Huawei promises to launch P40 with Google service replacement, reports say

Huawei has told the media that P40, the company’s next flagship smartphone will be launched with its own mobile service suite but will be built on Android 10 instead of its own HarmonyOS.

Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Technologies Consumer Business Group, told a group of journalists from the French media that the company’s next flagship smartphone, the P40 (and likely P40 Pro), will be launched at the end of March 2020 at a special event in Paris. The exact date is yet to be announced. Yu promised the media representatives, who were on a press tour to the company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, that the phone will be in a design never seen before (“jamais vu”), with improved photography quality, better performance, and boosted automation.

Yu also confirmed that the phone will be built on Android 10 with Huawei’s customised user interface, EMUI. This is consistent with the company’s earlier announcement that its own operating system, HarmonyOS, will not be powering smartphones or tablets in 2020. Instead it will be used on other connected devices, including smart TVs and wearables.

Meanwhile, the Indian newspaper The Economic Times quoted Charles Peng, the CEO of the Huawei and Honor brands in India in Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, as saying that P40 will come equipped with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), in place of Google Mobile Services (GMS). Both brands from Huawei as well as Oppo, another Chinese smartphone maker, were reported to have approached app developers to make the top apps in India available for HMS as well as for Oppo’s own Color OS.

“We have our own HMS and are trying to build a mobile ecosystem. Most of the key apps such as navigation, payments, gaming and messaging will be ready soon.” Peng told The Economic Times. Frandroid, a French media outlet, noted that HMS should be ready at the same time as the launch of P40.

The Economic Times reported that Huawei offers developers up to $17,000 for making their apps available for HMS, supported by Huawei’s $1 billion global fund the company announced earlier this year. Oppo’s coffer “to develop a “new intelligent service ecosystem” is reported to amount to $143 million.

It is worth highlighting that having the most popular third-party apps in a certain market (India, China, for example) available for HMS is different from bypassing GMS. The core Google services and APIs, including Chrome browser, YouTube and YouTube Music, Play Store, Google Drive, Duo, Gmail, Maps, as well as Movies and TV, are optimised to work with the Android operating system. Most importantly, there is Google’s fundamental “search” capability that powers everything else.

Developing its own operating system as well as an overall mobile ecosystem has long been on Huawei’s card. As Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder, told media earlier, the work, as well as in-house chipset development capability, started long before Huawei ran afoul of the US government. However, the company has learned it the hard way that such tasks are more difficult than building a nice phone. Richard Yu had to renegade on his own promises more than once. Shortly after Huawei was put on the Identify List Yu said that the company’s own operating system would be able to power its new smartphones by the end of this year or the beginning of next. That has now been officially denied when HarmonyOS’s positioning was clarified. Yu also said, prior to the launch of P30 in September that there would be a workaround solution to load GMS on the new smartphone. That did not happen either.

Consumers may also find Huawei’s narrative less than convincing. As IDC’s Navkender Singh put it to The Economic Times, “There will be a breakdown of the conversation that Huawei or Honor devices will have OS and app store issue. It is going to be very tough for Huawei/Honor to sell the phone based on their own suite.”

Google updates Android for entry-level smartphones to be faster and safer

Google has announced a new version of Android Go, claiming the updated operating system for entry-level smartphones will run apps faster and support new data encryption technology.

The update will take the stripped-down OS to Android 10 (Go Edition). The company claimed the new version will load apps 10% faster then the current iteration, Android 9 (Go Edition).

Android Go was first introduced on top of Android Oreo (Android 8) at the end of 2017. At that time the target was for entry-level Android phones with 1 GB RAM or less. Despite the threshold has risen to 1.5 GB RAM for the latest version, the memory demand is still much lower than those on mid-range or high-end phones. As a comparison, Pixel 3, Google’s own signature smartphone, has 4 GB RAM, while Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and Huawei P30 both have 8 GB RAM.

The new version of OS can also run a native encryption software, called Adiantum, which was launched by Google at the beginning of the year. Google said running Adiantum on Android 10 (Go Edition) will not affect the devices’ performance. Unlike earlier data encryption tools, Adiantum does not need specialist hardware, therefore all entry-level Android phones can command a similar experience.

A number of Google services are also optimised for Android 10 Go. The “Read-out-loud” feature, which was first introduced in 2018, is updated. So is Lens for Google Go that can read out texts on signs and pictures, supported by on-board AI.

There is also the new Gallery Go, which essentially is the light-weight version of Google Photos. The software is only 10MB in size and can use on-board AI to help users sort and arrange pictures

Thanks to its business model, Google has little control over the user experience on the plethora of devices launched by the hundreds of Android OEMs, most of which would modify the OS one way or another. It has tried reining in the fragmentation, especially on the low-end. Sundar Pichai, the current Google CEO, was leading the Android One program, a version of Android that cannot be customised by OEMs. It was initially designed for entry-level Android phones in the Indian market, but has since been expanded to mid- to high-end products. Only a handful of OEMs, primarily Xiaomi, Nokia (HMD), and Motorola, have taken it seriously though.

Google believes the Android Go momentum is stronger and the appeal is broader. It said over 1,600 device models from more than 500 OEMs have been launched with Android Go over the last 18 months. These have made up over 80% of the total entry-level Android phone market, with wholesale prices ranging from $27 to $77.

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