Rumors that surfaced in December that Chinese smartphone maker Huawei was working on a first-of- its-kind deal to sell its handsets directly to U.S. consumers through AT&T have been dashed by new reports indicating that a pending agreement has fallen through.
AT&T has never confirmed reports that such a deal was under consideration and it again refused to comment on the matter on Jan. 8 in an email exchange with eWEEK. Thus a "deal" between the two companies for direct sales to consumers here has never been officially announced.
The original rumors about an AT&T sales channel to U.S. consumers in 2018 began with comments in December from a Huawei executive who promised additional details at the CES 2018 Consumer Electronics Show, which opened in Las Vegas on Jan. 8.
"We will sell our flagship phone, our product, in the U.S. market through carriers next year," Richard Yu, the president of Huawei Technologies' consumer business, said in a December interview, which was confirmed at the time by a Huawei spokesperson. "I think that we can bring value to the carriers and to consumers. Better product, better innovation, better user experience."
Huawei is the world's third-largest producer of smartphones, behind Samsung and Apple. The move could have helped Huawei increase its market share in the U.S.
So far there is no sign that Huawei is trying to strike a handset sales deal with any of the other major U.S. mobile carriers, such as T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint.
In the recent past, Huawei has only sold its handsets in the U.S. through its own website, through Amazon.com and other online retailers, giving its phones less market exposure and making it impossible for buyers to examine the devices before making a purchase.
That placed Huawei's smartphones at a considerable disadvantage compared to Apple, Samsung and other phone makers whose products are readily available from mobile carriers’ stores.
For many consumers it can be simpler to buy their smartphones directly from their mobile carriers where the handsets can be set up with a SIM card, data transfer services and related application services that make it easier to switch to a new phone brand.
Huawei had planned several announcements for the CES event this week, including speculation that it was ready to reveal a sales tie-in with AT&T, according to the earlier reports. It remains to be seen what the company actually introduces at the show.
The first Huawei smartphone that would likely be part of any phone retailing deal with a U.S. carrier is its flagship Huawei Mate 10, which was introduced in October 2017. The company offers three models of the Mate 10.