What is Huawei?

Hint: This Chinese company makes big talk in markets around the world

Huawei's R&D Center at the Shenzhen campus
Courtesy of Huawei

Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment manager in the world, with mobile devices as one of its core business segments. Founded in 1987 and based in China, it manufacturers smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches under its brand name, but also makes white label products, such as mobile hotspots, modems, and routers for content service providers. The company collaborated with Google on the production of the Nexus 6P Android smartphone. Huawei is pronounced "wah-way" and loosely translates to Chinese achievements; the first character of the name derives from the word for flower, which is part of the company logo.

Why Huawei Phones are Hard to Find in the U.S.

Huawei phones are sold around the world including the United States, though in early 2018, both AT&T and Verizon declined to carry the Mate 10 Pro Android smartphone. AT&T made their decision just before CES 2018, and Richard Yu, CEO of the company's consumer products division, went off prompter and expressed frustration at the carrier during his keynote. The Mate 10 Pro is available unlocked, but most people in the U.S. buy phones through their wireless carrier, putting Huawei at a disadvantage here since it means paying several hundred dollars up front, rather than over a period of months. Reviewers are disappointed that U.S. customers won't be able to get the Mate 10 Pro through their carrier as it’s a great device. Outside the U.S., unlocked phones are very popular, which is where Huawei gets the bulk of its sales.

So why did AT&T and Verizon drop out? It's believed to be due to pressure from the U.S. government, which has security concerns about the company, believing it to be a spying threat due to its alleged ties to the Chinese government. U.S. officials believe its devices are designed to allow access by the Chinese government and the Chinese People's Liberation Army. Founder Ren Zhengfei was an engineer in the army in the early 1980s. Huawei denies all of these allegations (none of which have been confirmed) and believes it will form partnerships with U.S. carriers in the future.

What is Huawei Mobile? About the Company

From July to September 2017, Huawei surpassed Apple to become the second largest smartphone manufacturer after Samsung. Since it began making cell phones, the company has released everything from low-end devices to premium ones with the latest features. Its Honor line of unlocked Android smartphones, which launched in 2015, runs the gamut of price points and are compatible with T-Mobile's networks in the U.S., and many providers worldwide.

Huawei is an employee-owned company. Staff who are Chinese nationals can join the Union, which has an ownership plan. Membership includes company shares and voting rights. Employees who opt in receive shares of the company that Huawei buys back when they leave; these shares are not tradable. Members also vote for Union representatives who then select Huawei's board members. In 2014, Huawei invited the Financial Times to tour its Shenzhen campus and allowed reporters to look at books that listed employee holdings in the company, to be more transparent about its ownership and counter claims that it is an arm of the Chinese government.

In addition to mobile devices, the company also builds telecommunications networks and services and provides equipment and software to Enterprise customers.