Once again, Huawei has made what looks to be an exceptional phone in the Mate 30 Pro (and even the standard Mate 30). Just like the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro before it, the latest Mate has exceptional design and hardware, the highest-end specs, and incredible photography capabilities. One thing it doesn't have, however, is certification to run the Google Play Store or any part of Google Play Services.
Huawei's 'solution' to this problem is about as good as it could be given the constraints.
Huawei's "solution" to this problem is about as good as it could be given the time constraint: it's going to start distributing globally its own suite of analogous services (HMS, or Huawei Mobile Services) that it currently offers in China. It's then backing this up with a $1 billion commitment to investing in bringing developers to its platform.
This unfortunately isn't as simple as having developers upload an .apk file to Huawei's store — in many cases, Android apps are developed with specific hooks into Google Play Services and would need significant development work to integrate HMS instead. Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO Richard Yu also said the company is considering offering third-party app stores that have a current app catalogue to build from.
No matter what route Huawei takes, it's going to be tough to compete — and impossible in the short term.
No matter what route Huawei takes, it's going to be incredibly difficult. And no matter how many billions of dollars you put behind the effort, you can't overcome the amount of time it will take to reach a point where Huawei's own ecosystem of apps, backed by HMS on the phone, is anywhere near competing with Google and Apple.
And that's why, given this situation, it's nearly impossible to recommend anyone outside of China buy the Mate 30 Pro. For as great as it is, and for all it offers, it doesn't have access to the apps and services we all rely on every single day — and, in most cases, it doesn't even have good replacements. At the same time, there are dozens of amazing Android phones available that do have those apps and services. We maintain a list of our favorite Android phones at any price, and others for phones at a variety of price points if you want to save money.
With the Mate 30 Pro, you have to compromise. With every other Android phone, you don't. Unfortunately at this point, with the status of the smartphone world, no phone is that much better than any other to overcome such a massive issue as not having Google services. It's a pretty tough position to be in where not only is there a huge slate of great high-end Android phones to choose from with all of Google's services, but also three brand-new iPhones that still have better access to Google's apps.
This is, interestingly, an extreme version of the conversation we've been having for the past couple of years with Huawei phones. We all started to make the realization that Huawei's hardware was incredible, which made the discussion about its software even more pertinent. We had to start thinking about whether "dealing with" its software quirks was worth it in order to get such an amazing overall phone. Now, we face an extreme example that frankly has no answer other than "no, we can't deal with this" in Western markets.
There's no doubt that Huawei has a plan for the possibility that it's given permission to work with Google again and distribute Google Apps on its phones. I wouldn't be surprised if that moment comes and Huawei has an over-the-air update ready to roll in a matter of days. But no matter where your expectations on that front lie, the Mate 30 Pro should be at most a wait-and-see proposition. You could be incredibly confident in the ability of the U.S. government to work out those issues in short order, but the reality is that that's something that could happen in the future — and what you'd get today doesn't have Google apps and services. And that makes the phone a non-starter outside of China.
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