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Huawei Is Building Their Own Google Play Alternative

Huawei is trying to divorce itself from relying on the West

2019 has been a turbulent one for Chinese brand Huawei. The company was on track to overtake Samsung as the #1 smartphone brand in the world when the year began, but the US had different ideas. The company was placed under the US Entity list, essentially cutting off Huawei from crucial technology from US-based companies like Qualcomm, Intel and more importantly, Google.

While Huawei has a replacement for many of the products it was cut off from, the services that Google provided to the company’s smartphones are harder to replace than chips from Qualcomm or Intel. In the mind of many consumers, Android IS Google, despite the fact that Android phones in China work and function without Google’s blessing or services.

It’s one of the issues that Huawei is trying to address moving forward, as there’s still not a clear end in sight in the US-China trade war.

One of the vital services that Google provides is partners is the use of their Google Mobile Services, which provide a closed set of APIs to developers that allow their apps to work. With the US ban, Huawei had to find a way solution and a replacement for GMS. Huawei Mobile Services is a direct answer to this problem. HMS, in a nutshell, works much the same way as GMS does. And like Google in the past, Huawei is throwing a lot of weight behind it – Huawei is allocating around $30 billion for investments related to HMS. It’s also set aside a total of $1 billion for app developers in the form of marketing support and other incentives to port over their apps to Huawei’s equivalent to Google Play, dubbed Huawei App Gallery.

Huawei’s push for developers to jump onto their platform is gathering steam. This year’s Huawei Developer Conference held in Shenzen, China was one of the biggest ever in the event’s history, and Huawei’s APAC Developer Day which we’re currently attending in Singapore is the first of many for the company, meant to attract more ASEAN developers to create localized content for their countries. Huawei’s also going country to country, setting up developer days to attract local app developers to the fold as well.

And while to many, the idea of a Google Ecosystem challenger is laughable at best (thoughts of BlackBerry and Microsoft’s own app store come to mind) the company has both the money, infrastructure and pool of users that vastly increase their chances of success. There’s also the fact that Huawei isn’t actively pushing their own mobile OS onto their phones just yet – they’re simply providing an alternative app store for many of their customers.

If there’s one company that has defied expectations so far, it’s Huawei – they have beaten the odds so far almost six months into the US Ban. Huawei’s own execs predicted billions in losses when the ban was first announced but against all odds Huawei has actually grown, shipping more smartphones (around 200 million units) sooner compared to the same period last year.

The results have been impressive – the HMS Ecosystem has seen monthly average users increase from 420 million globally in July 2018 to 530 million in the same month of 2019. Developer numbers are equally impressive – Huawei says that there are now 1.07 million global developers registered with HMS, with around 50,000 apps already in HMS Core. That’s incredible growth, one that the company is still sustaining to this day.

Huawei has proven more resilient than many expected six months into the ban, and ultimately it may just make the company stronger, not weaker. The company has already found many domestic alternatives to many of the technologies it was cut off from, and while they’re adamant that they’ll still be using Google’s services and apps if the ban is lifted, Huawei is no longer at the mercy of the whims of the US government if they decide to keep the company hostage as bargaining chip with their trade war with China.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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