Chinese phone maker Huawei was expected to announce a partnership with AT&T to bring its flagship phone Mate 10 Pro into the U.S. market, but the U.S. telecom carrier dropped the deal at the last minute on Monday.
During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, Huawei's Richard Yu said the decision will not only hurt Huawei and carriers, but more importantly U.S. customers.
"It's a big loss for consumers, because they don't have the best choice for devices," Yu said.
Yu made his comments after the routine introduction of the company's flagship phone, with a serious attitude that described by some U.S. tech media as emotional.
The deal was scrapped over political pressure, reported tech news site The Information. On December 20, members of the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission citing security concerns.
In 2012, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee discouraged U.S. companies from buying products from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, and the worries have followed Huawei for many years. Yu told South China Morning Post after AT&T blew the deal, "we have been harmed again."
Huawei is the world's No.3 phone seller by volume after Samsung and Apple. It's not only had tremendous success in China, but also in Europe and Japan.
But it only has a mere 0.5-percent share in the U.S. cellphone market, compared with 39 percent for Apple and 18 percent for Samsung, according to industry tracker Canalys.
Samsung and Apple have dominated the U.S. market for years. In the U.S., when you partner with a major U.S. carrier – chiefly AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, – you have a huge advantage. That's because the carriers offer steep discounts on the handsets in exchange for customers signing contracts that guarantee they'll be paying monthly data and phone charges for years to come. It's essentially a subsidy.
"Unfortunately, this time we cannot...sell this phone from the carrier channel," said Yu. "Everybody knows in the U.S. market over 90% of the smartphones were sold off by the carrier channels."
In addition, Huawei is still a relatively unknown brand in the U.S. And without the extra marketing and promotional power of a U.S. carrier behind it, Huawei's hopes of breaking into the upper echelon of the American market are still a very long way away.
The Mate 10 Pro
The Mate 10 Pro is known as Huawei's challenge to the iPhone, featuring glossy glass construction and a 6-inch 18:9 edge-to-edge bezel-less OLED screen. Running on Android Oreo, the phone is powered by an AI-infused Kirin 970 processor developed by the company with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Customers in the U.S. can still buy the unlocked version, priced at 799 U.S. dollars, online this spring through Amazon, Best Buy, and other retailers.
A "Diamond Black" Porsche Design version of the Mate 10, priced at 1,225 U.S. dollars, will also be available in the U.S..
Both phones are equipped with Leica-branded 12-megapixel dual camera setup, and will start shipping on February 18.
Reactions on social media to the killing of the Huawei-AT&T deal vary from those expressing low trust in Chinese brands to others backing Huawei products' quality and functionality.
Wonder Woman and saying the name right
During his speech, Yu also introduced Huawei's new Chief Experience Officer – Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot.
In a video showed by Huawei, Gadot not only told the crowd how great the Mate 10 Pro was, but also how to correctly pronounce "Huawei" and "Gadot."
Both name can be hard for U.S. people, Yu said.