Huawei's Journey: The winding path away from Google and the US


Would you still buy a Huawei phone?

  1. Yarrr!

  2. No.

  3. Maybe in the future...

  4. Orange hair man said no.

  5. ಠಿ_ಠ

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Giovanni_S
    Honeycomb Sep 22, 2021

    Giovanni_S , Sep 22, 2021 :

    Hey everyone,

    Even for the non tech savvy, smartphone brands have become a significant part of our daily lives.

    With an ever expanding market and plenty of new companies entering the mobile space every year, it's natural and overall necessary to filter what to keep up with.
    That being said, you may have noticed that a manufacturer that was once regarded as a major player, even among enthusiasts, has been slowly but steadily fading out of our newsfeeds: Huawei.

    I'm sure most of you clearly understand what I'm talking about, but if you're out of the loop, I'll give you a brief rundown on how the brand got to the point it's in today. 😉

    The History
    Huawei C&C08; Source: IT Trade.cn
    Since its founding in 1987 and until the end of the millennium, Huawei operated almost exclusively as a telecommunications company.
    It started off reselling foreign hardware in China; then, after years of R&D, began production of their own telecom equipment. This landed them powerful contracts with the Chinese government to update the country's obsolete networking infrastructure.
    They later expanded internationally, working with the administrations of Canada, Hong Kong, and numerous western companies, while boasting the support from China's institutions (keep this in mind for later).

    Entering the smartphone market
    Huawei U8220; Source: official images
    The first Huawei branded device started shipping in 2004, but it wasn't until 2009 with the U8220 (in the picture above) that Android became the foundation of their software experience. Quickly jumping on board with a newly released operating system was somewhat of a gamble, but it turned out to be a winning choice, as Google's open-source OS rapidly rose in market share, pushing out the competition and establishing itself as the leader of mobile platforms.

    Reaching the peak
    As humans, we naturally tend to prefer stories of underdogs and success against all odds. Huawei's course in the smartphone realm for the last decade fits neither of those descriptions. It's shaped through gradual growth, with a firm presence in the Chinese market. Nonetheless, the company was still making progress in a competitive space: many could truthfully say it was heading in the right direction.

    The accusations
    For decades, suspicions about the Chinese government's involvement in the company were left in the darkness, treated as conspiracy theories.
    In recent years, powerful western institutions have been using their influence to push Huawei away (that's a mouthful!😅) from the smartphone market.

    In early 2018, FBI Director Chris Wray stated:
    "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing a company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks" (source).

    This warning regarding user privacy wasn't immediately followed by official action or restrictions, but the scare it created led to AT&T and Verizon dropping out of the deal for the Mate 10 Pro, effectively keeping the device out of the hands of potential US customers.

    This was only one of many occasions in which the States slowly pushed back the company's expansion, culminating in a ban under the Trump administration, that prevents all US-based companies from doing business with Huawei, as that could constitute a national security threat.

    If you'd like to expand your knowledge of the decision, this article from CNET provides a great timeline of the slow estrangement from western markets.

    Huawei after the ban
    Political shenanigans or genuine concerns in the consumer's interest?

    It's up to each of us to choose what to believe.

    What's clear from the decision are the largely expected consequences: a ban of that magnitude could not have gone lightly.

    In the quarters following the restrictions, Huawei saw its sales and market share drop worldwide (with the only exception being the Chinese market, where it still plays a major role).
    Apart from some less significant issues related to hardware sourcing, the fundamental problem for the company was due to software. With their Android license revoked, part of the development efforts for the proprietary Android skin, named EMUI, became vain, and the lack of Google's apps meant achieving an experience comparable to Android would take much longer than expected.

    Fortunately, reality was much better than the original speculations and graphs don't give us the full picture.

    Rebuilding what was lost
    The Play Store was the biggest loss for Huawei.
    Its ease of use and convenience engraved it in our minds: many people have never installed an app, if not through the Play Store. Part of that is due to it coming pre-installed (just like Microsoft Edge on Windows oh, nevermind😜).

    Another enormous struggle was getting app developers on board, and that can be even tougher if statistics show that your market share is in a rapid descent.

    Huawei AppGallery; Source: Huawei
    Although still small compared to the Play Store, Huawei's AppGallery is succeeding in its intent, thanks also to its "glocal" content strategy. It still recommends the most popular apps globally but, through partnerships with relevant local apps, it's able to diversify the suggestions admirably, especially if you consider how much less information Huawei has about you compared to Google.
    AppGallery is also well integrated, there's even the chance to gain and spend points between different games! Source: Dignited.com

    Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) seem to replicate a lot of features from Google's counterpart; it, combined with the rest of the software skin (which they named HarmonyOS), can provide a decent experience for most users.
    As you might expect, where most problems emerge is with the Google apps (Search, YouTube, etc.), or lack thereof. The web version is often less than ideal and integration with a Google account is close to non-existent.

    Even with those limitations, Huawei is still going strong.
    The company is getting ready to announce version 3.0 of HarmonyOS at HDC2021 (22-24 October). This year's event is especially meant to strengthen the relationship between Huawei and app developers, given the 70 million users currently running the new OS represent an attractive audience.

    Huawei P50 Official Render
    The Huawei Developer Conference is also the stage where the announcement for the new P50 and P50 Pro will be held and, so far, they look like promising camera phones, not just for fanboys, if you can afford to overlook the inferior software.

    Would you still buy a Huawei?
    Or do you think the lacking features and the long development path ahead will make you think twice before getting your hands on one?
    Let me know in the poll!

    For the time being, my answer to the main question is a firm no.
    Personally, I don't believe HarmonyOS will ever be as feature rich or as popular as Android, but I find it nice to think that an alternative to counter the US' monopoly in the mobile space is actually possible, giving hope to a world less reliant on Google.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my first ever thread, which turned out quite long.
    I'm looking forward to reading in the comments how you think Huawei's future will be shaped! 😁
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2021

  2. McJader
    Marshmallow Sep 23, 2021

    McJader , Sep 23, 2021 :
    Lovely thread, very informative, I enjoyed reading it.
    I find this to be a humongous 'if' :p
    Nah,I won't be buying Huawei, however I agree with your sentiments here:

    Caomhin and Giovanni_S like this.
  3. Giovanni_S
    Honeycomb Sep 23, 2021

    Giovanni_S , via OnePlus Nord , Sep 23, 2021 :
    Thank you man. I appreciate it. 😁

    While it might be a big obstacle to overcome for you or me, it's not that hard for most people. If the phone is of good value to them, they will adapt themselves to the software experience.
    People bought Windows Phones!

    To be honest, as long as Huawei manages to survive without Google, I find it a success.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2021

    McJader likes this.
  4. Artemus
    Community Hero 2020 Sep 27, 2021

    Giovanni_S and McJader like this.
  5. Giovanni_S
    Honeycomb Sep 27, 2021

    Giovanni_S , via OnePlus Nord , Sep 27, 2021 :
    Unfortunately, this is the case.

    Although it's interesting to think what strategies Huawei will employ in the US if the ban is ever lifted.
    Selling high-end devices at a not-so-competitive price may no longer work for them, since their reputation suffered a setback. In the opposite case, competing in the low to medium price range could be difficult due to the strong brand presence from Samsung and Xiaomi.

    Artemus likes this.
  6. malidan
    Nougat Sep 30, 2021

    malidan , Sep 30, 2021 :
    They did it before and they will do it again, with quality hardware and quality software. My P40 pro is a monster, the P30 Pro before that was a monster and the Mate 20 pro is the grandad of;
    Multi camera systems
    Big lenses
    Super fast charging
    Reverse Qi
    Wireless desktop
    Etc etc .
    They won't need to sell in the US to be back in the top 5 just the ban removed.( Apple and Google needing help to stay in the game )

    I use the P40 as my daily without Google clutter and every time I pick up my OP8T, I get a headache dealing with all the notification I didn't have to spend time turning off on the P40 Pro. As for Issues non and it runs better than all the devices I have with Google framework on them. The camera performance is outstanding making very light work of my Pixel 4Xl, Mi 11, OP8T, Poco F3, S20 FEz etc etc.

    I have little doubt the OP9 series would trouble it either.

    Good thread and keep it up, new blood is required in this section that has become docile.

    Loveit and Giovanni_S like this.
  7. Giovanni_S
    Honeycomb Oct 3, 2021

    Giovanni_S , via OnePlus Nord , Oct 3, 2021 :
    Yep, Huawei is no stranger to innovation and it's been able to bring out some pretty compelling phones to the Android flagship market (I'm not a big fan of their mid-ranges), even following the ban.
    The software experience is not as polished but, as you mentioned, it's not too hard for most people to adapt.

    I agree with you on that, although what I was trying to say in my last reply is that, if the ban is ever lyfted, a decent portion of US customers would avoid Huawei simply because of their drop in reputation, even if the alternative lacks features. This issue would likely be non-existent in other markets, since the scare wasn't as big of a headline.

    Fortunately, the big hit has already been inflicted, so hopefully the path forward can only get better for Huawei.

    Appreciate it😁. I actually read some of your threads on the topic while researching for this one.

    malidan likes this.
  8. malidan
    Nougat Oct 3, 2021

    malidan , Oct 3, 2021 :
    Respect bro and you are correct in your assumptions, the Yanks do tend to believe what they are told without proof. But hey let's not worry about Apple and Google devices being assembled in China with part made in China.🤭
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021

    Giovanni_S likes this.