There has been much speculation about the impact of the US trade war, and in particular, the US DOC Entity Listing of Huawei and the tech giants ability to launch new handsets. Huawei itself has given differing indications about what will be happening with the Mate 30, but at IFA 2019, the company has given its best indication yet of what it will be launching in two weeks’ time.
First up, we have confirmation from someone who ought know that Huawei Mate 30 will launch running Android 10 (with EMUI 10) rather than Harmony OS. However, the earlier prediction that it would have to do so without Google’s help seems to be holding true, with confirmation that Google’s apps and services will not be included.
Huawei’s president of consumer software, Dr Wang Chenglu confirmed that while the Mate 30 would not – at the time of writing – launch running Google’s apps or services, alternatives were in active development so that users could achieve much the same objectives without Google. For example, a navigation app would be sourced from another provider to stand in for Google Maps.
What was less clear is how Google’s first party apps would (if at all) be replaced. While Gmail can be readily accessed using apps that aren’t actually Gmail (e.g. the Email client app found on most Android devices), other apps are a little harder to replace such as Google Drive or Calendar, which both rely on core services which will not be present.
Huawei has said all along that it would prefer to continue using Android if at all possible. Many understood this to be a reference to using Google’s version of Android which includes Google apps and services, but the reality is a little different. Rather, it means Huawei will continue to use Android (the open-source version) with its EMUI layer on top. The “if at all possible” line doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in this context, because there’s not been any suggestion that Huawei would lose (or even be able to lose) access to the open-source version of Android, US Entity Listing or not.
How does the loss of Google apps impact Huawei’s ability to sell the Mate 30 outside of China? Well, predictions are that it could suffer a 30% drop in sales, and that seems quite conservative a figure. In China, sales probably won’t change much, given Google Services were never available to begin with, but outside, that loss may hurt quite a lot.
However, Huawei has alluded to a possible solution to this problem as well, and it’s a bit of a sneaky one. Just as the “new P30 Pro” skirts around the issue of licensing from Google (because the base product is already licensed to include Google’s stuff), the Mate 30 may skirt licensing by allowing users to install their own Google apps and services.
Granted, this isn’t something that the majority of users are going to know how to do, or want to do, but to give power users this option is an excellent idea, and not a particularly difficult one to implement. All Huawei need do – in simple terms – is give users an accessible means of installing Google’s apps and services into the places they need to be – something very easily done, as the Android modding community has been doing exactly this for a decade.
Huawei probably can’t automate the process without falling afoul of Google’s licensing, but it can certainly facilitate users doing it themselves. This isn’t exactly above board, as users must have a license from Google to install these apps, however what we also know is that Google hasn’t, at this point, taken issue with any users who’ve installed Google’s apps and services on custom / AOSP-derived Android systems.
It may be that Google’s unofficial stance of looking the other way here gives Huawei an out; in this way, Huawei isn’t licensing Google’s apps, but merely provides a way for users to install it themselves. This gets a Mate 30 running latest Android and with Google’s in-demand apps and services. It might not sell as well as it would if it just contained everything out of the box, but for power users, it may be enough to swing the balance in Huawei’s favour.
While this is a bit uncertain, one thing isn’t – Mate 30 launches in just under two weeks. Larking Huang, Australian consumer group MD confirmed:
“The global launch of the Huawei Mate30 is planned for September 19 in Munich. We look forward to everyone tuning in via the live stream and revealing all the latest cutting edge innovations and local market availabilities then, and in the meantime are excited to reveal we will be announcing a number of new devices coming to Australia in the next few weeks.”
Will Mate 30 be a sales success? Will it still be desirable hardware without Google’s apps on board? Perhaps most importantly, will it actually be coming to Australia or not?
Chris attended IFA 2019 as guest of Huawei Australia