Huawei to reintroduce MateBook PC line in South Africa

Akhram Mohamed

After briefly entering the PC market in South Africa a few years ago and then beating a strategic retreat, Huawei is poised to reintroduce its MateBook laptops in the local market.

The decision, announced by the Chinese technology giant on Thursday, comes after Microsoft unveiled plans to begin selling its Surface devices in South Africa for the first time. Having two new brands in the local PC industry could serve to shift market dynamics somewhat.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer at the Huawei Consumer Business Group in South Africa, announced during an online press conference that the company will be bringing two MateBook models to the South African market, with more devices to follow soon.

The AMD Ryzen-powered MateBook D14 and D15 models will be available in retail stores from 7 August, Mohamed said, with plans afoot to bring the entire line-up, including the flagship MateBook X Pro, to South Africa. The models will ship with Microsoft Windows.

Asked by TechCentral why Huawei withdrew from the PC market and is now returning, Mohamed said: “You could say it’s a relaunch, but I’d rather say this is the actual launch. At that time, you could say it was a trial. We’ve had a couple of years to run. This has translated into experience and learnings.”

In the same press conference, Huawei said its smartphone products have continued to sell well in South Africa – and ahead of many competitors – despite the Covid-19 pandemic and challenges posed by the US government’s sanctions, which prevent the company from using Google Mobile Services (GMS) on its latest devices.

‘Very encouraging’

Year on year, Huawei has seen a 2% increase in smartphone sales, Mohamed said. He described this as “very encouraging given some of our competitors saw double-digit declines”. He cited strong demand for online purchases in recent months as a result of the lockdown, with an 805% increase in orders between the first quarter and the second quarter of the year on its South African online store.

Despite the lack of Google services and apps on its handsets – Huawei has developed an alternative called Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and is rapidly signing up app developers to the new platform – Mohamed said consumers are generally happy with and understanding of the shift. He said HMS-based smartphones sold in South Africa enjoyed a 91% positive customer satisfaction rate. He said the number of HMS smartphone buyers returning the devices after purchase is 0.05%.

“Would you like a slice of HMS with that, sir?”

“South African consumers are very loyal to the Huawei brand and many understand we are going through this transition,” he said. By the end of 2020, Huawei expects 70% of its smartphones sold in South African will use HMS rather than GMS.

The company also announced plans on Wednesday to introduce new 5G smartphones into the local market: the P40 Pro+ 5G and the more affordable P40 lite 5G. Both will go on sale this weekend.

It will also launch its smartphone payments platform, Huawei Pay, in South Africa in the third quarter of the year, the company revealed.  — © 2020 NewsCentral Media