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Huawei needs Google more than Google needs Huawei

Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Huawei Mate 30 Pro (Image credit: Android Central)

Huawei makes some incredible phones. My somewhat limited exposure to the brand as a U.S. resident reinforces what everyone who has one tells me: they are one of the best phones you can buy. When any brand gets this kind of praise, it has to be pretty darn good products.

Unfortunately, because of other equipment Huawei makes, namely telecom gear and 5G base stations, the company has come under fire from the U.S government and now Huawei is unable to share or buy any technology from another company that does business in the United States. That means none of the closed source bits in Android that power Google's services.

More: Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: The best phone you shouldn't buy

This led Huawei, who has giant pockets filled with money, to strike out on its own and make its own services framework and app distribution model. The Mate 30 Pro was the first Android flagship phone from the company that shipped without Google services, and it sold well in China. But of course, it tanked everywhere else once it was released to a broader audience.

That's because people need or want Google's services more than they need or want a Huawei phone. Android flagship phones are all so good that the idea of buying one without Google Maps or Google Photos or any of Google's other services seems silly. Especially when flagship phones are all priced so high.

Would you buy a phone without the Gmail app when others are as good and do have it?

In other words, Huawei needs Google More than Google needs Huawei. That means when Huawei's Austrian manager Fred Wangfei said that the company does not have any plans to go back to using Google's services, even if the U.S. government decides to lift the trade ban it was a ridiculous statement; one which has now been walked back by Huawei itself:

An open Android ecosystem is still our first choice, but if we are not able to continue to use it, we have the ability to develop our own.

This tempered response makes more sense, and Huawei should be working on its own solution. The company is capable of creating its own services framework that developers can use to build a rich app ecosystem. Too bad that isn't going to happen because developers do what they do to make money. It's their day job in most cases and spending time to build yet another version of the same app for a phone that isn't going to sell well in western markets doesn't sound very profitable.

People rely on Google services even if they don't like to do it. Almost everyone uses Gmail — which includes Google Calendar and Google Drive — or Google search. That's because they are great products, and getting a customer to switch to a Huawei equivalent isn't going to be easy. People love and hate Google at the same time.

Google does need Huawei as a strong partner. Just not as bad as Huawei needs Google.

This is not to say Google doesn't need Huawei. The two are very close partners in a lot of ways and I'm sure Google loves the idea of having any phone maker challenge Samsung for brand dominance lest Samsung decides to play hardball. No software company wants to rely on just one OEM to distribute its platform and even Microsoft has realized that hooking up with Google is a good idea.

I certainly hope the U.S. government and Huawei can come to some sort of agreement that allows phones to use Google's software and be sold through regular channels in the states. But if that never happens, Huawei isn't going to ever live up to the potential it has just a year ago and become the biggest Android phone seller.

All I want is to be able to buy a Mate 30 Pro and have everything just work.

That's a shame, really. Having Huawei and Samsung duke it out to get to the top and stay there means better products with great ideas for the rest of us. But no matter what happens, Huawei phones are never going to sell in the West without Google in them.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

48 Comments
  • Huawei could and to be fair probably does build the ultimate android phone hardware wise but like you say whatever people think about Google almost everyone who uses a smartphone including some iPhone users rely on Google services even if they don't realise it. I loved my Lumia 820 and back then it had some impressive hardware for the day like oled screen, removable battery, aod, expandable memory, wireless charging but when it finally dawned that there were no apps including the most popular ones like YouTube it was time to sadly retire it for an android phone with the play store and all the other Google services. Buying a Huawei phone in the west would be the equivalent of buying a Windows phone today. Unless you the sort of person who knows how to flash or sideload things and I suspect 95%of people, including myself dont, then it would be a waste of time especially with so many android phones to choose from.
  • I disagree with this. Huawei are doing just fine as one of the world's leading phone manufacturers. They sell millions of phones outside of the states. Could they sell more? Of course but do they need android? Definitely not. If their track record is anything to go by, in a few years they will be running an OS worthy of downloading and installing on any device.
  • Maybe in a few years but like everything it takes time not only to build up these kind of services but maybe more difficult is convincing people to jump ship to something completely new from something that is familiar and trustworthy. I don't know if Huawei is guilty of the things it's being accused of but a new system from a perceived (by some people) dodgy company are pretty big hurdles to overcome and money isn't the issue as Microsoft weren't exactly skint when they had a go but couldn't crack it.
  • BlackBerry and Windows phone went belly up due to a lack of apps and Samsung ditched their attempts with Tizen as a phone OS. Even Amazon needs Android for their entire tablet line despite not having Google services because they need app compatibility. If Huawei launched a new OS even fewer people would buy it. Right now you can't get Google services, imagine losing every app that isn't preinstalled on your phone. Imagine no banking or social media apps. Would you buy it?
  • Without core services and play store, they will be hard pressed to find people wanting to drop flagship money for phones with locked bootloaders they have to work to side load G-Apps on. They will drop their money elsewhere for simplicity sake. Outside of China, it will hurt them more without Google than Google will hurt without them.
  • I realise that many people see Google as corrupt too but it's often better the devil you know.
  • I also disagree with this. Among other reasons, In the long run, Huawei may eat on Google's market share.
  • Would love to see a company like Huawei break the monopoly American companies have on IT services...
  • Then you'd love the Chinese government to spy on everyone.
  • What's the difference to the US government spying on everyone? Already forgotten the Snowden revelations? I understand that, from government standpoint, Huawei is no good and that they don't want them in our communication infrastructure (national security concerns) but for a "private" consumer it doesn't matter who gets your data. Any spying is bad! Actually, I'm less concerned about the Chinese or South Korean government having my data (countries I will never travel to anyway) then our (US) corrupt and paranoid leadership!
  • This is what I tell people when I say I have a Huawei phone.
    Canadian here . Love Huawei devices. But at the end of the day.. someone.. somewhere .. is spying on you. If it's not the US government then it's another government. If it's not a government then there are companies doing it with your data. It's the age we live in.
  • It's a big difference. China is involved with the genocide of the Uighur minority in the Xinjing providence. This persecution is on par with the Holocaust. NSFW photo of a political prisoner in China:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/dsylqp/picture_of_a_political_pri... China has raped and sterilized Uighur women:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/21/chinas-attacks-uighur... You can read more about the leaked documents here:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/16/world/asia/china-xinjiang... Additionally, Huawei has been accused of assisting China with monitoring this ethnic minority:
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/12/23/huawei-faces-new-back... Yes, America has problems. But not this kind of since the mid to late 1800's with slavery and the genocide of Native Americans.
  • Don't know what the orange messiah is getting on with then. He loves this kind of crap. He should be up china's ass to learn how to do all this. The huawei / Murican fight is all about.......No suprise here.......Money in drumph's pocket. NOTHING ELSE. There has been ZERO proof that huawei has been "spying" on anyone. I can't wait to get a p30 pro just to see the orange shitstain tweak a little more while eating a bigmac with a side of KFC. How typically american of him. We can only hope that catches up with him sooner than later.
  • At least the Chinese aren't trying to control the world while dropping bombs 365 days a year.
  • Yet. They're going about it more quietly right now. And they're too busy killing their own citizens anyway.
  • USA spies, for sure.
    Chinese were accused of spying, perhaps more for not letting spy USA agencies as nobody proved they spied - over telecom devices -.
    UK government just hired Huawei for 5G - the main spy question - I suppose they know what was true and not about spying. It seems there are USA brands that allow backports on their telecom devices to USA agencies. Last but not least Huawei sold more phones - passing Apple as second phone brand - despite USA unfair war against then, this article about one terminal is only propaganda anti Huawei. Also Google services are so well replaced than they decided not to go back to google services because of USA gov ruling them, and probably that is a great alternative that can be a boomerang in the mid term to USA interests.
  • Let's be a bit accurate , Huawei does sell a lot of phones , but it has a very big head start given the 1.5 billion ish people in China , this is like the national brand.
    As for UK using Huawei it is apparently only a partial use.
    As for Huawei being accused of spying , they do apparently have some skeletons in the closet ,
    If you do a search on UK vodaphone Huawei back door , you may find some interesting reading.
  • I've actually got a serious question and am genuinely interested in People's answers. What is people's problem with Google? After all they made android and built it up into the OS it is today and allowed manufacturers to take it and add and improve on it and after all someone would do it if it wasn't Google. They made one of the 2 top OS,s alongside iOS that millions of people use everyday. What would happen if Google suddenly shut down android and all Google's services? Is it more a case of shooting at a successful company simply because they top of the tree or am I missing something more sinister? I'm genuinely interested.
  • My problem with them is the way they've delved into political and social issues, to the point of taking a stand and alienating customers. Can they do that? Sure.
    And I can decline their services and steal their goods (digital media).
  • Well mate , I see it as a beat up , yes Google does probably make a buck of looking at your search information and getting a few cents if you click on the ad they send you ,
    Personally I don't mind it , and I think it is fair enough given the probably billions Google spent mapping every street on earth to give us Google maps and services that we use and enjoy for free.
    Even Google AI, Google home , people ***** and moan it knows my stuff , but how is AI supposed to work if it does not know your stuff 😄.
    I have zero trouble with Google and I enjoy its software and services it provides.
    Personally I think people confuse the spying thing with the ramifications of military spying .
    Given Huawei's operating under the cloud of a very hard line communist country that does expect "Cooperation" and China's at times belligerent attitudes , I would be more worried in times of potential conflict having a communications giant like Huawei doing all your infrastructure.
    Even if the CEO has the best of intentions , if the hard liner militarist say jump , I think he would jump, some organisations do not take no for an answer.
    It was not all that long ago China's prime minister said to one of his soldiers prepare for war as shown in a news article.
    Not to mention that island in the China sea that they said they where not going to militarize.
    And see how that turned out .
    It is probably fair to say all governments and country's spy on each other , but it depends on their attitude and what they are likely to get up to with the info, and risk assessment.
    Sorry for the long post.
  • Probably the most level headed comment and reasoning I've read on anything Huawei related in here @oldmick
  • Nobody has shot Google, its Google itself that has shot itself by getting involved in politics. If it decided to keep working with Huawei then it wouldn't be having a dull future. Google has just shot itself on their foot, they won't be moving far and faster outside USA. Huawei it's not only a phone Huawei is everything to the world except USA. Google missing been on Huawei is cutting its foot off and hands.
  • Huawei is nothing but an extension of the Chinese government, as are most businesses originating from there. You'd have to be naive to think that the Communist Party, the Central Government and especially the People's Liberation Army, don't have a slice the pie, or outright control, of every major and significant Chinese corporation. In most cases the principal investor is one of those entities. Where do you think all the seed money comes from?! Huawei is no different. Just look at the case of Meng Whanzou, one of the daughters of Ren Zhengfei, the CEO of Huawei. She was arrested and in Canada over a year ago and is waiting extradition to the US for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran. While she's been "suffering" being detained in her multi million dollars mansion, the two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spaver, whom the Chinese government arrested as retaliation, spend their time in a maximum security prison basically in isolation. Zhengfei used to be a member of the People's Liberation Army. He worked as a military technologist for their Information Technology Unit. So the ties are very clear and well known. And those ties are still active to this very day... As such, like it or not, the concerns individuals, organizations and governments have about Huawei are unfortunately well founded. Otherwise do you think the Chinese government would intervene on behalf of Huawei as it has...
  • Very well said!
    Huawei is China's tech champion and having Huawei's technology used everywhere makes the Chinese government /military a huge national security threat down the road given what the capabilities 5G brings. The U.S has very good reason to tell it's closiest allies, carries and companies not to use any Huawei equipment for their networks where sensitive info will pass thru. It's not like the U.S is trying to push their own 5G vendor over Huawei cause they got none which is their own fault for not having any future vision. China has been stealing tech over the last 20 yrs + thru various methods to help build their own domestic companies which they sell cheaper to undermine the competition. That's what the Chinese do and that's one of the reasons why they are a huge threat.
  • UK user here, Huawei has just been approved to build none core aspects of our 5G network and this is the same across Europe. It seems the US has an issue with Huawei not because of so called spying but the on going trade war with China and Huawei being used as a pawn by the US Government.
    Huawei makes the best hardware on the market and that includes Apple hardware. I have a mate 9, mate 10, Pixel2XL and iPhone 8 plus and th Huawei devices have the best build quality.
  • Yep, going over 3 years on mine, only bootlooped 2 times, and it was my fault(and a certain magisk module, that I shouldn’t have tried). Running stronger than when I bought it.
  • The N6P that Huawei was ODM on was the pinnacle of their design and fab. The rest of them that followed are all overrated or were downright crappy. I bought a Pro 10 (whatever they're called with the Leica setup) and it was a piece of crapola. Wouldn't touch a Huawei with a ten foot pole.
  • Actually given Huawei will build it's own ecosystem so as not remain vulnerableto US extortion. Plus the way Huawei is being strong armed is surely not lost on Samsung, which is probably accelerating the development of it's own alternative ecosystem so they don't get muscled in the future.
  • It reminds me when I used Windows Phone/Lumia 920. Most of the very big popular app was avaible in some way. But they never got all the apps from Banks, for parking and specific apps that you might need sometimes. That forced me to switch to Android in the first place.
    And Huawei will have same problems outside of China. I think it take a long time before they have a app store equal with Google or iOS.
    So yes I think the phone brand we be more or less dead outside of China in 2020.
    Other Chinese brands will take over Huaweis spot like Xiaomi, OnePlus, TCL etc..
  • Huawei will only have problems in US. The rest of the world have welcomed Huawei. In Europe the tech companies such as Tom Tom map and others that offer same service like Google a ready to partner with Huawei.
  • Hey guys, I think most of you mistaken that Huawei is not creating a new OS, they are just making their own version of Android. Which means app developers does NOT require to make a new app for Huawei phone. every users can simply download apk and install to use it as usual. The only problem here is Google services, that's all. but there's always workaround, example gmail, we can use Aquamail app to access Gmail. i know not all Google app has similar 3rd party app to access them, but soon or later they all will start to be able to access through 3rd party apps/platform. it's not as bad as what most of us are thinking now.
  • Still sounds bad.
  • Huawei doesn't need Google in Asia, Japan uses yahoo, Korea uses hanmail, Vietnam uses CocCoc and biggest market is China uses Baidu. Add all the population together nearly 2 billion customer not using Google services. Only the west uses Google services.
  • 100% correct and already thats almost 30 to 35% of the world population
  • True but the West buy high-end devices in larger proportion than most of the other countries Huawei does business in. That counts as well . And I'm sorry, but I would never use a Huawei device running an OS made by them. Most likely my bank won't make apps for them as well. For me, that's a deal breaker.
  • The west you mean America only because what am seeing the rest of the world even Europe have accepted Huawei.
  • 'That's because people need or want Google's services more than they need or want a Huawei phone.' It's not so much that I need Google services - the only Google app I'd actually miss would be Maps - but rather that I don't want anything to do with a Chinese app store.
  • Honestly I dont think what u saying is correct, I will buy Huawei phone and use Tom tom maps and again chines population can buy 300k units of Huawei per year and they should ban Iphone too
  • Couldn't disagree more! Once Huawei completes their mobile OS and Play Services they will officially no longer need Google. When that happens Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo will dump Android in favor of a Chinese developed OS. So it is Google who needs Huawei, not the other way around!
  • No, what he means is that Huawei needs Google to sell phone outside of its home market. Google doesn't even work in China anyway.
  • We need a viable alternative to the Google play Store and Google play services. If Huawei can help kick-start that I'm behind it even if I don't like their phones
  • I think you are missing the point. Companies like Huawei, and even Xiaomi, BBK (OPPO, OnePlus, Vivo etc) can no longer count on Google and the American chip companies so it's inevitable that they must come up with alternatives. That's why Google, and probably the Pentagon, are very very uncomfortable with this. Google's Android monopoly is over, maybe not in 2 years but certainly in 5.
  • Very interesting discussion points being made. I see it from a somewhat different perspective. I believe that once the USA finds its senses and acquires a different President, some semblance of logic might take hold of the Whitehouse Administration and this obsession of competing with China (and Huawei) for International Tech supremacy will subside to a point that Google is allowed to sell their Services to Huawei once again. The worry of one of the Duopoly (Android+Apple) losing ground to a 3rd Ecosystem has to weigh on the minds of Alphabet/Google. Money ultimately talks... Why wouldn't App developers who are receiving ample financial incentives not pursue making specialized Apps for the Huawei Mobile Services platform. I agree banking apps and certain other ones might be late to the game, but if enough people are using the ecosystem (if Xiaomi, Oppo and other big sellers coming on board would all but guarantee success) then even these holdouts would cave in order to satisfy their Customers. Interesting times ahead in 2020.
  • Google needs Huawei more than Huawei needs Google.
    1.In Europe Huawei can partner with European tech companies to provide the alternative already there alternatives e.g Tom Tom maps.
    2. In Asia majority don't even use Google.
    3. In Africa all tech infrastructure and startup tech companies a funded by Huawei and cheapest phone a Huawei. Huawei in Africa is oxygen.
    4. There other tech companies in the world that offer the same service like Google and are much better, but because of US bullying this companies have not flourish but if they get a platform like Huawei. Google will be thing of the past like IPhone.
    Nothing is irreplaceable
  • TODAY Huawei needs Google, but tomorrow??? Never force your competitor to beat you or go out of business, you could be the one out.
  • Huawei nor anyone else NEEDS Google. We are so afraid to innovate and to push new envelopes that it is assumed a company or startup would fail without the aid of established "norms". While I clearly do not agree with my country's false assessments of Huawei. Huawei can prevail as others I think Huawei could jump ahead and use the Linux kernel as Google plans in the future. They can lead in other areas.
  • > The Mate 30 Pro was the first Android flagship phone from the company that shipped without Google services, and it sold well in China. I was under impression that Google services are not allowed/used in China... if it is, indeed, the case, I am not sure what point the statement above was trying to make.
  • I live in Canada and currently I have a Huawei P20. I've previously used Samsung and HTC devices. I actually love my P20. I love the camera and the photos it takes. I was so impressed with this phone that I would really love my next device to be another Huawei phone. That being said I don't think I'd be willing to get another Huawei device if it doesn't have Google services. I don't want to go back to Samsung so I'm hoping things work out by the time the P40/P40 Pro is ready to be released.