My relationship with Huawei goes way back. Back to a time when they were unknown by most consumers (just like HTC) but the company behind a considerable number of products people used all the time.
My first real involvement was working on a supplement magazine featuring Huawei data products, amongst those from other manufacturers.
It was possibly the first time a lot of people got to discover who Huawei was (I couldn’t figure out a decent ‘who are we’ joke that worked, sorry).
Over the coming years Huawei won various awards for its USB dongles (hard to believe that something many people have forgotten about now were so incredibly popular) and portable mobile hotspots, before venturing into the mobile market with its own-brand devices.
Progress was slow and the first phones mimicked the budget handsets they’d been making for networks to stick their own network branding on.
Starting on the road to success
The P9 was a gamechanger, even though I’d have to say it wasn’t really until the launch of the P20 series that Huawei reached the point where people were walking into shops to buy the phone because they now knew Huawei was killing it in the camera stakes.
Huawei had to spend a lot of time and money to make it happen, and all the investment paid off.
The rest is history, with Huawei just growing and growing, doing well in all markets – including mobile broadband products. Oh, and of course building networks (the other hidden side of the business to many, but one that arguably led to the situation we’re in today).
Huawei’s success should have continued with the launch of the Mate 30 series last year, just as it should have been snapping up contracts all around the world to roll out its 5G network technology.
Yet as we all know, it didn’t turn out like that thanks to the ongoing issues with the US, and Donald Trump’s seemingly personal vendetta against Huawei for somewhat dubious reasons.
Instead, the Mate 30 went on to be highly successful in its home market but has received little to no press attention here, quite simply because it isn’t a phone you could realistically use without Google services.
For a short time it was possible to sideload GMS, but that was soon stopped and while I am sure there are still ways to hack the phone here and there, Huawei knew it wasn’t going to work and so decided to push the P30 Pro before Christmas (a phone that, it must be said, is still as good a purchase today as it was when it first came out – especially now it has Android 10).
Can we buy the P40 this year?
With the eagerly awaited P40 series due in the spring, and no end in sight to Huawei’s woes, it seems increasingly likely that one of two things will happen;
1) The P40 series never gets a release in the UK or Europe.
2) Huawei goes all in with its own version of Android (Harmony OS), powered by Huawei Mobile Services, instead of the Google Mobile Services we are all accustomed to.
Of course there might be a third option whereby Donald Trump has a change of heart, but even with the first stage of the China trade deal agreed, it has been stated that nothing changes when it comes to Huawei.
Indeed, the USA is trying to bully the UK into banning Huawei here to ensure a good trade deal when we finally leave the EU. (It also tried to bully Germany, but without success).
Huawei can’t just continue to release old phones that were certified last year with a new colour or more RAM, so at this week’s Developer Conference in London it made things clear that it has chosen option 2.
I am not sure how people will take to giving up services like Google Maps, Gmail and even YouTube (of course you can get access to these services via web based apps, but it’s absolutely not the same), but Huawei has been pretty much forced into the corner.
The alternative is to wave the white flag and give up entirely, and nobody wants that. Well, one man does, but let’s ignore him.
As part of Huawei’s drive to attract developers to support its new direction, it has created duplicate services for everything Google currently offers.
It even has its own voice assistant, which some Huawei users have already been invited to trial. You can give give it a go too.
The HMS Core 4 comprises the account kit, push kit, wallet kit, analytics kit, drive kit, and game services.
Huawei has teamed up with experts in various fields, such as TomTom, to kickstart the development of its own apps to replace the dependency on the Google ones we are so dependent on.
Will it work?
I have no idea if this can work, but Huawei is keen to build a new core to work around all of its ecosystem, from the smartphone itself, to its computing and broadband products, through to smart products that include TVs and even cars.
Over 1.3 million developers are registered with Huawei, with over 55,000 apps connected to HMS core.
Huawei also boasts that with such tight control of its own platform, it can boost device performance and reduce power consumption.
The question is, will it work? Would you buy a phone that omits the key services that you use every single day?
The answer is probably no if there’s no alternative, but now Huawei hopes it is able to offer an alternative.
Time will tell if this can get Huawei phones back on sale in the UK, as well as devices from Honor (another company that has had to pull some tricks to release phones here, like the modified Honor 9X that Europeans got last year).
Nobody wins this war
If it doesn’t work, then until the USA decides what it is going to do once and for all, it seems likely that there won’t be any new flagship phones from Huawei or Honor in the future.
I sincerely hope for good news in the coming months, and even if you’re not personally a Huawei fan, you can surely see how detrimental it is to the industry as a whole.
Not only are networks suffering issues with rolling out 5G networks as they seek alternative kit in certain cases, but it all reduces the level of competition that helps brings up the standards for all of the competition.
With Samsung and Apple clearly having taken inspiration from recent phones like the P20 and P30 Pro, not having the P40 biting at their heels will potentially do great harm to everyone.
More info: https://developer.huawei.com/consumer/en/hms