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New Huawei Mate 50 phone can link up with Chinese satellite system

This makes it the first smartphone maker to bring satellite communication technology to the consumer market

Huawei has designed a new smartphone that’s able to link up to the Chinese satellite system, deploying the new technology as a way to deal with US restrictions on its access to 5G technology.

The Mate 50 series, launched today, will allow smartphone users to communicate with short messages through the BeiDou navigation satellite system. This is China’s version of the Global Positioning System (GPS) developed by the US.

The Chinese company has no access to premium 5G mobile chips since it has been the target of a US crackdown, while competitors like Samsung or Apple already include this technology in their flagship devices.

“Basically, the Mate 50 series will allow users to send short messages together with location information using China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) for emergency uses when the telecom operator's mobile network is not available,” Arnold Gao, senior director analyst at Gartner, told IT Pro. “BDS offers a broader coverage for signals, higher reliability, and ubiquitous access compared to commercial mobile networks, which can play an important role for emergency communication in disaster senses, in the desert, at sea.”

Gao added that by launching this new service, Huawei has become the first smartphone maker to bring satellite communication technology to the consumer market prior to Apple.

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“However, the ‘ground-breaking’ part is more on the satellite side as the global short message communication service offered by BDS is not available from other global navigation satellite systems such as GPS or GLONASS,” underlined Gao.

The Huawei Mate 50 includes a 6.7-inch OLED panel with 2,700 x 1,224 resolution, 90Hz refresh rate, 300Hz touch sampling rate, and 1440Hz PWM dimming, according to Huawei Central. It also has a triple camera system including a 13MP ultra wide-angle camera and a 50MP main camera.

The device comes in five colours including blue, orange, silver, black, or purple, and has plain leather or glass-back variants.

The company confirmed in August last year that its flagship phone, the P50, was set to ship without 5G support. Huawei blamed the decision on ongoing trade restrictions placed on the company by the US. The P50 handsets were only going to support 4G and run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 4G chipset, although the Pro version would use the company’s own  Kirin 9000 processor.

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