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Huawei Technologies Co has started offering various reconditioned Android smartphone models through its online store. Photo: Agence France-Presse

Huawei starts to sell used smartphones, license handset designs amid its struggle with US trade sanctions

  • Telecommunications giant Huawei is now offering various refurbished Android smartphone models at its online store Vmall
  • Partner TD Tech recently launched presales of its N8 Pro smartphone, which resembled Huawei’s own nova 8 Pro 5G handset
US-blacklisted Huawei Technologies Co is now selling refurbished smartphones and licensing its handset designs to partners amid the company’s ongoing struggles to access advanced semiconductors for manufacturing its various devices.
Shenzhen-based Huawei last week started offering a number of reconditioned Android smartphone models – each with a brand-new battery, the firm’s self-developed Harmony OS 2.0 platform and one-year warranty – on its online store Vmall.
A partner, TD Tech, also launched presales on Vmall of its smartphone named N8 Pro, which resembled Huawei’s own nova 8 Pro 5G handset. The TD Tech handset is powered by the Kirin 985 5G chip from HiSilicon, the semiconductor design unit of Huawei.

Although the N8 Pro was quickly removed from Vmall after generating interest among consumers online, it showed that Huawei has already initiated efforts to license its handset designs to third-party vendors.

The sale of second-hand devices and the N8 Pro reflect Huawei’s latest tactical moves to expand its revenue sources, while working to stay relevant in the global smartphone market.


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Huawei said it had no comment.

Its move into the refurbished smartphone business is meant to engage Huawei customers, keeping them away from rival Chinese Android handset vendors, according to Nicole Peng, vice-president of mobility at research firm Canalys.

Peng, however, indicated that there are far fewer consumers in China who trade-in their smartphones, compared with those in the US.

Huawei had up to a 27 per cent share in mainland China’s smartphone market at its peak in September last year, but accounted for only 7 to 8 per cent in the third quarter this year, according to Counterpoint Research senior analyst Ivan Lam, who expected that number to further decline this fourth quarter.

“Huawei sees a small increment, but a high turnover with its customer base,” Lam said, indicating that the company is not capable of producing 5G smartphones in large volume any more.
Privately held Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker and formerly China’s biggest smartphone vendor, was added to Washington’s trade blacklist in 2019. It has scrambled to adapt its operations to tighter restrictions imposed last year, covering access to chips developed or produced using US technology, from anywhere.
In October, the company reported a 32 per cent slump in sales for the first nine months of this year, deepening to a 29.4 per cent decline in the first half, as its core smartphone and carrier telecommunications gear businesses were crippled by US sanctions.

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While licensing handset designs has the potential of becoming a viable business, that could put Huawei partners like TD Tech at risk of US scrutiny.

“This is still a highly sensitive area,” Counterpoint’s Lam said. “Companies don’t want to be in the spotlight.”


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Huawei now selling refurbished handsets