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The US has dealt the final blow to HUAWEI's phone business

HUAWEI can't even use 4G Snapdragon chipsets in its smartphones. What does this mean for the phone division's future?

Published onJanuary 31, 2023

HUAWEI Logo 2020 1
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • The US has reportedly stepped up its trade ban against HUAWEI.
  • HUAWEI will be unable to access even 4G chips under the revised policy.

Huawei has been subjected to a US trade ban since 2019, and the results have been devastating for the Chinese brand. The trade ban has resulted in the company losing Google support as well as access to major chip foundries for its high-end in-house processors. Furthermore, the company is only allowed to use 4G versions of Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in its phones.

Now, it looks like the US has effectively dealt a death blow to HUAWEI’s phone business. Reuters reports that the Biden administration has stopped granting export licenses to US companies to export most items to HUAWEI, citing three sources.

One source told the outlet that US officials were creating a policy that would prohibit the export of items “below the 5G level, including 4G items, Wi-Fi 6 and 7, artificial intelligence, and high-performance computing and cloud items.”

Did the US just kill HUAWEI’s ailing phone business?

Another source said that licenses for exporting 4G chips to HUAWEI, which were allowed under the current sanctions, were now being denied. The loss of 4G chips is extremely damaging to HUAWEI as the company uses 4G versions of Snapdragon chipsets in its recent offerings like the Mate 50 series and P50 series.

Losing this option means the Chinese brand doesn’t seem to have any viable flagship silicon at its disposal, as HUAWEI is also barred from using chip foundries like TSMC and Samsung to produce its in-house chipsets. This effectively leaves it with Chinese foundries, which are far less sophisticated than the likes of TSMC and are only suited for budget silicon.

Would you be sad to see HUAWEI's phone business die?

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The stepped-up sanctions would likely have detrimental effects on HUAWEI’s PC business too, as Intel, AMD, and Microsoft would presumably be affected by the ban too. Either way, this latest news suggests that HUAWEI’s phone business might be out of the count.

We’ve asked HUAWEI for comment regarding the stepped-up sanctions and will update the article if/when it gets back to us.