BARCELONA, Spain: Huawei Technologies unveiled a US$2,600 folding smartphone on Sunday (Feb 24) which it said was primed for next generation 5G mobile connections, even as the United States campaigns to bar the Chinese company from such networks over security concerns.
Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone vendor after Samsung, said it had taken the lead on developing phones for 5G - which promise super fast internet speeds for consumers and businesses - because it was also involved in developing the networks.
Huawei's announcement came just four days after rival Samsung became the first major handset maker to offer folding phones.
"This phone is not only for today for 5G but also for future 5G. On all the benchmarks you can see the performance, the speed is the fastest for 5G in the world," said Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business group.
Speaking ahead of the mobile industry's biggest global event, which kicks off on Monday in Barcelona, Yu said the Huawei Mate X will have two back-to-back screens which unfold to become an eight-inch tablet display.
The Mate X's display can fold back on itself to become a 6.6-inch display, slightly bigger than the screen on Samsung's foldable phone.
Yu said the Mate X would be able to download a 1 gigabyte movie in three seconds but also be priced at 2,299 euros (US$2,607) when it goes on sale later this year, setting a new upper limit for consumer smartphones.
Yu acknowledged the price was "very expensive" but said the company was working to lower it.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd last week unveiled its own folding smartphone, priced at nearly US$2,000, in a bid to top the technology of Apple Inc and Chinese rivals and reignite consumer interest amid slumping sales.
Handset makers are looking to folding screens to reverse falling smartphone sales as consumers hold on to their devices longer due to a lack of innovations, but analysts predict the market for the feature will be limited, at least in the early days.
Several other smaller companies are rumoured to present their first foldable phones at the trade fair in Barcelona this week.
Huawei, the world's second biggest smartphone maker ahead of Apple, sold 206 million smartphones in 2018, compared to just over 150 million in the previous year, Yu said.
Huawei, which is also the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny in the West over US-led allegations of enabling Chinese state espionage, accusations which the company denies.
Huawei's chairman said on Sunday recent comments by US President Donald Trump that the US needed to get ahead in mobile communications through competition rather than seeking to block technology was "clear and correct".