Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Huawei to match Google’s mobile services by Q1 2020

Nov 21. 2019
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By The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Huawei may soon be able to offer Android developers a full range of the essential mobile services required for their apps as the ones provided by Google.

This would allow more Android apps to work on new Huawei phones affected by a ban that forbids the use of Google mobile services on these handsets.

Mr Zhang Ping’an, president of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service told The Straits Times in an interview at Huawei’s Asia-Pacific Developer Day last Wednesday (Nov 13) that Huawei Mobile Services can “replace 90 per cent of Google Mobile Services by December”.

These mobile services from Google and Huawei are used by developers to enable key functions in their mobile apps to, for instance, show a location on a map or to save data to the cloud.

Currently, there are 24 software kits in Huawei Mobile Services to help developers with functions such as in-app purchases, mapping, displaying advertisements and more.

Mr Zhang added that the Chinese smartphone maker will have all the essential application programming interfaces (APIs) – required by developers to make their apps work – by the next quarter.

Huawei has had to build up its own mobile services due to a United States government ban in May that forbids American firms from doing business with the firm. The ban means that Huawei cannot integrate Google’s apps and services in its latest smartphones.

The flagship Mate 30 series smartphones are the first Huawei phones to be affected by the US ban.

Despite this, Huawei officially launched the Mate 30 series in Singapore last Saturday. The phones are available now from retailers and telcos M1 and StarHub.

Instead of Google apps and services, the Mate 30 phones uses Huawei’s equivalent apps and services in Huawei Mobile Services, like a Web browser and an app store dubbed AppGallery.

At the Asia-Pacific Huawei Developer Day conference, which was attended by over 150 industry partners from the region, Huawei also said that Mate 30 users are eligible for 5GB of free cloud storage from Huawei’s cloud service, which can be used to store photos, contacts and other documents.

The free cloud storage mitigates Mate 30 users’ lack of access to Google’s free cloud service that is available to other Android smartphone users.

Without the Google Play Store, Mate 30 users have to use Huawei’s AppGallery app store to download their apps. According to Huawei, the AppGallery is now the third-largest app store in the world with a reach of over 170 countries and around 390 million monthly active users.

As part of its strategy to encourage more developers to publish their apps in its app store, Huawei has set aside a US$1 billion (S$1.36 billion) fund to help developers build apps that integrate with Huawei Mobile Services, as well as to publish and market the apps in its app store.

Developers are also levied 15 per cent by Huawei for purchases made by users in AppGallery compared with 30 per cent for Google’s app store.

There are now over 50,000 apps that already use Huawei Mobile Services, up from around 23,000 last year, said Huawei.

Several of these apps are by Singapore-based firms, such as telcos M1 and StarHub, online platforms Lazada and Carousell, as well as news apps from The Straits Times’ parent company Singapore Press Holdings.

Mr Ross Veitch, chief executive and co-founder of Singapore-based online travel marketplace Wego, said that the process of porting the Wego app to use Huawei Mobile Services was “relatively easy as we got most of it done in half a day.”

The same Wego app supports both Google’s and Huawei’s mobile services and the app detects which mobile service is available on a user’s device and automatically switch to using the appropriate one, said Mr Veitch.

He added that other developers would probably take a similar approach as supporting both mobile services does not significantly increase the size of the app.

“End users don’t have to worry about app support. Huawei is such a big player on the global stage – they are the second-largest smartphone maker. It would be silly not to support them,” he said.

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