As Huawei’s infrastructure business comes under continued pressure, its devices unit is experiencing continued strength, James Kielty from DeviceAtlas finds.

At MWC19 Barcelona, Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping came out fighting. The company has also initiated legal proceedings to force the US government to overturn a ban on its communications hardware from federal computer networks.

Despite there being no evidence of Chinese government interference or built-in backdoors, the old saying “there’s no smoke without fire” could yet haunt Huawei as it seeks to expand worldwide.

On the devices front, 2018 was a busy year for the Chinese manufacturer.

Following AT&T cancelling a deal to distribute Huawei handsets through its stores in January 2018, Best Buy did similar in March. But, in contrast, in the second quarter it surpassed Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone producer.

Although 5G infrastructure is where most of the concern lies, it seems somewhat obvious this mini trade war could affect sales of Huawei’s consumer devices too. With that in mind, we looked at DeviceAtlas data for each quarter of 2018 to plot the popularity of Huawei smartphones across select countries. The data is sourced from mobile web traffic to DeviceAtlas’ global network of partner websites.

The first set shows use of Huawei smartphones in the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

In the UK, progress was solid, with a steady rise from 1.82 per cent market share to 2.78 per cent overall by the year-end (see chart, left, click to enlarge). Canada also recorded a small increase, but there was a 0.09 per cent decrease in Australia. In the US, where the trade war with China is most pronounced, there was still a tiny increase, from 0.069 per cent to 0.11 per cent, but such small numbers indicate there’s little appetite for Huawei devices in the US.

Elsewhere, Huawei enjoyed a larger share at the start of 2018 and in some countries registered decent growth throughout the year.

In Germany, Q1 showed a 0.51 per cent dip in market share, but Huawei recovered by the year-end to finish on 7.09 per cent (see chart, right, click to enlarge). France showed a similar trend, ending the year on 5.44 per cent.

In Android-leaning Russia and India (the latter reporting 72.2 per cent of all smartphones as Android) there was also strong growth in the second half of 2018, strongly correlating with Huawei’s overtaking of Apple in overall device shipments.

It seems that trade restrictions and attempts to curb the growth of Huawei may not make much impact outside the US. Small but steady growth in a crowded market has certainly given confidence to Huawei and, however its 5G efforts go, its smartphone success looks set to increase further in 2019.

DeviceAtlas/Afilias partners with the GSMA to provide detailed device data for its IMEI services.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.