British dump Huawei phones as U.S.-China trade war trickles down to the masses

One phone trade-in company in Britain said it has seen a 540% increase in the number of Huawei devices brought in for exchange.
(Hector Retamal / AFP/Getty Images)

British consumers have begun trading in smartphones from Huawei Technologies Co. in growing numbers since the Chinese tech giant was hit by a U.S. supply blacklist.

Trade-in and price-tracking companies report a surge in U.K. consumers trading in devices from the Shenzhen-based manufacturer, while interest from buyers fizzles. The numbers show that concerns around the company have extended beyond trade talks and corporate procurement and turned into backlash at retail, where Huawei makes most of its sales.

Gadget trade-in website WeBuyTek, which buys and resells about 36,000 handsets a year, has seen a 540% increase in the number of Huawei devices booked this week versus last. That’s the biggest jump it’s ever seen, the company’s director, Paul Walsh, said by email.


‘’We have temporarily stopped accepting any new trade-ins, as we expect the value of these devices to plummet,” he said.

The rush follows the decision by BT Group and Vodafone Group to pull the Huawei Mate 20 X phone from their launches of fifth-generation wireless products. The British carriers joined others from around the world, citing uncertainty after Huawei was cut off from U.S. companies by new trade restrictions and barred from receiving software support for the Android operating system from Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Although existing phones aren’t yet affected by the U.S. action, news of Google’s move spooked consumers about the capabilities of their devices, said Canalys analyst Ben Stanton.

“Google and Huawei have offered some explanation, but it’s been very short and coy,” he said. “I know from speaking to people within those organizations — they’re still trying to work out exactly how they can work within this framework, and they’re not exactly sure how this will develop.”

Clicks on Huawei devices declined 46% this week in the U.K. from the previous week, said PriceSpy, which tracks consumers who are comparing product prices. Over the same period, interest in handsets from rivals Xiaomi Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. rose.

The website reported a rise of up to 282% in the number of people assessing the value of their Huawei handsets from May 20 to May 22, compared with previous days, according to a representative.


“There seems to be this lapse in consumer confidence, even with the current products,” said Stanton, adding that the latest developments have come “at a horrific time in terms of the launching of 5G phones.”