The Huawei Mate X. Photo: YouTube

Almost half a million 5G-compatible handsets have been sold across China as of the third quarter this year, according to global market intelligence and data cruncher International Data Corporation (IDC), with Huawei leading the charge.

The company noted in its latest IDC Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report that most of these units shipped and sold were flagship models priced at more than US$700.

“Fortunately, data tariffs are priced attractively against 4G, complete with tiering by speed for different user needs,” IDC said, adding that it expects a significant amount of industry momentum to drive volumes in 2020.

The 485,000 phones and tablets sold in China alone account for the bulk of global shipment of 5G gadgets, while most countries have yet to start their respective 5G rollout.

Huawei has been leading the charge as it supplied one in every three 5G phones shipped in the country between June and September, according to a separate report by Xinhua, after the Shenzhen-based tech juggernaut went on a spree of launching four 5G models earlier this year, including the foldable Mate X, the cachet of what Huawei has to offer in the 5G era.

YouTube video

The Mate X 5G went on sale in mainland China last Friday with a hefty price tag of 16,999 yuan ($2,422), nearly nine months after Huawei debuted the flagship device.

Stocks ran low soon after the launch as Chinese tech nerds and others who wanted a cutting-edge phone to flaunt their wealth vied to get hold of one.

Other than the gorgeous 8-inch display that can be folded up, connecting speed and processing are also impressive on the strength of Huawei’s indigenous Balong 5000 processor, touted as the world’s first 7nm multi-mode 5G chipset, 8 GB of RAM, integrated 5G antennae and 512 GB of internal memory. It can download a 1-GB file in the blink of an eye.

Chinese papers say Huawei is having a hard time ratcheting up production at a plant near its Shenzhen headquarters as the Mate X’s flexible OLED display is a challenge to mass-produce.

The company is yet to release preliminary Mate X sales and order figures, but those who paid online told Xinhua they would have to wait about two weeks to get their devices.

Also, Samsung’s embarrassing tech glitch of a cracking display on its own Galaxy Fold, which led to a recall and delayed launch, has made some buyers in China switch to Huawei.

Huawei’s compatriot rival Vivo has also gained an early lead by releasing two 5G models in one month, breaking into the 6,000 yuan range high-end segment, while offering cheaper devices to appeal to more consumers eager to experience 5G.

The construction of the 5G network throughout China has been advancing at full steam with policies encouraging co-construction and sharing between China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. Services have already been available across 50 cities in the country starting from the third quarter.

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