Ready this year: Huawei to replace Google apps on its phones soon

Ready this year: Huawei to replace Google apps on its phones soon
Chinese tech giant Huawei has been making headlines all year long—for making great devices, but also for the US trade ban that threatens to cut the company off from a major market. Google has also removed the company’s access to its proprietary services from the latest Huawei phones, leaving them without important apps like Gmail, YouTube, and the Play Store.

Huawei, however, seems undeterred as it closes the year with anticipated sales of 230 million handsets, up from 2018’s 207 million units. But that’s not the only thing Huawei is planning for the end of the year.

According to an executive who interviewed with the Economic Times, the Chinese company is planning to launch Huawei Media Services (HMS), a replacement for Google services, by the end of 2019. Yes, this year, the same one that has less than ten days left.

The representative is quoted as saying, "We have our own HMS and are trying to build a mobile ecosystem. Most of the key apps such as navigation, payments, gaming and messaging will be ready by December [sic] end."

In addition to basic services, Huawei is also planning to make sure the top 150 app in major markets are all supported on its own app store. If it manages to fulfill these ambitious goals, it will mean more than just more successful sales- it could paint the start of a radically different Android landscape.

A new era of Android?

Android and Google services are easily divisible in theory—the former an open-source operating system and the latter proprietary software—but in real life, Android has always, always, been closely tied to the vast suite of Google software, the most notable being the Play Store.

Thus, no major smartphone maker has ever said parted ways with the internet giant (and its software) in this way. If Huawei manages to really set up a viable ecosystem without Google Play Services and still have it succeed, that’s bound to leave an indelible mark in the history of smartphones.

That’s why it’s so surprising to see Huawei apparently finishing its enormous task in such a short timeframe. Of course, the company has yet to actually prove that it’s done what it said it has, but there are a number of variables that are on Huawei’s side. Let’s consider a few.

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First of all, of course, we can consider Huawei’s considerable resources. The company has already shown it’s willing to risk a lot on this daring transition, so we can expect the software development to be backed by Huawei’s best efforts.

Secondly, Huawei’s largest market is and always has been China, where Google’s services have never been first pick over domestic alternatives. In fact, the idea of Android without Google is far less foreign in the Chinese market— it’s India and the EU that risk taking the biggest hits.

A third factor is something already mentioned—the inherently open-source nature of Android is on Huawei’s side. Though Android and Google may have been inseparable historically, that’s only on the official, mainstream side of things; just a quick internet search shows that tons of people already distance themselves from Google services out of privacy concerns or other reasons. Android’s public, standalone nature makes it possible, perhaps even easy.

Of course, in that last case, users need to give up some features and resort to side-loading their favorite apps, an option that may or may not be available on future Huawei handsets. However, history shows that the potential is there.

Huawei stands at a very interesting point in its narrative, and the next few months may end up revealing much about Android and the mobile landscape in general. As the second-largest mobile company right now, Huawei has a lot to lose—but also much to gain.

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