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Huawei ships record 200 million phones in 2018 despite controversies

Chalk it up to a flurry of stand-out devices.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 24, 2018
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Jamie Rigg/Engadget

Huawei's 2018 was tumultuous, to put it mildly, but the company has at least a few reasons to brag. The Chinese mobile giant has revealed that it shipped over 200 million smartphones in the year, setting a new record (it 'only' moved 153 million phones in 2017). It won't surprise you as to why Huawei fared so well, though. Simply put, it had a string of hits throughout the year -- and flagships played only a partial role.

The P20 and Mate 20 series have done well, racking up respective shipments of 16 million and 5 million devices. However, the bread-and-butter phones under Huawei's own brand were the Nova series, including the just-launched Nova 4. The firm has sold more than 65 million of the mid-range devices since the series began. And then there's the more budget-oriented Honor badge. Huawei didn't provide specific figures, but it touted the "outstanding performance" of the Honor 10 and Honor View 10 (the View 20 is too recent) as major factors in its Chinese success.

The milestone may seem surprising if you're used to seemingly daily stories about the CFO's arrest and numerous device bans, but it really illustrates how little Huawei depends on Western markets. The company has surged in recent months on the back of sales not just in its homeland, but abroad. It doesn't need US sales, even if it's frustrated with the country's opposition to its wares. And many of those device bans are focused on networking equipment, not handsets. You can walk into virtually any major carrier store in Canada and buy a Mate 20 Pro or P20 Pro, for instance, even though the government is facing pressure to exclude Huawei from 5G networks.

If there's any concern, it's for the company's long-term prospects. Huawei was hard to top in 2018, but that raises the question of whether or not it can keep that streak going. It also has to hope that growing wariness in some western countries doesn't lead to large-scale phone bans. And then there's the smartphone market at large. The industry appears to have plateaued, and Huawei might suffer just by running out of potential customers.

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