What is Huawei charged with

Huawei: no return to Google - or maybe it?

When it became known in mid-May 2019 that Huawei had been blacklisted by the US Department of Commerce, it caused quite a stir, and not just in the press. Fred Wangfei, Country Manager for Austria, admitted on Thursday during a press conference in Vienna that the following weeks were spent trying to find out for yourself what it all means. The topic of the event was the long-term strategy of the Chinese hardware manufacturer, and after having been rather closed back in the previous year, this time a very detailed insight into the further plans was given.

The train left

Even if the USA should lift the trade ban, Huawei will no longer return to Google services, the company emphasizes when asked by the STANDARD. The reason for this is a very simple one: after all, one cannot rely on the fact that a new ban will not be issued soon afterwards; one wants to get rid of this dependence on US politics. The goal is to create a third smartphone ecosystem in addition to Android and iOS - but one that will continue to be based on the open source code of Android and that should also stick closely to the original from Google in the long term in order to guarantee compatibility .

After this news made some waves internationally, Huawei rowed a little behind the scenes. For example, Huawei Germany emphasized to t3n that nothing has changed in its own position, so they want to continue working with Google. However, this is not a real denial, after all, even without Google services, further cooperation between the two companies will be necessary. After all, Huawei wants to continue to use the Android Open Source Code for its devices, and Huawei's existing devices with Google services also have to be maintained.

denial

Huawei, on the other hand, was clearer to a journalist from the Dutch tech website Tweakers.nl. The Chinese hardware manufacturer informed him practically at the same time as the STANDARD report that Huawei would return to Google services if the ban was lifted. At the moment it is only clear that a clear statement from Huawei is urgently needed to clarify this question. So far this central question has always been avoided.

And in fact, an international statement from Huawei followed early on Tuesday evening, which also only makes a very limited contribution to establishing the truth. It says: "An open Android ecosystem is still our first choice, but if the US doesn't let us use it, we have the opportunity to develop one ourselves".

Huawei Mobile Services

Huawei is currently focusing on creating its own ecosystem, and the company is spending a lot of money on that. Three billion US dollars are to flow into the development of Huawei Mobile Services in 2020 alone; around 4,000 developers are currently entrusted with this task. Another billion is earmarked for marketing Huawei's services outside of China. Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) is the counterpart to Google Play Services, i.e. the infrastructure service whose loss has hit Huawei hardest. After all, this component is used by a large part of all Android apps, without it the programs in question will not work - or only to a limited extent. There are around 60 different services that make life much easier for app developers, from the integration of maps into their own app to the processing of login tasks or location determination.

Huawei now wants to get the app developers to adapt their apps in order to make them work with both the Google solution and its own alternatives. This is of course a challenging task, after all, it means extra work for app developers. The Chinese hardware manufacturer emphasizes, however, that some effort is made to keep the burden on developers as low as possible. For example, when it comes to the interfaces between the individual services, they deliberately follow the Google model. At the same time, when asked, Huawei confesses that all of this is currently still work in progress. After all, the Google Play Services have matured over the years, so simply recreating them is not a trivial task. For this reason, it is currently limited to 24 of the 60 services - the most important for most apps.

App Gallery instead of Play Store

Despite all these hurdles, one is convinced that the offer in the own App Gallery - Huawei's counterpart to the Play Store - will soon grow. There are already 1.2 million apps to be found there - mostly from China, where Huawei devices are always delivered without Google services anyway, as the Android manufacturer is not active in the country. But the number of European apps is also growing rapidly, for example the STANDARD app is already available in the App Gallery. And even apps from US companies are to be added soon, after all, Huawei is quite clear that their lack - above all Facebook and Whatsapp - could discourage many customers from buying a new generation of smartphones.

If you are surprised by this announcement, because the US trade ban should actually also affect large app manufacturers, Huawei has an explanation ready for you. A proxy company has simply been set up in Europe with which the US providers can conclude their contracts for the use of the services, thus circumventing the ban. It remains to be seen, however, whether Facebook and Co. will get involved in such "creative" constructions. At the Mobile World Congress at the end of February, they want to have a lot of new features ready for partnerships.

Expected setbacks

Nevertheless, Huawei is quite clear that the path it has chosen will be a difficult one. It is assumed that its own market shares will also decline in Austria in 2020, as the company openly admits when asked about STANDARD. After all, none of the planned new smartphones will be delivered with Google services. In 2019, the company still benefited from contracts concluded before the ban and was able to keep the market share (at 25.6 percent) relatively stable. You no longer have this advantage this year. And as long as their own devices cannot replace everything that customers are used to from devices with Google Android, this will of course have a negative effect on sales figures.

Mate 30 Pro is coming

At least one thing is clear from Huawei: The company's new smartphones are also to be sold in Austria without Google services in the future. It starts with the Mate 30 Pro, which should be available in Germany from February. The company emphasizes that this will initially be done within a very limited framework, the main goal being to receive feedback from the market. New devices such as the P40 / P40 Pro, which is expected for the end of March, should then also come to Austria. Huawei is also convinced that the existing partnerships can be maintained, i.e. the devices will continue to be sold through all major cell phone operators.

Information campaigns aim to counter the risk of annoying many customers by selling them smartphones that lack many familiar apps. Both online and in stores, interested parties should be informed in detail about software restrictions and alternatives to previously used services. However, they do not want to advise users to reinstall Google services - but of course they will not be prevented from doing so either. (Andreas Proschofsky, January 30th, 2020)