Lack of Google software imperils Huawei Mate 30 series

Huawei Technologies has been the fastest-growing smartphone brand in the market over the past few years. And in the most recent quarters, it has surpassed Apple to become number two in terms of global shipments, just behind Samsung Electronics.

However, the telecommunications equipment maker has been caught up in the trade conflict between China and the United States. The US has barred American companies from doing business with Huawei, unless they are able to get an exemption, after it accused the Chinese firm of espionage and intellectual property theft, charges that Huawei has repeatedly denied.

As a result of the ban, Huawei has been unable to equip its new devices with Google apps. And this could probably explain why the company has chosen a low-key launch of its flagship, the Mate 30 series, in Hong Kong, despite the fact that it is eagerly awaiting the holiday shopping season.

Tuesday’s launch involved two models: Mate 30, the entry model, and the Mate 30 Pro, which offers a better camera system.

The two phones are priced at HK$4,988 and HK$6,988 respectively, which is quite aggressive given that the series doesn’t come with Google Mobile Services, a core software for Android smartphones.

This may prove to be a huge setback since Hong Kong smartphone owners will find it hard to use a handset without the full array of Google services such as Google search, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Play Store. Just imagine a day without being able to search on Google or check your Gmail for messages.

Many Mate 30 users complain that they cannot install Google services even after trying to download the relevant files through third-party channels.

In mainland China, most Android smartphones don’t have Google Mobile Services due to regulatory issues, although they allow users to install the services through a third-party platform. Many mainland smartphone owners admit using Google Play to explore wider choices of apps and content. Many software developers also offer Google Installer software that enables smartphone users to install a full set of Google services on their handsets with just one click.

In the case of the Mate 30 series, Huawei appears to be preventing users to install Google services.

The absence of Google services is a huge handicap for any smartphone user. The lack of access to Google Play Store means being deprived of some of the most outstanding apps in the world. Huawei, of course, has its own App Gallery. But almost all of the most popular apps used in Hong Kong are not available at Huawei’s app store.

In terms of news apps, Huawei only offers Oriental Daily News, HK01 and SCMP. Other popular news apps including those for Apple Daily, RTHK, TVB, and Hong Kong Economic Journal are not included. That means users of the Mate 30 series can only read news from these websites by going to other sources.

The Huawei Mobile Services system has over 570 million active monthly users. The number of downloads from the Huawei App Gallery’s online shop has exceeded 370 billion.

The company has developed its own operating system Harmony OS for its devices. But Huawei stressed that it has no intention of replacing Android.

That said, Huawei may be intending to use Huawei Mobile Services as a replacement for Google Mobile Services. But the company needs to beef up its app offerings to make it more competitive with Google, especially in the overseas market.

The lack of full integration with Google Mobile Services could be the only reason why many consumers seeking to upgrade their phones would avoid Huawei.

Huawei has been planning to launch the Mate 30 series months before, but the US ban has made the product one of the poorest offerings in the smartphone market. That may be good news for Apple’s iPhone 11 series, Google’s Pixel 4 series and Xiaomi, which will be launching a 100-megapixel camera phone next week.

The Huawei Mate 30 is enjoying widespread support in the mainland market, where many consumers choose homegrown brands as a matter of patriotism.

In terms of hardware specifications, the Mate 30 series is one of the best phones in the market. But the weak software support could make the phone the company’s weakest flagship in recent years.

A columnist in political development in Greater China region, technology and gadgets, media industry, parenting and other interesting topics.

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