What your Huawei phone will look like without Android
Morning arrives with tender fingers of sunlight pushing their way through the slates in my bedroom blinds.
I reach across and pick up my Huawei phone, pulling it towards me and yanking it bodily from it’s charging cord.
The screen bursts to life with colour and lets me know with large letters that I could have slept 10 more minutes. But I’m up anyway, so I heave myself out of the bed and begin my day.
I start by loading up YouKu from the home screen to play some music while I have my shower. Some early morning Kpop gets me jazzed and ready for my day.
With soapy fingers I reach out towards the device, navigating through wet hair plastered over closed eyes.
I push at the screen to open Eleme, my preferred breakfast delivery app. With three pushes I can re-order the pancakes I had yesterday.
In the background Alipay sends money to the vendor and by the time I’m out of the shower..
*Bang bang bang*
The delivery guy has arrived.
Once I’ve cleaned the syrup from my chin I open up Didi and hail a cab.
By the time I’ve stepped out onto the street, the car has arrived and will whisk me to work where I’ll begin my day.
My morning has run entirely without any Google services, and the rest of my day will follow suit. This is because I live in China where Google Play services are cut from Huawei devices.
A Google-free world
Like 86% of all the worlds phones, Android runs on all Huawei devices.
Huawei admits that it’s very far from a usable operating system of its own, but even if it developed one – the chances of it surviving against the Google/Apple duopoly are slim.
I’m one of the rare people that proudly sported a Windows for 5 years.
I defended the Windows operating system like a mother defending her loser basement adult-child.
I still stand forever behind the tile system.
However the tiny App Store and useless tech support weighed on me. There was no room for a third player then, and there isn’t today.
Unlike Windows however, Huawei has an enormous captive market – China.
Huawei on its home turf
Over 60% of Huawei’s sales take place in China, and they happen without Google Play.
While Huawei phones do run Android, they run a very neutered version.
Because it doesn’t have Google Play it doesn’t support Google search, Google Maps, Google Assistant, YouTube, Dropbox and many others apps.
Instead of these apps, Huawei’s App Store offers a myriad of Chinese alternatives.
You can download Ren Ren, a Chinese alternative to Netflix.
Weibo offers services similar to Google. YouKu replaces YouTube etc.
So far, many of these apps are only available for use within Mainland China. However if China has its mind as focused on world domination as we know it does, it would be no surprise if they planned to open these apps up to the world in the near future.
In the same way many American apps start in one city and expand globally, China could easily follow in America’s footsteps and go global, in the vein of apps like Uber and Air BnB.
Trump’s recent executive order forced American companies to sever business dealings with Huawei because of his supposed belief that Huawei is using their tech to conduct espionage within the United States.
Although if I really think about it, wasn’t blaming the Chinese to get out of a political jam an episode of Veep?
This Veep-like executive order has put Google in a very uncomfortable position as they know that many of their customers are customers through Huawei devices. Being ordered to sever services with even a portion of your customers is never good business.
Managing the public
For the moment, both Google and Huawei are being cautious with how they tweet about their new relationship complications.
It’s fairly obvious that the two are on the precipice of separating, but it’s too risky to say it directly.
Fire with Fire
Beijing is reacting strongly and is already compiling a list of United States companies that it can add to a new retaliatory “unreliable entity list”.
This unknown list is leaving most American companies operating in China wringing their hands with nervous anticipation. Being added to that list could mean operating with far more restrictions – or even being forced out of China.
Whichever companies Beijing ends up picking will be strategic choices that will aim to hurt the US to a proportionate extent to which the Huawei ban hurt them.
The future of Huawei
It’s still too early to say what Huawei devices will look and run like a year from now. They’ll probably still run Android, but the version of Android that currently exists in China.
So Huawei customers will have to decide whether they can adapt to a Google-free lifestyle, as I have.
It wasn’t easy at first, it actually felt a lot like giving up coffee. There were lots of withdrawals and panic attack in the beginning, but as time went on it got easier.
Until the day came that it didn’t bother me at all anymore.
I predict a future where apps that only exist in China today will be global, and they’ll all be available on your Google-free Huawei device.
Every action Trump takes is only accelerating us towards the inevitable.