Huawei/Best Buy Partnership Seemingly Ending, Restocking Stops

Reports about the partnership between Huawei and Best Buy ending from earlier this year are seemingly coming true, with one of the largest consumer electronics retailers on the planet apparently ceasing its efforts to replenish its inventory of the Chinese company's products. As of early Sunday morning PST, the only Huawei smartphone offered by Best Buy brand-new is the Mate 10 Pro. The retailer still has a limited stock of the Mate SE but that inventory solely consists of refurbished units sold at $220, $30 down their original price. The Mate 10 Pro itself also appears to have been treated to a permanent $150 discount, being offered at $650 as part of what's presumed to be a stock-clearing effort.

Approximately a month ago, Best Buy was still selling six mobile devices — new and refurbished — from Huawei and its subsidiary Honor, including the Mate 9, Honor 6X, Honor 7X, and the Honor 8, an investigation conducted by AndroidHeadlines revealed. Neither Huawei nor Best Buy ever confirmed their retail partnership is coming to an end but Reuters, CNN, and CNET all independently reported that was the case in March, with the development coming amid the Shenzhen-based company's latest row with the U.S. government and lawmakers after it was once again accused of posing a national security risk due to its close ties to Beijing. Two months ago, multiple industry insiders claimed Best Buy decided to stop restocking Huawei's products and end all sales of such gadgets in a matter of weeks. Besides smartphones, the retailer is still offering the tech giant's Watch 2 series of Android Wear — now Wear OS — timepieces but no Honor-branded devices remain in its inventory.

It's still unclear why Best Buy apparently opted to end its business relationship with the world's third-largest smartphone vendor; besides the tensions between Huawei and the U.S. government, the company was recently also involved in a controversy stemming from fake product reviews it solicited from people on Facebook, urging them to leave such false impressions on Best Buy's pages in exchange for a chance to be included in a small group of Mate 10 Pro "beta testers." Immediately after the first reports of the ordeal surfaced in mid-February, Huawei attributed the incident to an internal miscommunication. Before the issue was identified, the company successfully solicited at least a dozen of fake Best Buy reviews of the Mate 10 Pro from people who never handled the device before the Android flagship was even released.

Huawei's is now understood to be lowering its stateside ambitions, having conducted layoffs "across the board" in the United States over the first half of April, as originally reported by AndroidHeadlines and later independently corroborated by The New York Times. William Plummer, Huawei USA Vice President of External Affairs, was the most high-profile executive encompassed by last month's layoffs, having spent eight years defending the company from spying allegations. According to the firm's consolidated financial report for 2017, its North and South Americas business shrunk by 10.9-percent and now accounts for only 6.5-percent of its global sales, down from 8.5 percentage points a year earlier.

Huawei's issues with the U.S. government and select American firms such as Cisco and T-Mobile have been ongoing for the better part of the current century, with Richard Yu, CEO of its consumer electronics business group, becoming more vocal about what he deems are unfounded accusations following this year's CES when AT&T opted for a last-minute cancellation of their planned Mate 10 Pro retail partnership following reported pressure from stateside lawmakers. Huawei remains adamant it's still on course to become the world's largest smartphone vendor in the future, overtaking Apple and Samsung in terms of sales and shipments.

Following its latest U.S. defeat, Huawei has been shifting its international resources to Europe where it's been promoting the Mate 10 lineup in an extremely aggressive manner, having recently touted the series as its fastest-selling product family on the Old Continent to date. The company's next high-end Android offering is expected to be announced in the final quarter of the year, coming in the form of the Mate 20 lineup. Huawei's R&D focus in the mobile segment is presently divided between artificial intelligence technologies and camera innovations, with the firm now revising its flagship portfolio every six months as part of a refresh strategy similar to that pursued by Samsung. The company is also understood to be working on a foldable smartphone which may launch as early as this year.

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