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Honor unveils first handset since Huawei split

Huawei Honor US ban smartphone 5G

Chinese smartphone brand Honor on Friday unveiled its first model since Huawei sold the unit in November, under pressure from US sanctions.

Why it matters: Huawei sold Honor to keep the brand free from US technology export restrictions. Friday’s launch shows that the strategy has achieved initial success, as Honor’s new phone contains technology that Huawei still finds difficult to acquire.

  • The processor which powers the new model, the Honor V40, is made by Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek, which is subject to a US export regulation imposed last year. It requires chip vendors around the world to acquire a special license from Washington to sell products with American technology to Huawei.
  • V40 users in overseas markets will reportedly be able to Google apps and services. Huawei is still blocked from using those services because of a 2019 US ban.

Details: The 6.7-inch V40 smartphone lineup starts at RMB 3,599 (around $556), featuring a 50 million-pixel camera.

  • The V40 is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1000 Plus system-on-a-chip (SoC), which is compatible with next-generation 5G wireless technology.
  • It also uses Samsung’s charging technology, according to Honor CEO Zhao Ming.
  • Zhao said in a live-streamed press conference on Friday that the company now has five research centers and more than half of its staff work on research and development.
  • It’s unclear whether Honor bought MediaTek’s processors before or after its split from Huawei. MediaTek told reporters (in Chinese) on Wednesday that it is still “assessing its cooperation” with the company as it launches a new series of 7-nanometer Dimensity 1000 chips.
  • The model is available to order online for domestic consumers starting Friday. The company did not announce an international launch plan during the press conference. It is not yet listed on its international website.

Context: Huawei in November sold Honor to a government-backed consortium. Honor is a budget smartphone brand that Huawei established in 2013. It competes with other budget brands such as Xiaomi and Oppo while the Huawei brand sells to the high-end handset market. 

  • report released by research firm Trendforce this month said Honor will become a direct Huawei competitor.

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