Huawei’s new Pura 70 series smartphone poses a threat to iPhone sales in China, say analysts

Huawei Technologies’ new Pura 70 series is posing a further threat to Apple in the world’s biggest smartphone market, as the Chinese tech giant eyes retaking the top spot on its home turf this year, analysts say.

The Pura 70 line is expected to generate global shipments of around 10.4 million this year, compared to the company’s previous P60 series that only shipped 1.8 million units and the Mate 60 Pro series that sold 6.2 million in China last year, according to a report by TechInsights on Thursday.

The Pura 70 series will be one of the key competitors for the iPhone 15 and 16 series in 2024, after Apple’s flagship models posted double-digit annual declines on the mainland Chinese market in the first quarter of this year, TechInsights analyst Linda Sui wrote in the report.

TechInsights predicted that Huawei would ship over 50 million smartphones in China this year, enabling it to regain No 1 position with 19 per cent market share, up from 12 per cent in 2023.

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Huawei’s Pura 70 Pro and Pura 70 Ultra officially hit the shelves on Thursday, priced as high as 10,999 yuan (US$1,400) for the Ultra version. After weeks of speculation about the launch and pre-order arrangements, online channels ran out of stock shortly after the sale started, and there were long queues of people at the company’s physical stores.

On Friday, one of Huawei’s flagship stores in Shenzhen, the company’s home base, saw customers lining up just to make reservations, without any guarantee of when they could receive their handsets. Customers who successfully make their reservation will receive a text message notifying them of pick up arrangements in later days, according to a store representative on Friday.

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People wait in line at Huawei’s flagship store in Shenzhen, on the first day the new Huawei Pura 70 series smartphones go on sale, April 18, 2024. Photo: Reuters

The Pura 70 series has seen “good initial demand”, which was not a surprise given Huawei’s premium brand name and the marketing effect it created with the “blind” pre-orders, said Will Wong, senior research manager for client devices at IDC Asia-Pacific.

The flagship models of the Mate and Pura series, previously known as the P series, will help Huawei advance further in China’s smartphone market in 2024, after it ranked fourth in the market in the fourth quarter of last year, according to Wong.

“There’s a good chance [to be back in the top five], especially since Huawei has a more well-rounded 5G product portfolio now, ranging from the flagship series to the Nova series,” Wong said.

The release of the Pura 70 models has been closely watched by the industry, as it represents Huawei’s biggest flagship handset launch since the Mate 60 Pro in August 2023, which generated attention around the world for its use of a Chinese-made processor, the Kirin 9000s.

The 7-nanometre Kirin 9000s was reportedly manufactured by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp, despite US export restrictions seeking to limit China’s advanced chip-making capabilities.

While Huawei did not reveal details of the processors that power the Pura 70 series, analysts believe the new line will use the company’s own Kirin chips. Some tech reviewers also posted test results on social media, showing the high-end models in the series were using Kirin 9010 chips.

Huawei was added to a US trade blacklist in May 2019, forcing the former smartphone leader to skip some planned product launches, severely hobbling its once-lucrative handset business.

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Last August, the tech giant quietly released what was its first 5G handset in three years, the Mate 60 Pro, which proved immensely popular in China, where it became a patriotic symbol of overcoming US attempts to curb its geopolitical rival’s technological advances. The momentum helped Huawei retake the No 1 spot in the domestic smartphone market in the first two weeks of this year, according to a report from research firm Counterpoint.

However, the robust demand for the Mate 60 Pro led to constraints in production during 2023, partly due to the secrecy surrounding the advanced Kirin 9000s processor.

The Pura 70 series is expected to face some supply constraints, but Huawei has been making preparations to alleviate those, according to IDC’s Wong.

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