China’s biggest smartphone makers are delaying new product launches that had been scheduled around the Mobile World Congress (MWC) after the event organizer announced it was calling off the world’s largest mobile phone trade show this year.

Why it matters: The annual event held in Barcelona is one of the most important stages for Chinese smartphone makers to unveil new products to an international audience. The exhibition’s cancellation and forced delays for product launches could hurt revenues from overseas markets, compounding expected losses in domestic sales brought by the Covid-19 outbreak.

  • Panic about the Covid-19 epidemic has led to a 70% drop of smartphone shipments for offline channels in China during the Spring Festival holiday, a major shopping season in the country, Fang Jing, chief analyst at Cinda Securities, told TechNode in an interview last week.
  • He predicted that the overall smartphone shipment figures in China would drop by 15% to 20% year on year in the first quarter.

Details: GSMA, the MWC organizer, announced Wednesday that the event this year was cancelled due fears about the virus outbreak in China which has spread to countries in Europe and North America.

  • Chinese smartphone makers, including Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, had plans to launch new products in Barcelona around the event which was scheduled to run from Feb. 24 to 27.
  • Vivo, the world’s fifth-largest smartphone vendor, said in a statement sent to TechNode on Thursday that the company had decided to reschedule the product launch of its Find X2 smartphone from Jan. 22 to March.
  • The Dongguan-based company told TechNode on Tuesday that it planned to attend the MWC and that it had sent some staff to Barcelona ahead of time for self-quarantine purposes.
  • Huawei said last week that it would attend the tech conference as planned. The world’s second-largest smartphone maker usually makes major product releases for overseas markets during the MWC. A Huawei spokesman declined to disclose to TechNode whether the company had plans to do so this year.
  • Xiaomi planned to hold a press conference on Feb. 23 in Barcelona to release its new flagship smartphone, the Mi 10. The handset will be launched in China via livestream on Thursday afternoon. A Xiaomi spokesman did not say whether the Barcelona launch will be canceled or delayed.

Context: Multiple telecommunication firms including Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, LG, Sony, and Amazon, as well as hardware companies had pulled out from the MWC prior to GSMA’s announcement.

  • The GSMA also holds an MWC designed for Chinese companies and audiences in Shanghai every year. This year’s MWC Shanghai will be held from June 30 to July 2, according to its website. It is unknown whether this event will also be affected.

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about... More by Wei Sheng

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