Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Huawei may face a major roadblock for its next flagship phone, the Mate 30 — it won’t be able to launch with Google apps and services due to the White House banning US companies (like Google) from doing business with the Chinese telecommunications firm, according to a report from Reuters.
That means that the Mate 30 — and presumably, other upcoming devices like the now-delayed foldable Mate X — could be severely limited at launch. They’ll still run Android, which is at its core open-source software that’s freely available. But Google has confirmed to The Verge that the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro (rumored to launch on September 18th) won’t be able to ship with Google’s apps and services on board, which could put them at a severe disadvantage given how important Google’s apps are.
The Mate 30 will be cut off from the Play Store entirely
Huawei was granted a three-month extension from the United States Commerce Department back in May to allow it to take action “necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.” A second 90-day extension was just granted to the company last week and is set to end on November 19th, but that only applies to previously released phones. The Mate 30 (and any other variants of it that Huawei plans to release) doesn’t fit that bill and therefore won’t be included under that exemption.
Google apps and services — including, crucially, the Google Play Store — are considered a key part of Android as an operating system, so much so that the European Union fined Google a record $5 billion last year for using Play Store access as leverage to force Android phone manufacturers to default to Google search on their hardware. The only real success story for Android without Google services is Amazon’s inexpensive Fire tablets, and those aren’t exactly in the same ballpark as the Mate 30, which is a flagship device meant to compete with devices like the Galaxy Note 10 Plus, Pixel 4, and OnePlus 7 Pro.
Chinese phone companies have had to work without the Play Store for years (since Google doesn’t offer services within the country), but its a much more chaotic marketplace, with hundreds of app stores all competing and different apps available depending on the store.
Huawei has been working on its own Play Store alternative since 2018 as a contingency for this exact sort of situation, but the US’s ban means that it’ll still have an uphill battle ahead, since companies like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or any other US-based company won’t be able to offer apps for that store, even if they wanted to.