Caixin
Sep 20, 2019 08:24 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Huawei Launches New Smartphones — Without Google Services

A U.S. government decision to backlist Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has seen the company launch its latest smartphone line without access to Google apps.

The world’s second-largest handset maker by sales unveiled its new Mate 30 series Thursday at an event in Munich, Germany. Its operating system is based on a free and open-source version of Google’s Android, chief salesman Richard Yu said.

But while the new Huawei phones will still function like Androids, they crucially don’t have access to licensed Google services or apps, such as Google Maps, Gmail and the Google Play app store.

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It’s the first time Huawei has launched new high-end smartphones since the firm was banned from trading with U.S. companies in May. Accusations that Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran saw Washington place it on its “Entity List,” effectively blocking its access to key components and services from U.S. suppliers, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

Because the new Huawei smartphones lack access to Google’s app store, customers can only download apps such as Facebook and Instagram from other third-party app stores, or use the web version of apps such as YouTube. The new Huawei smartphones have their own app store, Huawei AppGallery, but such apps are not available there, a Huawei representative said.

The models are likely to receive a lukewarm reception outside of China, though they could do better in Huawei’s home market, where Google’s app store is already inaccessible, said IDC analyst Bryan Ma.

“The hardware is very impressive and differentiating; it caters to Huawei’s strengths,” he said. “But that’s not enough to offset the lack of Google services, aside from a few die-hards who have the patience to sideload and tolerate possible issues.”

The company still struck a positive tone about the prospects of its new products, touting a more sensitive camera system and a faster 5G connection to compete with Apple’s iPhone 11 and Samsung’s 5G phones.

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A woman photographs Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro smartphone after a Huawei press conference Thursday in Germany. Photo: IC Photo

Sales of Huawei’s smartphones in overseas markets have been hurt in the three months to June. The company shipped an estimated 21.5 million units outside China in the second quarter, down 26% from the first quarter, according to data from market analysis firm Canalys.

Despite being buffeted by political headwinds, Huawei’s domestic smartphone sales, however, have ridden on a patriotic wave. Huawei shipped 37.3 million units domestically in the second quarter, up 31% from the same period last year.

Doug Young contributed to this report

Contact reporter Tang Ziyi (ziyitang@caixin.com)

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