As Huawei waits to see whether Donald Trump’s departure will signal a change of fortune for its embattled smartphone business, it has launched a new strike against its Android partners, praising Apple’s iPhone as “the world’s best” 5G phone and talking up the quality of its technology for iPhone 12 users.
Before its brutal dismantling by Trump’s blacklist, Huawei had built an Android powerhouse, ascending the smartphone league table, challenging Samsung for its long held top spot, even taking over for a few months last year. But the reality is that Huawei never looked to Samsung for its inspiration, its eyes have always been on Cupertino instead.
I have argued for some time that Huawei’s strategy, its keenness to control both its software ecosystem and hardware is much more akin to Apple than anything on the Android side of the house. This was confirmed last year, when the company’s U.K. consumer boss told me that “we are one of only two companies globally that can have this hardware and software solution for our own ecosystem… Only Huawei and Apple can do this—it’s our long-term strategy.”
Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei has openly admitted that Apple is his inspiration, telling the media in 2019 that “Apple is the world’s leading company… Apple is my teacher; it is advancing in front of us.” And so, it’s hardly surprising that Ren and his daughter, Meng Wanzhou, are both Apple users. In fact, Meng’s Apple MacBook, iPad and iPhone were all seized when she was arrested in Canada in 2018, and have figured in the ongoing legal battle as to the means by which the passcodes were secured.
Huawei is now at a crossroads. Having divested Honor, speculation has mounted as to whether its flagship Mate and P-Series devices will follow. “Our shipments of high-end phones have declined because of lack of chip supply,” Ren acknowledged this week. It was this last expansion of U.S. sanctions, to cut the company’s silicon supply chain, that decimated its consumer business, dropping it down that smartphone league table.
And so to this week, and Ren’s surprising lauding of Apple’s iPhone as…