Australia Markets open in 2 hrs 15 mins

The Android phone maker that is more popular than Apple isn't selling its new iPhone rival in the US

Shona Ghosh
  • Huawei won't be selling its latest flagship devices, the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro smartphones, in the US.
  • That's because the company is locked out of the US market thanks to government fears that it spies on people for China.
  • Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone maker globally, and has won a reputation for building flashy, feature-packed Android phones that rival the iPhone and Google's Pixel series.
  • The new Mate 20 Pro goes up against the iPhone XS Max and features on-screen fingerprint recognition, artificial intelligence, and an impressive camera.

Huawei, the Chinese phone brand that is more popular than Apple globally, has confirmed it won't be selling its new flagship devices, the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, in the US.

A spokesman confirmed to Business Insider on Monday: "We are not planning to sell the Mate 20 Series in the US. While international variants of the Mate 20 Series may be available on some US online retail sites, we encourage individuals to carefully read the details about the warranty and network compatibility before purchasing."

Huawei does, however, plan to bring its new smartwatch, the Watch GT, to the US, but hasn't announced price or availability yet.

Huawei's statement suggests that die-hard fans will be able to buy European or Asian versions of the phone, but will need to check if their network supports imported devices. The Mate 20 series, for example, uses the GSM standard but some US carriers like Sprint only support CDMA.

The Chinese firm's absence from the US market will likely disappoint Android fans who can't easily get hold of one of the most exciting Android releases this year.

The company launched its Mate 20 series at a packed event in London on October 16, unveiling the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and Mate 20 Pro X. The company overtook Apple in August to become the world's second-biggest phone maker behind Samsung, with a market share of 15.8%, according to IDC data.

The Mate 20 Pro, starting at €1,049 ($US1,215), is expensive, but cheaper and more feature-packed than the $US1,099 iPhone XS Max. Its standout features include on-screen fingerprint recognition, facial recognition, built-in artificial intelligence, and an impressive triple-lens camera that takes beautiful macro and wide shots. You can read Business Insider's first look here.

The Mate series also goes up against Google's Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, and Samsung's Note 9. Forrester analyst Thomas Husson told Business Insider it would likely be the best-selling Android smartphone until Samsung releases its new flagship next year.

The US is suspicious that Huawei spies on users for the Chinese government

Huawei started out as a telecommunications equipment company, but gained attention for its well-made, feature-packed Android phones from around 2013. It even briefly partnered with Google to create one of its own-brand Nexus phones.

But at the end of 2017, the US government reportedly began pressuring domestic carriers not to offer Chinese phones over spying fears. The government has never publicly offered proof that Huawei might be spying on customers, or even outlined its concerns in any detail.

What did happen publicly was that US carrier AT&T cancelled an agreement to carry Huawei's Mate 10 Pro, the predecessor to the Mate 20 series that was expected to mark Huawei's big push into the US. Bloomberg reported that Verizon also dropped Huawei's phones, and Reuters reported retailer Best Buy wouldn't offer them either.

This essentially locked Huawei out of the US and, at the time, consumer mobile CEO Richard Yu reacted furiously. He said: ""[It's] a big loss for consumers, because they don't have the best choice for devices."

Yu kept his cool this time presenting the Mate 20 series, but the company's ongoing absence from the US is undoubtedly a blow.