Huawei is highlighting its own AppGallery as an alternative mobile apps ecosystem, as the company faces uncertainty over its use of Android and Google Play Services. Huawei talked about its AppGallery at the launch of its new Mate Xs foldable phone in Barcelona, Spain. The new foldable phone does not come with Google’s Play Stores services or access to other third-party apps from Google.
Last year in May, 2019,Huawei was placed on the ‘Entity List’ by the US government, which forbids US companies from doing business with the player. As a result, Huawei phones that were launched post the ban, do not run Android’s proprietary services and cannot come with the Google Play Store or other Google apps such as Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc.
For Huawei, its own AppGallery is the best bet, given it will need ensure that its future phones have access to the popular apps. The AppGallery was already being bundled on many of Huawei phones, though in light of the Google ban, this has gained a lot more importance. Meanwhile, Google has also warned users against sideloading apps from Android to their Huawei phones.
The Huawei AppGallery is already available in over 170 countries/regions and the company claims it already has 400 million monthly active users (MAUs). Given Huawei’s big market share in China, it is likely that a majority of these are from the China market. Google Play Services are banned in China and most smartphone players have their own store for this market.
Huawei is calling this an open app distribution platform, and also said that it will protect user privacy and security on its own app ecosystem.
“We place privacy protection and cyber security as the top priorities of all our business operations and strictly implement them in all phases of our products. We also have the strictest privacy and cyber security solutions in HUAWEI AppGallery,” Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group said in a press statement.
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What is Huawei AppGallery?
This will be the official app distribution platform of Huawei, providing a new alternative to its users given Google Play services will not be available on these phones. For users of Huawei phones, this will be the platform from where they can download apps on their devices.
The AppGallery will have a total of 18 categories, including news, social media, entertainment, etc for users to find their desired apps. Huawei is also giving users the option to submit a desired app name to ‘Wishlist,’ if they cannot find the app on the store. Once the app is available, the user will be notified.
All apps in the Huawei AppGallery are optimised to work on Huawei devices.The company is using its own HiAI, which is an open AI capability platform for smart devices, to pool software and hardware resources from different devices and ensure a smooth app experience across its phones.
Are apps like WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger available in Huawei App Gallery?
No, not yet. Huawei’s big problem is going to be convincing developers to create dedicated apps for its platform. While apps like TikTok, Amazon Shopping, Snapchat are available, many of the other popular apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and of course the Google apps are not available on the Huawei AppGallery.
In the past, Microsoft and BlackBerry both faced a challenge getting app developers to come to their mobile OS platforms. Eventually, Android and iOS came to dominate the market, and continue to have a strong grip over the app developer ecosystem.
What about security on Huawei AppGallery?
Huawei is also talking about security measures on the platform, which will be crucial in convincing users that these apps are safe to download. The company will do a real-name verification for developers who put up their apps on the platform.
It is relying on a four-step review process for clearing an app. “All apps go through a stringent verification test to prevent developers’ apps from malicious activity,” said the company in a press statement. Further, there will be an age-rating system to create a safe environment for children and filtering out apps not suitable for them.
Any personally-sensitive information, and this includes biometric data, will only be processed on the device, and not outside the device. All user data is also anonymised and stored locally, corresponding to each user’s region, according to the company.
Huawei AppGallery’s Quick Apps
This will be a new system which introduces installation-free apps. Huawei claims these Quick Apps will consumer very little memory space, and include automatic updates for the HTML5 pages. These Quick Apps are written with only 1/5 amount of codes as compared to that of Android apps, according to the company.
It further claims users will be able to accommodate more than 2,000 Quick Apps instead of just 20 native apps with just 1GB of space. It plans to roll out Quick Apps to more countries and regions beyond the China market.
So will Google services never run on Huawei phones?
Until, the US government changes its stance, new Huawei phones are unlikely to run Google services. In a post, Google has clarified that it is prohibited from working with Huawei on new device models. It cannot give Google apps including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, the Play Store and others for preloading or download on these devices.
While existing Huawei devices can be given security updates and Google service will continue to work on these, it will only be as “long as it is permitted,” according to the post. Google further explains that its “apps and services are not available for preload or sideload on new Huawei devices.”
It says new devices, which were introduced after the May 16, 2019 restrictions, are “uncertified,” and have not gone through Google’s Play Protect review process. The post adds that “sideloaded Google apps will not work reliably because we do not allow these services to run on uncertified devices where security may be compromised.”
Google is warning users against sideloading these apps, saying there is a risk that the app was altered or tampered with in ways that can compromise user security.
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