The Mobile World Congress might be canceled, but several companies in the industry announced new products this week, including China’s largest smartphone maker, and the world’s second-largest handset vendor. Huawei unveiled a brand new version of the Mate X foldable that impressed us last year, which is better in every way than its predecessor (except for the software). Huawei is still banned from working with US tech companies, so the Mate Xs ships without Google apps preloaded, just like the Mate 30 series before it.
Moreover, Huawei’s brand Honor launched a couple of new Android handsets on Monday as well, including a 5G flagship and a mid-range phone. Both of them come without Google apps preinstalled. A few days before the new Huawei and Honor announcements, Google finally explained why Huawei phones come without Google apps. But it turns out that Google may already be seeking official permission from the White House to work with Huawei again — although it’s not exactly clear what that means.
A Huawei exec in Austria said a few weeks ago that Huawei will not go back to Google even if the ban lifted. Huawei than walked back those comments to suggest the contrary, without committing to anything. At the same time, Huawei is ready to pour billions of dollars into the development of its AppGallery store and its own apps that will be preloaded on Android phones, which will be deployed on top of Google’s open-source Android operating system. We explained at the time that, if successful, this endeavor could seriously hurt Google, and convince others to follow suit. The same Huawei has joined forces with other Chinese smartphone makers on setting up and deploying an alternative to Google Play.
Reports from a couple of distinct sources, including German-language Finanzen and Spanish blog MarketingDirecto, say that Google asked the White House for permission to work with Huawei. The former notes that Google’s Sameer Samat did not provide information on when the White House will decide. And that’s all we know about this development for the time being.
This appears to be the first time Google is expressing interest in working with Huawei, but we have no idea what to make of it. Is Google looking to obtain approval to have its apps installed on Huawei-made Android devices? Or is this just about providing whatever support might be needed for Android AOSP?
However, recent reports did say that the Trump administration might be seeking additional restrictions against Huawei. Google might just be looking at ensuring that it can still do business with the biggest smartphone maker in China in the future, especially if the ban isn’t set to go away anytime soon.
What is certain is that the US issued a 45-day extension to allow certain US companies to work with Huawei. The series of extensions followed last year’s ban, with the latest one having expired on February 16th.