Huawei sells folding smartphone with no Google after US ban

Updated 15 November 2019

Huawei sells folding smartphone with no Google after US ban

BEIJING: Chinese tech giant Huawei is selling its first folding smartphone without Google apps or US-made processor chips following sanctions imposed by Washington.

The Mate X, which unfolds to 14.6 centimeters (5.8 inches) wide, went on sale Friday on Huawei’s online store in China priced at 16,999 yuan ($2,422). It competes with Samsung’s Galaxy Fold launched in September.

Huawei Technologies Ltd., China’s first global tech brand, is scrambling to preserve its business following US controls imposed in May on sales of American components and technology to the company, which Washington says is a security risk.

The company is the No. 2 smartphone behind Samsung Electronics and the biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers.

Huawei denies US accusations the company might facilitate Chinese spying. The Trump administration is lobbying European and other allies to exclude Huawei equipment as they prepare to upgrade to next-generation telecom networks.

The Mate X uses Huawei’s Kirin 980 and Balong 5000 chipset instead of chips from Qualcomm or other US suppliers. It comes loaded with Chinese alternatives to Google music, maps and other apps.

The screen unfolds to 14.6 centimeters (5.8 inches) by 16.1 centimeters (6.4 inches).

The Mate X uses Huawei’s EMUI 9 operating system, which is based on Google’s Android. The company can use the open-source version of Android but if US sanctions are fully enforced, it will lose access to Google’s popular music and other apps, making it harder to compete with Samsung.

American officials say companies will be allowed to sell some products to Huawei but they still are waiting for licenses.

Huawei smartphones sold in China already use local music and other apps because Google services aren’t licensed by Beijing.

The company has yet to announce Mate X sales forecasts or plans to sell it outside China.

Huawei unveiled a smartphone operating system, HarmonyOS, in August that it said can replace Android if necessary. The company says, however, it wants to keep working with American vendors.

Huawei reported earlier sales rose 24.4 percent in the first nine months of 2019 to 610.8 billion yuan ($86 billion). Its chairman, Liang Hua, warned in July it would “face difficulties” in the second half.

Also this week, Huawei said it would pay bonuses totaling 2 billion yuan ($285 million) to 90,000 employees in chip development and some other units as thanks for helping to cope with US sanctions.

The full 180,000-member workforce also will receive an extra month’s salary, the company said.


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.