Spat seen hitting Huawei sales
Huawei smartphone sales in Thailand will plunge as phone buyers start to shun the brand and switch to rivals after Google announced it was suspending business with China's top mobile phone maker, dealers and experts warn.
Weeradej Panichwisai, the research manager of IDC Thailand, said Thai consumers will be reluctant to purchase Huawei smartphones, though he acknowledged that the US-China trade war's direction remains uncertain.
"During the US government's 90-day easing of trade restrictions, negotiations might lead to positive results," he said. "As trade in high-tech goods between the US and China is complex and intertwined, a continued row will affect the supply chain for the tech industry in both countries, with both losing."
In the short term, high-end models such as the Huawei P30 series that have been quite popular will likely see users switch to rival brands Samsung or Apple, as users will likely be concerned about security, Mr Weeradej said, referring to Google no longer updating security for Huawei users when the US company launches a new version of the Android operating system by year-end.
This will affect high-end users of fintech and mobile banking apps that require security. If there is no security breach in the existing Android OS, the high end can sell for at least two years.
In the next model, the Mate series, Huawei will need to change its strategy and reschedule the new product launch, as it might not have access to Google services such as YouTube and Gmail. Mid-range and entry-level phones will see less impact because there are many brands for consumer choices.
Chinese smartphone brands Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, Honor and Xiaomi hold more than half of Thailand's smartphone market share. According to IDC Thailand, as of 2018, Samsung's market share in Thailand was 21%, followed by Oppo (16%), Huawei (14%), Vivo (11%) and Apple (7%).
Thailand is one of the major users of Google, an American multinational tech company that specialises in internet-related services and products.
Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said representatives from the US embassy clarified on Tuesday that existing smartphones and devices sold in the market can still operate normally and access US-based platforms such as Google.
But existing models of Huawei smartphones may be unable to access US-based platforms in the future if they update the platform. Next-generation Huawei smartphones may run the same risk.
For telecom networks equipped with Huawei equipment, they will operate as usual, Mr Takorn said. "The NBTC is monitoring the news and the temporary general licence for 90 days issued by the US government," he said.
Dusit Sukhumvithaya, chief executive of Jaymart Mobile Co, said current Huawei smartphone models with the existing Android OS can be used for two years, without the need to upgrade to a new OS version.
"Jaymart has inventory of 30-45 days of Huawei smartphones and awaits a formal announcement by Huawei," Mr Dusit said.