A much anticipated product event by Huawei Technologies left many baffled and disappointed after it failed to reveal more details about the telecom giant’s new Mate 60 series or the China-made chips that power the phones.
Huawei showcased a series of new products from a gold smartwatch to a smart car but shared no new details on its breakthrough phones – touted by Chinese users and state media as the technology firm’s victory over US sanctions.
“Why didn’t they talk about it? Everyone watched it because of the smartphone,” one user wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo. “What kind of move is this?” wrote another.
Huawei’s Mate 60 pro was launched without any fanfare last month during US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo’s visit to China.
Analysts and early buyers of the phone posted several teardown assessments showing the phone uses the Chinese-made Kirin 9000S chip. Software company TechInsights further noted that the phone was made with 50% more China-made parts than the company’s earlier phone.
Analysts have stressed, however, that a clarification from Huawei was necessary to instil market confidence in the company’s fresh potential.
Bryan Ma, a technology analyst at consultancy IDC, said he was not surprised that Huawei avoided the topic “given what a lightning rod” it was.
“After all, Huawei had a lot of other products to cram into a long two-hour launch, whereas the Mate 60 has already been on store shelves and in user hands for a few weeks now,” he said.
Huawei has so far not commented on the full capabilities of the Mate 60 series, which is seen as its first major effort since US sanctions in 2019 cut its access to advanced chipmaking tools and crippled its smartphone unit.
Social media angst
The event, held in a stadium and watched by millions online, was broadcast live across Huawei stores, and 156 local media and Chinese social media platforms.
Dozens of shoppers at Huawei’s flagship store in Beijing were seen breaking into applause as Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, stepped on to the stage.
Yu did nod to the Mate 60 smartphone in his opening remarks, giving a “special thanks to the whole nation for their tremendous support, especially since the [Mate 60 Pro] Pioneer Program was launched”.
But as the two hour-long event progressed, commentators on the livestream began asking when Yu would talk about Mate 60 as he presented a series of new products ranging from a tablet product to an ultra, high-end brand called ‘Ultimate Design’.
By Monday afternoon, after the event ended, the topic “Huawei’s press conference did not mention smartphones” began trending on the Weibo social media platform and was among the top ten most read hashtags with more than 8 million views.
The sentiment at the event, meanwhile, was a stark contrast.
As Yu spoke, members of the audience chanted “far, far ahead” – a phrase that has gone viral on Chinese social media since the Mate 60 Pro’s launch as a take on Huawei’s competitiveness.
“Our products have been well-received and trusted by everyone after hitting the market. We are working overtime urgently to manufacture more so that more people can buy our products,” Yu said.
The event ended with a group of people on stage waving Mate 60 smartphones with flashlights switched on, as they sang “Glorious Years”, a Cantopop hit by Hong Kong rock band Beyond whose lyrics speak to the struggles Nelson Mandela faced in South Africa.
The timing of event was also seen as symbolic, as it took place on the two-year anniversary of Huawei rotating chairwoman Meng Wanzhou’s return to China.
She returned in 2021 after a nearly three-year detention over alleged attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of US sanctions.
🇨🇳 Huawei Mate60 AD pokes fun at the iPhone’s poor signal performance 🤣 pic.twitter.com/Gee72dg9Yc
— StarBoySAR 🇭🇰 🇨🇳 🥭 (@StarboySAR) September 24, 2023
Meng’s extradition drama became a source of discord between Beijing and Washington. Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was allowed to return home after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors.
One shopper in the Beijing store, 29-year-old engineer Zhang Nianrong, said he saw the Mate 60 Pro as “carrying significance far beyond its value” and planned to buy it.
“The smartphone represents a very important meaning. It means that even the most malicious sanctions can’t impact the development of human technology. It is very meaningful and it inspires us as a younger generation.”
Huawei updated its official website after the event to add prices for its Mate 60 Pro+, which will start from 8,999 yuan ($1,230), and the Mate 60 RS Ultimate Design version, which is priced from 12,999 yuan. Apple’s new iPhone 15 Pro is priced from 7,999 yuan in China.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena