It's a big day for Huawei: it announced its P series flagship phones, comprising the P40, P40 Pro and P40 Pro+ for its 2020 line-up. However, while these devices run Google's Android operating system, there's no Google Services support, which makes certain apps unavailable or unusable if Google Play sign-in is required.
Following the P40 series announcement - which was an online streamed event, following the cancellation of its Paris event due to COVID-19 outbreak - Pocket-lint was able to speak at a virtual round-table interview with Richard Yu, Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO, to get a greater understanding of production, Google partnerships and the future.
App Gallery: Huawei's Google Play Store alternative
The Huawei conundrum is no new thing: at the Mate 30 series launch in late 2019 the company was under the same US ban conditions as it is now. So we never expected the P40 series to launch with Google Play store.
Instead, Huawei offers App Gallery, which you can think of like a Play Store alternative. App Gallery utilises Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) rather than Google Mobile Services (GMS).
But as App Gallery isn't quite as established, it lacks some apps. Even Yu confessed that "in the beginning [App Gallery is] maybe not so perfect - but with time it'll get better and better. I have confidence that it can quickly improve."
Having handled the P40 Pro for four days ahead of the unveil, however, we've been able to identify which apps you can and can't get on App Gallery.
There is some workaround, however, if you use Huawei's Phone Clone app to pull your existing Android setup into a new P40 device (or future Huawei device, for that matter).
As Yu expressed: "We [Huawei] provides services to help you clone your old phone to your new phone", continuing "when [an app is] not in the App Gallery [users] can download from elsewhere," referring to the browser-based APK download method - which is how, as one example, WhatsApp can be installed on the new P40 series. However, that's not an easy-to-update or therefore a necessarily secure method.
Will developers work with Huawei to bridge the app gap?
The million dollar question is whether developers will climb aboard Huawei Mobile Service to fill in the gaps that are currently absent in App Gallery.
Some are already there, full integrated, such as Snapchat, Telegram, alongside support from Unity, and more besides.
Yu sees no reason why this won't expand further, saying it's "very easy to do". Developers already creating for Google Mobile Services can make an app HMS ready "in just one or two days," he stated, continuing "we [Huawei] provide the development tools to make easy integration."
What does the future hold? Google relationship ongoing
From our point of view - and while we're not suggesting the P40 series at launch will have mass appeal - it would appear that Huawei is determined to make App Gallery a real competitor for Play Store. Previous conversations with the company revealed it intends to move hundreds of staff to London to work on HMS and App Gallery exclusively.
So is it the end of Google for Huawei? Obviously not, as the company continues to use its Android operating system (the rumour of Huawei's HarmonyOS taking place has, for now, been squashed).
"We [Huawei] still need to continue our partnership with Google," Yu said, "and we hope we can continue that cooperation".
The lack of Play Store was something forced upon the company - "we have no other choice but to do this," said Yu - rather than poor relations or competitiveness between the two companies.
So expect Huawei devices to continue to arrive on Google's Android OS, albeit with Huawei Mobile Services and App Gallery. Meaning, ultimately, it will be some time before there's total parity between the two stores' offerings - if, of course, that's ever even a possibility.