. with the Mate 9. In 2016, the Chinese company was reportedly met with security concerns due to its networking equipment. The issue primarily stemmed from a 2012 congressional report suggesting U.S. carriers should stay away from Huawei gear because “China might use it to spy on Americans.”
There have also been technical obstacles when it comes to cellular standards. Since Sprint and Verizon use CDMA (code-division multiple access) networks, Huawei would have to adapt its processors to be compatible with the networks in the U.S. It’s possible the company will simply stick to T-Mobile and AT&T, and avoid CDMA networks altogether.
In March, The Information reported that Huawei was hoping to work with AT&T in an effort to bring the company’s proprietary Kirin mobile phone chip to the network and possibly its phones. But neither Huawei nor AT&T ever commented on the apparent deal.
Security and technological issues aside, being able to sell its devices via U.S. carriers would solve the lack of presence Huawei has in the country. By selling a flagship line to U.S. carriers, the company would work to possibly grow its presence via U.S. retailer stores, TV commercials, and carrier websites. Sources told Bloomberg that Huawei does plan to sell the Mate 10 device via e-commerce channels as well.
Regardless of the competition, Huawei is still the third-largest smartphone manufacturer — behind Apple and Samsung. The opportunity to sell its high-end flagship devices in the U.S. might be exactly what the company needs to get ahead.
Update: Huawei has confirmed that it will sell its phones through carriers in the U.S. in 2018.