Despite a major decline in global sales in 2020, Huawei smartphones are still selling relatively well in South Africa.
This is according to two of South Africa’s largest mobile operators and market and consumer data site Statista.
Huawei has seen a significant drop in smartphone sales due to US companies being banned from conducting business with it.
The immediate impact of the ban – which first came into effect in 2019 – was that Google Mobile Services (GMS) could no longer be offered on new Huawei smartphones.
Tightening of the restrictions in 2020 also cut Huawei off from the manufacturers which make the processors of its flagship smartphones.
The company reportedly had to stockpile millions of chips before the restrictions came into effect in order to have enough components to manufacture its Mate 40 and upcoming P50 smartphones.
80% decline in two years
While all of the big smartphone makers were impacted by COVID-19 lockdowns, as well as manufacturing and trade limitations during the early months of 2020, many recovered well in the last half of the year.
However, according to Counterpoint Research, Huawei sold only 33 million smartphones in the last quarter of the year, which was 41% less than in the same quarter of 2019.
That put it in sixth place for the period, behind Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo.
Counterpoint Research has estimated that the company only shipped around 188 million smartphones for the entire 2020, compared to almost 240 million in 2019.
Notably, South Korean tech publication The Elec in September 2020 claimed that sources within the company said Huawei had told subcontractors it was only planning to produce a meagre 50 million smartphones in 2021.
This would represent a drop of around 80% over two years.
Huawei in South Africa
While the picture for the coming year appears bleak for Huawei, the company did not appear to lose out on smartphone sales in South Africa.
Data from Statista showed that Huawei grew to maintain just under 30% of the market share in the country throughout 2020, making it the second-most popular smartphone brand behind Samsung.
The graph below shows the market share of the best-selling smartphone vendors in South Africa, according to Statista.
MyBroadband asked Huawei about its smartphone sales performance in South Africa in 2020.
The company pointed out that it remained one of the top three global smartphone providers in 2020, in terms of annual product shipments.
“Over the last year, our smartphone business has developed robustly, and tablet, PC and wearable have seen a significant growth,” Huawei said.
“With the development of HarmonyOS and upcoming products, Huawei users will soon experience the truly revolutionary Seamless AI Life,” it added
The company said it remained confident about the future, but did not share any information on the performance of local Huawei smartphone sales.
We also asked the four major mobile operators in South Africa about how Huawei smartphone sales performed in 2020.
Below is what Vodacom and Cell C had to say. MTN and Telkom did not respond by the time of publication.
A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that although Huawei encountered international challenges, it had demonstrated itself be resilient in terms of sales in South Africa.
“As seen during the last festive season, the Huawei P40, Huawei Y7 and Y5 as well as the Huawei wearables portfolio with models such as the Huawei Watch Fit, GT2 pro smartwatch were some of the devices that performed well in terms of sales,” Vodacom said.
The operator added that Huawei’s recently launched laptop range was generating strong sales.
Cell C said while there was some caution initially regarding the lack of GMS, Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) has caught on with its customers.
“If not all, most applications are now available to be downloaded or mirrored by HMS, which has led to customers being more comfortable with the HMS OS,” Cell C said.
“Queries from stores and customer services about the device and HMS OS have also been limited as of recently,” it stated.
“While there was some hesitation on certain SKUs, there has been a much-improved sales performance on other SKUs.”
Cell C said there was a decline in sales of Huawei smartphone in the first part of 2020, which it attributed to factors such as COVID-19.
“Sales in the latter part of 2020 went back to levels seen in 2019 and before,” the operator said.
Cell C said that sales of Huawei’s level Y series were replaced by increasing sales on the P series.
The P30 Lite 2020, P40 Lite, and P Smart 2021 were its best-selling Huawei smartphones.
The 2020 version of the P30 Lite was one of the few Huawei smartphones launched last year which still included GMS support.