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Huawei used cheap-as-chips chips in some P10s, now buyers want to boil it in oil

Head of consumer orders staff into stores on May day to have salt rubbed into wounds

By Richard Chirgwin, 1 May 2017

Huawei has taken drastic steps to mollify customers upset that its response to a chip shortage was to grab lower-performance substitutes.

The furore blew up in China first, when users found that instead of the high-performance UFS (universal flash storage) cards it touted for its P10 phones at launch, it was mixing UFS with lower-performance eMMC (embedded multi-media card).

As Reuters reports, when launching the Mate 9 last November Huawei boasted it was “100 percent faster” than eMMC.

When users noticed that Huawei edited its Website to take out reference to UFS, they complained – and originally, the company's mobile boss Richard Yu was defensive.

Huawei first explained that the description was removed from the site while the company checked that all Mate 9s supported UFS, but users weren't convinced, lodging 32 complaints with the Shenzhen Consumer Council.

Yu then followed up by complaining about memory shortages in the supply chain.

That's true enough: in March, TrendForce predicted flash memory price rises throughout 2017 because the supply is so tight. In April, it warned of similar pressures in the PC DRAM market.

Last week, SK Hynix warned memory supply will remain tight throughout 2017, and back in January, Samsung decided to delay the launch of its 4TB 850 Pro SSD because of the shortage.

Other suffering vendors include HPE, Dell-EMC, Cisco and Juniper Networks.

The problem is, users say, that eMMC doesn't support the performance needed for high-resolution games and media.

Yu has now capitulated, sending an e-mail to staff (later posted to his Weibo account) in his division that among other things they are to spend May 1 – Labor Day in China – in stores talking to customers.

Reuters doesn't carry the original, but Phone Arena has what it says is the full Weibo message, which we've transcribed below since it accords with what Reuters excerpted.

As well as sending Consumer Business Group staff out to stores for May Day, Yu said Huawei's original response to complaints was “arrogant”, and announced the formation of a “Customer Listening Taskforce”.

At this stage, there's no word on whether the company will consider any kind of recall or customer compensation. ®

Bootnote: Yu's message to staff, in all its glory:

"From my 24 years of experience with Huawei, there are two values which have resonated deeply with me, to the point that they have not only influenced me but actually shaped who I am. These are Stay Continual Improvement and Customer Centric. Recently I have been upset and under pressure and I now must reflect critically on my actions,. When I saw opinions on Sina Weibo that I didn't agree with, both positive and negative, the engineer in me was too sensitive about product technology specifications and too eager to express my thoughts. This led me to respond inappropriately. I'm now learning to stop and think before I reach.

"The smartphone industry is like a battlefield where everyone's getting stronger but also like a school where we all need to learn from each other to improve. We still have a long way to go but in the future we'll hold my own and the team's actions to much higher standards, and strive to be more considerate of customers' feelings.

"As well as a wake-up call, this issue has been a profound lesson to us. It's led us to wonder whether we've been running too fast these past few years, or lost sight of our original vision, whether we have demonstrated our core company value of placing our customers first of everything we do.

"Faced with consumers' suspicions, we responded in terms of the challenges we'd encountered and the efforts we'd made to overcome them. We understand now that this was an arrogant way to react. We need to approach these matters with humility. Consumers have paid with their trust and love. All the requests from them are the power that encourages us to move on and achieve progress. We can't defend the way we focused only on our difficulties. Instead, we need to listen carefully to different opinions, respond sincerely, and take action quickly to improve. To this end, I've established a special “Customer Listening Taskforce” to follow up with a series of reactive actions.

"As the Labor Day is coming, I think we should start by visiting stores ourselves – thousands of retail stores and service stores – where we can be closest to our consumers, and spend time together with them. I'm going to lead the CBG management team to visit these retail stores and service stores to go deep into front-line service and have closer communication with consumers. I encourage all Huawei Customer Business Group staff to do the same and visit stores, serve customers and listen to them, in order to improve our work process and attitude. We should repay global consumers' trust in Huawei through our actions." ®

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