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Huawei abandons 5G for P50 smartphone amid US trade ban

US restrictions continue to hamper the Chinese firm as it settles for a 4G-enabled flagship

Huawei exec Richard Yu, onstage to reveal the company's latest handsets, the P50

Huawei's latest flagship smartphone, the P50, will ship without 5G support, the company has confirmed, blaming the decision on ongoing trade restrictions placed on the company by the US.

During a China-only event, the head of the firm's consumer electronics group, Richard Yu, revealed that the upcoming P50 and P50 Pro handsets will only support 4G, according to Nikkei Asia. The Pro will run on the firm's own Kirin 9000 processor, while the standard P50 will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 888 4G chipset.

The Chinese company is considered one of the world's leading providers of 5G technology and was also one of the first smartphone manufacturers to launch a 5G-enabled handset, in the form of the Mate 20 X 5G in 2019.

"Because of the US sanctions, our new smartphones cannot run on 5G wireless connections even though we are surely the global leader in 5G technology," Yu said. "But with 4G, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and our AI computing algorithms, we still can provide as powerful a performance as all the 5G phones."

The use of Qualcomm's chips is the first time since the blacklisting that Huawei has managed to secure US silicon, but for reasons unspecified, the firm wasn't granted access to the 5G version of the 888, which is used in Samsung, Xiaomi, and OnePlus handsets.

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The embattled Chinese firm has already seen a significant decline in handset sales; according to Gartner the company is no longer in the top five manufacturers in the world, having been second behind Samsung just two years ago. The decline has mostly been attributed to the lack of access to Google services, but restricted access to semiconductor and modem supplies have also taken a toll.

While Huawei has continued to release innovative handsets, even developing its own operating system, HarmonyOS, the effects of the US trade ban have gradually limited its output.

The company's first 5G handset, the Mate 20 X 5G was initially unveiled on 16 May 2019, just a few hours after the US had announced that it had placed the Chinese firm on a trade blacklist over fears its 5G equipment could be used for espionage.

Details for an international release of the 4G-only P50, which includes the UK, are due to be announced in the coming months.

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