Huawei stays silent on secretive 5G phone at high-profile product launch

Customers experience the new Mate 60 Pro smartphone at a Huawei-branded store in Shanghai, China, September 5, 2023.
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BEIJING — Chinese telecommunications and smartphone giant Huawei didn’t reveal any details about its new phone or reported advanced chip breakthrough during a high-profile launch event Monday.

Instead, the company teased two new electric cars — its first sedan and a high-end SUV — and launched new wireless earbuds, among other products. Huawei partners with an auto manufacturer to sell cars under the Aito brand.

The earbuds, priced around 1,499 yuan ($205) include Huawei’s Kirin A2 chip, the company said.

The product releases were part of Huawei’s fall season launch event, which was livestreamed Monday afternoon in Mandarin.

The phone’s absence left many internet fans disappointed, despite indications early in the event from its host Richard Yu that the company would not disclose further details. Yu is executive director and CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, and heads car-related operations.

Still, many viewers, especially on the Bilibili video platform, left comments asking for details about the phone.

Huawei’s glitzy product launch — at times spilling over into nationalist fervor from the audience online and in-person — had started with an orchestral and choral performance of a song titled “My Dream” in Chinese. It also included a short speech by Hong Kong celebrity Andy Lau around Huawei’s launch of a luxury watch design.

But the attempt to portray a feel-good mood about Huawei’s — and China’s — tech capabilities didn’t result in a tangible announcement at the high-profile event.

The company on Monday released a new version of its smart watch, a new tablet it claims is lighter and thinner than the iPad and a stylus that connects with the tablet using Huawei’s bluetooth-like NearLink tech.

Huawei’s silence on its new phone comes as Apple‘s iPhone 15 started deliveries in China on Friday.

A chip production breakthrough?

About a month ago, Huawei quietly released its latest smartphone — the Mate 60 Pro — which reviews indicate offers download speeds associated with 5G, thanks to an advanced semiconductor chip.

The phone’s debut indicated Huawei is able to use high tech processes despite U.S. restrictions.

Analysis by TechInsights found the Kirin 9000s chip inside Huawei’s Mate 60 Pro has a processor that was manufactured by China’s chipmaking giant Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation using an advanced 7 nanometer process.

Previously, that 7nm process required an EUV lithography machine from Dutch company ASML, which has also started restricting sales to China. It’s not clear whether older machines or alternative procurement processes were involved with the latest chip production.

When asked about TechInsights’ findings, Huawei was not available for comment.

Huawei’s consumer business revenue has halved under pressure from U.S. sanctions that cut the company off from critical smartphone tech such as semiconductors and Google software.

The Trump administration started restricting Huawei’s access to the tech in 2019.

The U.S. has maintained the Chinese telecommunications giant is a national security risk due to alleged links to the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s military. Huawei has repeatedly denied the existence of any such risk.

This year, Huawei said it expected to launch its flagship consumer products on a “normal” schedule again.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.