Honor marks independence by inking the supplier deals Huawei couldn't

Honor is going it alone, cutting ties with Huawei as it spins out as an independent business, and inking the deals that the US government blocked its former parent company from making. The Chinese phone-maker launched its first device as a standalone company today, the Honor View40, a 5G smartphone with aggressive pricing.

Honor was founded eight years ago, as Huawei's push to grab market share in the more affordable end of the device market. Resolutely targeting younger users, the sub-brand tapped celebrity endorsements like Brooklyn Beckham to help emerge from its parent's shadow, though also benefited considerably from Huawei's R&D investments into camera tech and screen design.

That stopped being such an advantage when Huawei found itself added to the US trade embargo list under the Trump Administration. Under the terms of the entity list, Huawei was blocked from inking deals with companies like Google, Qualcomm, and others, and as a subsidiary it left Honor out in the cold, too. In mid-November 2020, Huawei sold Honor to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology Co., Ltd.

As a "fully independent company," Honor says, it has its own ambitions for 2021 and beyond. As well as the Honor View40 smartphone, and upgrades to the MagicBook Series of Windows notebooks, the company also confirmed it had reached supplier agreements with a number of firms that, as part of Huawei, it had been blocked from doing business with.

"Based on global consumer needs, Honor has the flexibility and independence to choose the best solutions for its global supply chain," the company said in a statement today. "Honor has already confirmed partnerships with leading suppliers such as AMD, Intel, MediaTek, Micron Technology, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Samsung, SK hynix, and Sony."

It's a comprehensive list if you're a company trying to make cutting-edge smartphones. Sony, for example, provides the camera sensors for many in the smartphone industry right now; Samsung is a key supplier of memory and displays. A deal with Qualcomm gives Honor the option of using Snapdragon chipsets and, arguably as important, the company's 5G modems.

The Honor View40 uses MediaTek's 1000+ chipset with 5G, but lacks support for the mmWave networks that US networks have been rolling out for the fastest possible speeds in typically urban areas. It's unclear when – or if – Honor might have ambitions for the fiercely competitive US market, but supporting mmWave 5G would be effectively a must-have if that's on the roadmap. Right now, that means Qualcomm modems, since MediaTek's 5G products don't support that specific network tech.