US-China trade war: Used Huawei phone prices plunge, but some look for bargains online

Most shops visited by The Straits Times yesterday said they still accept used Huawei phones, but the prices they are offering have fallen by $200 to $300 since Google suspended business with the firm.
Most shops visited by The Straits Times yesterday said they still accept used Huawei phones, but the prices they are offering have fallen by $200 to $300 since Google suspended business with the firm.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

The market for used Huawei smartphones has taken a major hit since the United States clamped down on the Chinese giant and Google suspended business with it.

While a majority of mobile phone shops here said that they are still buying used Huawei handsets, they are offering steeply lower prices for them, and some shops have stopped buying used Huawei products altogether.

Customers, too, are staying away, with sales of used Huawei smartphones dropping sharply. Those still inquiring after them are largely buyers sniffing out potential bargains.

Twelve of the 18 mobile phone shops that The Straits Times visited yesterday at Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio and Far East Plaza said that they accept used Huawei phones, especially recent models like last month's P30 Pro. But there is a catch.

The shops say that the prices they are offering for used Huawei smartphones have dropped by $200 to $300 since the ban. They attribute this to lower demand for the phone after Google distanced itself from the Chinese manufacturer.

"We were selling 20 Huawei phones daily on average. Since the news broke, we are only doing around two to three per day," said Mr Ben Eu, owner of Kasia Mobile at Orchard Xchange.

The slump comes even though existing Huawei models, such as the P30 Pro and last year's Mate 20 series, will continue to have access to Google apps and services, including the Google Play Store. Huawei will also provide security updates and after-sales services for devices that "have been sold and that are still in stock globally".


Still, Mr Eu has stopped buying models such as last year's Huawei Mate 20 phones. "Because of the current US-Huawei dispute, dealers are keeping their stocks low," he said.

Mr Samuel Chan, a sales manager at Whymobile at Far East Plaza, said that no one is buying Huawei phones now.

"If there is a platform that Huawei can use to install apps, then we will accept them," he said.

Several other mobile phone shops also reported a drop in sales.

Meanwhile, bargain hunters are sniffing around, especially on online marketplace Carousell.

The Straits Times found dozens of Carousell listings from those hoping to buy Huawei phones at a steep discount. One user with the handle "allsortss" said he has fielded inquiries from four or five sellers despite offering just $100 to buy the Huawei P30 Pro. The recommended retail price for the Huawei P30 Pro is $1,398.

Meanwhile, telcos in Japan and Taiwan said yesterday that they will not sell new Huawei handsets, with a South Korean carrier likely to follow suit.

The handsets continued to be offered by telcos in Singapore.

Some of those who bought them recently are wondering, however, if they will be able to get refunds for them. This may depend on where they purchased the handsets from.

M1 said that "out of goodwill, it may allow customers to exchange for another handset brand on a case-by-case basis".

StarHub told ST that it will "offer assistance to customers who contact them for help", but it advised customers to reach out to Huawei if "the phones are not working as expected".

A Singtel spokesman said: "We have confirmation from Huawei that phones that have been sold continue to have access to Google services and the Google Play Store for downloads and updates, and are working fine with no service or usage impact. We are working closely with Huawei to assess any potential usage impact moving forward."

Those who bought Huawei handsets from other retailers may still be able to return them.

Courts offers a 30-day refund or exchange for unopened items, while opened items can be returned within 14 days. Smartphones, however, are ineligible for returns once opened. Online retailer Lazada offers full refunds within 15 days of the purchase for products sold in its LazMall section. Items outside LazMall have a seven-day return policy.

•Additional reporting by Jeanell Kiew and Rosalind Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2019, with the headline 'Used Huawei phone prices plunge, but some look for bargains online'. Print Edition | Subscribe