- The Chinese tech giant Huawei is trying to lure developers to build apps for its flagship phones after it was placed on a US trade blacklist in 2019 and cut off from Google’s services on Android.
- Huawei phones can still run Android, but the company now needs its own viable app ecosystem to replace lost services such as the Google Play app store.
- It held a developer day in London on Wednesday and announced a $26 million investment to court British and Irish developers to make apps for Huawei’s App Gallery.
- Some major apps are available through Huawei’s App Gallery, including Amazon, Snapchat, TikTok, and the game “Fortnite,” but most popular apps are still missing.
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Huawei is trying to cobble together its own app ecosystem after being cut off from Google, and it is actively trying to lure app developers with the promise of funding.
In May, the Trump administration placed Huawei on a trade blacklist known as an “entity list,” forcing US companies to seek government permission before they can do business with the company.
One consequence was a shock announcement from Google that it would yank the licensed version of its Android mobile operating system from future Huawei devices.
This was a major blow, partly because it meant new Huawei phones could no longer come with Google-made apps preinstalled. While Huawei phones are popular in Western countries, a key reason is that Android users can access popular services and apps like Google Play, Gmail, and Google Maps.
While older Huawei phones still have access to the Google Play app store, new phones are bereft of Google-made apps and services. Huawei in September released the Mate 30, its first flagship phone with no Google apps, and the company’s coming P40 phone, due in March, is also expected to arrive with no Google services.
Huawei’s solution is to try to build an app ecosystem of its own, and to that end it hosted a developer day in London on Wednesday in which it announced a £20 million, or $26 million, investment to entice British and Irish app developers to make apps for the Huawei App Gallery.
Executives at the developer day touted the App Gallery and took a few subtle shots at Google and Apple, especially mentioning the fact that Huawei took only a 15% revenue cut from its developers, rather than the 30% tax levied by Apple and Google.
Huawei’s European vice president of consumer services, Jaime Gonzalo, stressed that Huawei was trying to build a less intrusive app ecosystem than those operated by the Silicon Valley tech giants, saying it would churn out less “spam” in the form of notifications. “This is very good from a privacy perspective,” Gonzalo said. “Ads aren’t important to us.”
He did add that developers would be able to market their apps on users’ home screens.
Little was said about Harmony OS, Huawei’s backup operating system, which it has been readying to replace Android.
Currently new Huawei phones run on an open-source version of Android. The company hasn’t been particularly clear about when it might start replacing Android with Harmony, but most recently an executive suggested Harmony could be ready to use by mid-2020.
The selection of apps available through Huawei’s app store remains slim compared to Google. Amazon, Snapchat, TikTok, and Fortnite are available through the App Gallery, but otherwise there are few popular apps.