Huawei has been using its own ecosystem, HMS to rival Google's ecosystem. That's a work in progress, but considering the rising Indo Chinese tensions and the risk of more punitive measures by the Indian government, we might not be able to witness the fully developed HMS in India anytime soon
Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant has run into a wall of challenges since last year. As one of the most visible and dominant firms in the global telecoms space, the firm has borne the brunt of actions taken to check China's business interests. This the result of the trade war between the U.S. and China hurt Huawei the most. Back in May 2019, the US government blacklisted the Chinese giant from getting support from US firms, which hampered the business relations between Huawei and Google, as the latter is a US company.
After a lot of decisions made by the US government that kept changing, on 14th May 2020, the US government again announced that the original trade ban has been extended until May 2021. The reason behind the ban was the same, with the US citing Huawei a threat to its national security. Which in turn stopped the US-based companies to buy any telecommunications equipment from the Chinese giant. More painfully, the US has also leaned on its long term allies like the UK, Australia and more to take the same line, hurting Huawei further.
India, where Huawei was having a great run, and looking forward to the 5G rollout from 2021, the situation has changed completely in months. The border clashes between the Indian army and China's PLA have led to a complete change in sentiment here, already affected by the pandemic. This has resulted in Huawei's revenue target in India being slashed by up to 50 percent, where Huawei has also laid-off 60-70% of its workforce in India. The 5G hopes lie in tatters, after the decision made by India where it has joined the US and UK in flagging Huawei as a threat to national security.
Recently, it was also reported that India will be quietly removing Huawei's equipment from its networks over a period of time.
Soon after the ban in May 2019, Android announced on its Twitter account that "For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device."
As a result of the trade ban, Huawei started shipping all its devices with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS). HMS is an alternative to Google Mobile Services (GMS) that comes with all Android-powered devices and it even used to ship on Huawei's devices pre-ban.
Huawei had already been using HMS in devices that were being shipped in China. But because of the ban, Huawei had to open up its own ecosystem to the rest of the world because for using GMS, the OEMs have to pay a licensing fee to Google that makes it a business transaction, which of course is banned between Huawei and companies based in the US. Even in India, Huawei's phones come with HMS alongside GMS.
Should you buy a Huawei/Honor smartphone?
HMS offers a very similar experience as GMS but instead of Google apps, the device contains all Huawei's own apps. You might not notice the limitations of HMS until you want to store photos on Google Photos or use Google Drive for file storage, etc. By opening up its own ecosystem to other countries, this is how Huawei managed to pull through the past year. But it might have reached the limits of the move.
Another limitation is the app support. Google's Play Store has millions of apps whereas Huawei's App Gallery has much less and you might not be able to find the app which was very much useful to you in your previous device. For example, Microsoft was allowed to trade with Huawei and their apps soon appeared on App Gallery, but apps like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are still not available on App Gallery as all of them are headquartered in the US. To compare with Microsoft's Windows OS on smartphones, the main reason it failed to achieve a position is because of the lack of developer support for the platform.
Secondly, if we currently look in the market for a mobile, the main question which arises is the software support duration. We still don't have an update cycle for Huawei's phones. To compete with giants like Google & Apple, Huawei still has to satisfy its customers with more reliable software support.
Thirdly, to make their place in the market alongside other companies, Huawei will have to offer a much more complete package than just good hardware. People go for Android or iOS devices because they know that both of these software platforms are super reliable in terms of services they provide, which Huawei still hasn't able to achieve.
Even if you think of somehow installing the Google services on a newly-bought smartphone, the seamless experience for which a customer looks for, is hampered. And there will always be a possibility of failure in the future as Google is regularly updating its services which might not work properly in sync with Huawei's software.
Huawei CEO, Richard Yu, also plans to invest $1 billion in HMS to fully develop it and make it a worthy rival against GMS.
Even though Huawei used to sell its devices in good figures in the pre-ban period globally, it has never been able to capture the Indian market in the way other companies like Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc have. Devices by the Chinese giant have never been able to achieve a position in the 'Top 3' smartphones in India, be it any price segment.
Huawei might abandon the GMS completely when it thinks that its own ecosystem is ready to rival Google's. The company also makes its own chipsets for its devices which are the 'Kirin' series. As soon as the company deems fit, it may want to take over Google's ecosystem fully. Currently, Huawei's ecosystem is not fully ready and still needs a lot of work, but it has the potential to rival the giants like Apple & Google once it has developed. But currently, in my opinion, if are looking to buy a device in the market, Huawei should be the last option you consider because of the uncertainty around support and future reliability.
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