Huawei Technologies Co (華為) on Thursday unveiled the Mate 40 smartphone series, potentially its last major release powered by its self-designed Kirin chips.

China’s biggest technology company by sales has been stockpiling chips to get its signature device out in time to compete with Apple Inc’s iPhone 12 over the holidays.

Huawei would then have to overhaul its smartphone lineup after US sanctions that took effect last month curtail its ability to design and manufacture advanced in-house chips by cutting it off from the likes of chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (台積電).

Photo: AFP

Huawei’s consumer devices group, led by Richard Yu (余承東), had already been prevented from shipping handsets with the full Google-augmented Android experience, but that did not stop it from surpassing Samsung Electronics Co to become the world’s best-selling smartphone maker in the summer, largely on the strength of growing domestic sales.

Without a contractor to produce its own chips or the ability to buy processors from a supplier such as Qualcomm Inc, prognostications for the division’s future are less rosy.

“We are suffering from the US government’s third-round ban. This unfair ban,” Yu said in a livestreamed presentation, adding that the sanctions make things extremely difficult.

However, he did open the event by saying that “at Huawei, we continue to dare to dream for a bright future together.”

Huawei’s third-quarter revenue growth slowed to 3.7 percent as the sanctions exacted a toll on the consumer business, of which the Mate series is the showpiece.

Revenue in the first nine months of the year was up 9.9 percent year-on-year and its net profit margin for the period was 8 percent, compared with 9.2 percent for the first half.

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US sanctions against shipments to Huawei took effect last month, cutting off the supply of vital semiconductors and other equipment needed to make its smartphones and servers.

The 6.5-inch Mate 40 and 6.76-inch Mate 40 Pro feature the 5-nanometer Kirin 9000 processor, second to Apple’s A14 chip to offer that advanced manufacturing node in consumer devices.

The system-on-chip contains 15.3 billion transistors, including eight central processing unit cores maxing out at a speed of 3.13 gigahertz, and 24 graphic processing unit cores that Huawei claims give it 52 percent faster graphics than Qualcomm’s best offering.

Both devices have sloping glass sides and in-display fingerprint sensors.

The new rear “Space Ring” design accommodating Huawei’s multi-camera system is reminiscent of the control wheel of the iPod.

It has a 50-megapixel main camera accompanied by zoom and ultrawide lenses.

Although prevented from doing business with technological partners and suppliers, Huawei still touts Leica co-branding on its imaging hardware and is once again offering a Porsche Design edition of its new flagship smartphone.

The company also announced a new pair of over-ear headphones and new home speakers in collaboration with French audio brand Devialet SA.

Huawei is the market leader in China, where the mobile software ecosystem is fleshed out with vendor-specific apps and stores, alongside a reliance on Tencent Holdings Ltd’s (騰訊) WeChat as a mini operating system.

The Mate 40 gives Huawei a response to Apple’s new 5G-enabled iPhones and extends the period of time before it has to completely rethink its consumer devices strategy.

The Mate 40 is to go on sale for 899 euros (US$1,064), the Mate 40 Pro for 1,199 euros and a Mate 40 Pro Plus with further upgrades for 1,399 euros, although the company did not specify a release date.

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