Huawei is about to find out just how important the Google ecosystem is to its global smartphone business, according to CNN.
The Chinese tech company will launch its latest smartphone, the Mate 30, in Munich on Thursday. It is Huawei’s first smartphone series to hit the market since being put on a trade blacklist by the United States back in May, cutting off its new products from access to Google apps and services.
The Mate 30 phones will come with Google’s open source Android operating system, but won’t have access to the Google Play Store or apps like YouTube, Gmail and Google Maps. Third party apps like ride-hailing platforms and food delivery services that rely on Google Maps would also no longer function without access to Google services.
Smartphones and other consumer products made up nearly half of Huawei’s revenue last year. But without access to popular apps, those phones become a lot less attractive to international customers. Earlier this year, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said the company’s global smartphone sales fell by 40% in the month after the US ban went into effect.
Europe in particular was a market where Huawei had been successfully selling high-end phones, such as the Mate and P series. The company shipped 26.3 million smartphones in Western Europe in 2018, up more than 60% from the previous year, according to market research firm IHS Markit.
While the Mate 30 “will help Huawei compete in China — still the largest smartphone market in the world — the firm will struggle outside of China … due to the lack of the Google Play Store,” said Thomas Husson an analyst with research firm Forrester. Huawei’s business in Europe is particularly vulnerable, he added.
Huawei unveiled its own operating system, called Harmony OS, last month. But the company said it is not using Harmony in smartphones for now, only in smart TVs and other connected devices.
Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consumer business group, reportedly told media at an international trade show earlier this month that it would be “quite easy” for users to download Google apps on their own, adding that the open-source nature of Android enables “a lot of possibilities.” Yu did not elaborate further. Huawei declined to comment on his statements.
“It will be quite difficult to convince users to buy a premium smartphone without Google services,” said Kiranjeet Kaur, a mobile analyst at IDC. “Even if … other options are available to install apps, it will not be as straightforward as before and there will always be the threat if the app support will go away anytime.”
Huawei’s Mate 30 series is expected to come with a better camera system and faster hardware under the hood. Huawei said last month that the new phone will come with its new Kirin 990 chipset, the company’s homegrown answer to Apple’s (AAPL) A13 Bionic chipset in the iPhone 11.
The Mate 30 “could have competed with the latest iPhone 11 devices,” said Husson, but without Google services “the total product experience won’t be on par for consumers.”
Leaked promotional photos published by The Verge show the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro will have four Leica cameras on the back of the phone contained in a circular cutout, one-upping the three cameras housed on the back of the iPhone 11. Huawei declined to comment on the leak, but the company hinted at the new cutout design in a promo for Thursday’s event, saying in a tweet: “We’re going full circle in Munich.”
There is also a special edition of the Mate 30 Pro designed by Porsche, which adds a leather covering on the rear of the phone, according to the leaked photos.
Prices for the new Mate 30 phones have not been announced yet. The previous Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro went on sale in Europe at €799 ($882) and €1,049 ($1,158) respectively.