Getting your hands on a Huawei smartphone could be more difficult in the very near future, as Best Buy reportedly will stop offering devices from the Chinese phone maker.
That's according to a Cnet report, which says that Best Buy has stopped ordering Huawei phones with the retailer planning to no longer offer the company's products going forward. The source of the report is "a person familiar with the situation," with Best Buy declining further comment to Cnet.
If accurate, it would be another setback for Huawei, as it tries to gain more of a foothold in the U.S. market. Already this year, Huawei's efforts to line up a wireless carrier to offer its phones have come up blank. AT&T reportedly backed out of selling Huawei's new Mate 10 Pro just before a partnership was to be announced in January. Similar reports suggested that Verizon had also backed away from the phone maker.
The problem isn't the phone itself. We've reviewed the Mate 10 Pro and found its long battery life and AI-powered camera helped it stand out from other flagship devices. Huawei's problem appears to be a challenge that would be tough for any company — opposition from the federal government.
U.S. officials are reportedly wary of Huawei, citing close ties between the company and the Chinese government. Top intelligence officials testifying before Congress in February warned against using Huawei products, and a bill has been introduced in Congress that would block the government from buying or leasing equipment from either Huawei or fellow Chinese phone maker ZTE.
Reached for comment tonight (March 21) about reports that Best Buy was dropping its phones, a Huawei spokesperson told us:
“Huawei currently sells its products through a range of leading consumer electronics retailers in the U.S. We have a proven history of delivering products that meet the highest security, privacy and engineering standards in the industry and are certified by the Federal Communications Commission for sale in the U.S. Our smartphones are widely acclaimed – both among critics and consumers – for their innovation in areas like battery life, processing power, build quality, and camera capabilities. Our products are sold by 46 of the top 50 global operators, and we have won the trust and confidence of individuals and organizations in 170 countries around the world. We are committed to earning that same trust with U.S. consumers and making our products accessible in as many ways as possible.”
Avi Greengart, research director for consumer platforms and devices at Global Data, told Tom's Guide that this is a "significant setback for Huawei."
"Huawei still has access to online channels, and that's fine for budget phones..." he said. "However, Huawei is trying to compete at the high end with Apple and Samsung, and, for that, it really helps to have retail outlets where people can see the product before paying $700 for it. Huawei is also trying to sell beautifully designed Windows laptops and premium Android tablets; Best Buy was a channel for those as well."
He also pointed out that at the moment, Best Buy has provided no reasoning, so while government pressure is a possibility, it could just be that Huawei phones aren't selling as well as they would like.
In addition to Best Buy, the Mate 10 Pro is also on sale at Amazon, Newegg and B&H, where you can buy an unlocked model. Most U.S. shoppers buy their phones through carriers, though, so the lack of a carrier partner for Huawei's devices has been a major obstacle for the phone maker's efforts to grow its U.S. sales. Losing a retail outlet — especially one as big as Best Buy — would be another big hit to Huawei's U.S. fortunes.
We'll have more details on this story as it develops.