AT&T has reportedly agreed to sell Huawei’s upcoming flagship smartphone in the U.S. in the first half of 2018, according to The Information. This will put Huawei in the race against both Samsung and Apple for the first time in the U.S.
As the third-biggest smartphone maker in the world, it has challenged Apple for the No. 2 spot right behind Samsung. But without securing a carrier in the U.S., its ability to grow has been hindered. With the Huawei flagship at AT&T, it could be the push it needs to claim the second spot among its competitors.
The reasoning behind Huawei’s struggle to build relationships with U.S. telecom operators has a lot to with the company’s past. Its professional equipment such as routers and antennas has effectively been banned in the U.S. — after a 2012 congressional report claimed Beijing might be using the gear to spy on Americans.
While Huawei denied the allegations and the report did not prevent the Chinese company from selling devices in the U.S., it definitely strained its reputation. Especially in terms of U.S. carriers allowing what was accused of potentially being “spy gear” into its lineup of cellular devices.
It also could be why the deal with AT&T has yet to be finalized. The phone must clear all technical hurdles and the companies have to agree on the commercial terms of the release. Huawei’s engineers are reportedly working on software modifications and hardware that will meet U.S. telecom standards along with AT&T’s requirements.
Whether or not the flagship phone will be similar to the Mate 10 — reportedly set to launch in the fall — is still unclear. While its specs are still rumored, it is said to go head to head with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8, along with the Apple iPhone X. In comparison to the iPhone, Huawei’s chief of consumer tech claims the Mate 10 will be far more powerful with a much longer battery life.
Partnering with AT&T could potentially save Huawei’s reputation in the U.S. — even though the latest OpenSignal report shows the carrier has experienced a decline in 4G speeds — it is still the second largest in the nation.