This has been a great week for Huawei. It started with the news that it had pulled a masterstroke, securing Here mapping technologies for its phones, a genuine Google Maps alternative. Then came the news that its main Chinese rival in key overseas markets, Xiaomi, was allegedly spying on its users. And finally the smartphone shipment stats for the first quarter confirmed that with its market share in China, it had outpaced Apple to hold the number-two slot, with only Samsung still to catch.
Unfortunately for Huawei, though, none of this will be enough to convince tens of millions of non-Chinese smartphone users to opt for its open-source Android phones, turning away from the familiar world of Google’s software and services. But Huawei has a plan to try to change that. And it has both Google and Apple in mind. And it’s much needed—the company needs to so something to push those millions of users to switch or upgrade to its latest smartphones, despite the loss of Google.
Huawei quickly recognized that the biggest impediment to its international position in a post-blacklist world is competing with Google’s Play Store. Its own AppGallery alternative is now the third largest app distribution platform in the world, but it is still finding its way outside China. The store is no new kid on the block—launched in China back in 2011. But its international version is just two-years old.
So, stepping back, why does Huawei think it can tip the balance in its favour? The answer is clever, albeit highly ironic. And it is an interesting punt with no guarantee of success. In short—security, privacy and, basically, not being Google.
There’s an irony here that is impossible to overlook. Huawei was blacklisted by the U.S. government back in May 2019 over alleged national security concerns. As a consequence, the tech giant lost access to Google for its new phones, causing a major plunge in international sales. Now, its plan is to focus on Google’s security and privacy shortcomings and offer a safer, more secure alternative. You couldn’t make this up—but it’s not as odd as it sounds. Here’s why.