GUANGZHOU, China — Honor, the Chinese smartphone brand formerly owned by Huawei, has launched its first device since being sold off.
Huawei sold Honor, its budget smartphone brand, in November to a consortium of buyers in China, as a way to help the unit survive in the face of U.S. sanctions.
In 2019, Huawei was put on a U.S. export blacklist called the Entity List which restricted American firms from selling certain components to the Chinese technology giant. This included both semiconductors and software.
Google was forced to cut ties to Huawei, meaning the U.S. search giant's Android mobile operating system could not be installed on the Chinese firm's devices. That hurt Huawei's sales badly in international markets.
Last year, Huawei sold Honor to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology, a consortium of 30 agents and dealers. At the time, Huawei said that the sale was made so Honor could "make it through this difficult time."
"Splitting off the Honor team should help it get the components that it needs, although that could still take many months and is never guaranteed, especially given the geopolitical tension in the air," Bryan Ma, vice president of devices research at IDC said.
"Nonetheless, the move helps to keep the team engaged with suppliers in the hopes that it can continue with its product development."
The majority of Honor's sales come from China. In 2019, Honor shipped 64 million smartphones globally, according to IDC. In the first nine months of 2020, the company has shipped 42 million units. Complete data for 2020 is not yet available.
Honor's new smartphone is called the V40. It boasts a 6.72-inch display and comes in three colors: silver, black and rose gold.
Honor talked up the phone's graphics processing and touchscreen capabilities, features that enhance gaming on the device, a popular use of smartphones in China.
It has the ability to connect to next-generation 5G mobile networks, a key requirement in China which is the world's largest market for 5G phones.
The V40 uses a key 5G chip from Taiwan's MediaTek, a company which became China's number one smartphone semiconductor supplier in 2020.
Honor's V40 starts at 3,599 yuan ($556) for the 128GB storage option and 3,999 yuan for the 256GB version. It will be released in China but it is unclear if it will be launched internationally.
"The message they (Honor) want to convey is they inherited a lot from Huawei, no matter if it's the chipset capability, photography, and R&D (research and development) all the things they got from Huawei devices, they have it all," Nicole Peng, a mobile analyst at Canalys said.
"They don't want to show they are missing the R&D capability that Huawei has. They want to show they still have it and they have a big team in R&D and that is something people were asking when they separated, whether they can maintain that kind of innovation."