Smartphone Maker Launches First $2,600 Handset

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Apple sells its iPhone XS for as much as $1,499 apiece. Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 has a price as high as $1,599.99. Each is as fully featured as any recently launched phone in the world. However, Chinese smartphone company Huawei released a new phone today that costs much more. The new Mate X will retail for $2,600.

Huawei executives say the phone will work on the new superfast 5G networks that are being installed around the world. The earliest build-outs of these networks have just started in the United States. 5G is at least 10 times speedier in terms of upload and download speeds. A two-hour, high-definition film can be downloaded over a 5G network in as little as a minute.

Huawei’s gamble is that enough people around the world will want access to 5G and will pay a huge price for one of the earliest smartphones that can access these networks. The risk is a large one. Among the reasons Apple’s iPhone sales have tapered off is that it has raised the prices of the highest end version to over $1,000. But the iPhone does not run on 5G, which means its use will be limited in years to come. Outsiders speculate that a 5G-enabled iPhone will not be released until late this year, at the earliest.

Mate X has more than 5G technology. Huawei announced that it will have a foldable screen, a new advance in features that allows people to close and bend phones more easily. This ability to fold the device’s screen allows it to become large enough to qualify as a tablet PC. Huawei management also says the new phone will be partially powered by artificial technology. The Mate X will carry a new, super-powerful chipset and what the company claims is a next-generation camera.

Unfolded, the Mate X will have an eight-inch screen. Folded, that size drops to 6.8 inches. It runs on Google’s Android 9 operating system. Over 80% of the world’s smartphone’s use Android. The balance, which are iPhones, run on Apple’s iOS. The Mate X will not only operate on 5G networks. It is set up to work on current 4G networks and much older 3G systems, which are still used in some parts of the world. The camera was built by Leica, which is a leader in the development of some of the world’s most expensive commercially available cameras.

Commenting on the phone, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei CBG, said:

The HUAWEI Mate X’s revolutionary form factor is achieved by Huawei’s relentless effort in R&D. It represents a voyage into the uncharted. As a new breed of smartphones, HUAWEI Mate X combines 5G, foldable screen, AI and an all-new model of interfacing to provide consumers with an unprecedented user experience. The HUAWEI Mate X will be the first key for consumers to open the door to 5G smart living.

Huawei is the world’s third largest smartphone company after Samsung and Apple. It is growing much faster than the two leaders. One reason is that it has a significant market share in its native China, the world’s largest wireless market by far. The other is that it has begun to expand into other world markets.

Huawei has hit a hurdle in the United States, which will make sales of the Mate X difficult in America. It has been accused of using some of its router products, which are to be used to build some 5G networks, as a way for the Chinese government to spy on Western countries. Cathy Meng, the company’s chief financial officer, as well as daughter of its founder, recently was arrested in Canada, based on the company’s alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The Pentagon does not let members of the military use Huawei products.

Huawei is still considered one of the most advanced providers of 5G network technology, and it may do well selling this outside the United States, although the Trump administration is trying to get allies to turn their backs on the company. The Mate X, however, is a different matter. It is a test of whether people will spend $2,600 to buy a phone Huawei claims has no equal.

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