Mobile phone shops in Singapore stop buying Huawei phones from customers

Without concrete answers from Huawei, two telcos in Singapore have been urging those using Huawei phones to wait for updates from the manufacturer. — TODAY pic
Without concrete answers from Huawei, two telcos in Singapore have been urging those using Huawei phones to wait for updates from the manufacturer. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, May 22 — Just a day after Google suspended its business with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei amid escalating United States-China trade tensions, mobile phone shops in Singapore have stopped buying used Huawei phones from customers.

The reason for this change? The shops are concerned that they would not make a profit as these used Huawei phones may no longer command high prices — and there may be no takers anyway, they said. 

Some retailers of new Huawei phones have even stopped stocking up on the products. They said that the sidelining of Huawei phones will continue until further notice, depending on how the situation plays out.

For customers, anxiety has set in. Worried that they might not be able to access Google applications such as YouTube, Maps and Gmail, some have tried to sell their Huawei phones to stores, only to be turned down, mobile phone shops told TODAY.

Turning to social media, some users have vented their anger, demanding a replacement phone or a refund from telecommunications companies.

In response to TODAY’s queries, telcos StarHub and Singtel acknowledged the frustrations, with Singtel saying that it is working with Huawei “to get more clarity”.

On Sunday, the US’ decision to place Huawei on its trade blacklist led Google to suspend business with Huawei, China’s largest telco, in matters relating to the transfer of hardware, software and technical services. 

Google, however, had sought to allay concerns. It assured existing Huawei users not residing in China that they would still be able to access and update the apps on Google Play Store, such as YouTube, Maps and Gmail. 

Still, Huawei users in Singapore who were interviewed by TODAY are thinking that there may be more restrictions on the use of Google’s proprietary apps and services, depending on how the US-China trade war plays out.

Nicholas Tan, a 30-year-old music teacher, is worried that Google might “break relations” with Huawei, which would eventually mean restricting existing Huawei users from accessing Google’s apps.

Echoing a similar sentiment, 29-year-old photographer Matthew Lim said that not being able to access Google Maps, which he relies on frequently for navigation, would leave him handicapped in a way. “That would be a serious issue,” he added.

Human resource executive Selene Teo, 33, who bought a Huawei P30 Pro two months ago because of its high-quality camera function, said that if she is unable to access Google’s apps, she might resort to buying an iPhone and using her Huawei phone only for its camera function.

Though taken aback by the news, some Huawei phone users said that they have no plans to sell or trade in their phones for now.

Sales executive Terence Low, who bought the Huawei P30 Pro two months ago, said that he is not affected as he will still be able to receive updates for the current operating system (OS).

“(I have) no intention to sell and change. I see no point,” the 35-year-old said. “Since the OS version is quite stable, I do not see any issues.”

No more trading in Huawei phones

Five mobile phone shops at Far East Plaza and Sim Lim Square which TODAY visited yesterday said that they have stopped buying Huawei phones from customers for resale since Monday.

They said doing so would be counterproductive as the phones would not command high prices and there would be no customers buying them given the anxiety over Huawei phones.

Johnny Choo, sales executive at iMega Mobile in Far East Plaza, said that he would previously have bought a Huawei P30 Pro from a customer for S$1,050 (RM3,190) and sold it at a higher price of S$1,180.

But Google’s suspension would cause prices for such phones to dip, and the 55-year-old would be forced to sell it at a loss.

Choo also said that he has stopped buying new Huawei phones from suppliers. He has a remaining stock of about 10 Huawei phones.

“We are temporarily putting a stop to buying Huawei phones from customers and stocking up — until further notice. Have to wait and see how things play out,” he added.

Mobile Square, another store in Far East Plaza, has taken similar measures. It has close to 30 Huawei’s phones in stock.

The store’s sales executive, who declined to be named, said that he had to turn away five customers who wanted to sell their phones yesterday. “They asked me, ‘Why?’. I told them because I wouldn’t be able to sell the phones at higher prices.” 

Over at Sim Lim Square, sales executive Ellson Puah who works at mobile phone store J2 Trading, said that the store has also stopped buying phones from customers. It does not help that his buyers generally prefer second-hand iPhone and Samsung phones over Huawei ones.

“I’m not making any profit by buying second-hand Huawei phones,” he added.

Notwithstanding the news, a sales executive at a Huawei store in Sim Lim Square — who declined to be named — said that “it is business as usual”. Two customers bought phones from them yesterday, she said.

“They were concerned, asking whether they can still use Google apps. We said they can still do that. Plus, Huawei is also coming up with its own operating system, so they don’t have to worry,” she added.

Waiting for updates 

Several irate Huawei users turned to social media to voice their frustration, with some calling for a replacement phone or a refund for their purchases.

But without concrete answers from Huawei, telcos have been urging them to wait for updates from the manufacturer.

A Singtel spokesperson told TODAY: “Huawei has confirmed that customers with existing phones can still access the Google Play Store for downloads and updates. We are working with Huawei to get more clarity and will continue to keep our customers updated.”

StarHub said that it has received a “small number of customer inquiries”, but it has not received customer requests to “return or cancel orders of Huawei smartphones since the beginning of related news reports”.

TODAY has also sought comment from M1.

Terence Lim Zheng Wei, 30, who works as a system administrator, was irritated by the lack of more information. He bought his Huawei P30 Pro when it was launched in March.

“Most of the important functions on this phone are Gmail and YouTube, and many other Google services, too. If they are all blocked, what is the point of having this phone?”

Lim May-Ann, who lectures on infocomm technology at the National University of Singapore, suggested that users should wait for the manufacturer to provide answers on what it intends to do before they return the devices.

A Huawei user herself, Lim said that the issue centres on the future of the Android operating system of the phone, for which Huawei already has a ready solution.

“Huawei has said that it is prepared for such an eventuality, and it could give users an option to update to an operating system that it has developed,” said Lim, who is also managing director of consultancy firm TRPC.

“After all, Huawei users in China have been using the phones without Google services for some time, too.”

What may be more difficult to shrug off is the damaged reputation of the brand after it was accused of espionage by the US, an assertion that Huawei has repeatedly denied, she added. — TODAY