The new top model shows Huawei helplessness

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Munich, Beijing Perplexity can be in many words. When Richard Yu appeared on Thursday, he talked for more than an hour and a half at a time. Huawei's top manager unveiled the new Mate 30 series, leaving little to no detail about design and technology: a camera with four lenses and ultra-wide-angle and telephoto zoom. A display with rounded corners. 14 antennas for mobile radio reception. A version with vegan leather, optionally in forest green or orange. A few jokes about the iPhone.

But among all these superlatives, the head of the retail business hid the information, which should be crucial for many customers in Europe, in some half-rates. The new top models will indeed use the Android operating system, but without the Google-Services.

The Play Store with apps like Google Maps, Gmail and Google Pay – all of these offers will not be preinstalled. Whether users can download them themselves, the company did not say. And exactly where the devices are to be sold, was just as little to experience.

The presentation in Munich showed that Huawei is still looking for a strategy to deal with the sanctions of the US government. The plans for their own operating system seem not yet mature enough, and also the “App Gallery”, which the group preinstalled on all devices, is given the small selection is still no alternative. The expectations were high: “The Mate 30 is an incredibly important device,” says the analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight: For the first time, the manufacturer must show how he deals with the restrictions.

Huawei got caught in the trade war between the US and China – and the presentation of a device without Google services is a maneuver with which the group wants to escape from the line of fire. The government of US President Trump called the electronics manufacturer as a risk to national security. She has therefore put him on the “Entity List”. Since then, companies that are based in the USA or that develop their products there to a significant extent, are only allowed to do limited business with the Chinese group, if at all.

Top model with no-name apps

This is what applications look like on the new Huawei Mate 30.

The US government has made concessions. Suppliers who dealt with Huawei before the ban may continue to sell smartphone and network components by mid-November, although the exact terms are unclear. But that could be over: US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross explained the extension of the deadline with local mobile operators needing more time to move away from Huawei.

If this is not just a lever, the consequences are likely to be global. Huawei relies on American suppliers – it does not work without chips Qualcomm and software from Google. The Group can therefore only sell its equipment to a limited extent, at least outside of China – whether in Asia, Africa or Europe. Practical for the Trump government: In the US, the brand can not be sold, so the spell has no negative consequences for consumers there.

No chance for questions

So what do you do? Huawei struggled to answer that on Thursday. “We believe we have a chance to overcome all challenges,” said top manager Walter Ji, introducing Huawei's mantra at a separate media event. The company believes in meaningful innovation and open collaboration. Therefore, the products are popular with European consumers, said the President of the consumer business in Western Europe.

Marketing Manager Andrew Garrihy talked about the contributions to society, whether through research and development or projects for people with hearing impairment. As much as the group reported on its current philanthropic activities, it said little about the sanctions. The management did not answer questions from journalists who had traveled to Munich from all over Europe – it barricaded itself behind platitudes and language rules.

Huawei in the sights – Why the tech giant is in a crisis of confidence

Maybe the group itself does not know exactly how to deal with the situation. Richard Yu pretended that he was doing a very normal product presentation to get the technology press excited about specifications. And in a world without trade conflicts, that would have been quite possible. But for most consumers outside of China, these details are irrelevant if they can not use Google's services.

Only in one sentence Yu said that the mobile operating system Android is installed on the Mate 30 – whose source code is due to an open-source license open to anyone and free of charge. Then the company runs its own interface EMUI. The services of Google as the Play Store with various apps, Gmail, Google Maps and many other programs are not on it.

The company hopes to be assessed by group circles, the blogger and Youtuber publish instructions on how to install the Google services itself. In addition, it is just exploring the extent to which it can cooperate with outlets – the seller, so the hope could help the customer directly after the purchase of the smartphone during installation.

Regardless of what the support looks like in detail, the procedure is likely to deter many customers. The installation is not too difficult, judges CCS Insight Analyst Wood. But, “It's about consumer confidence in the device and in Huawei, which has already suffered.” Many may be skeptical about buying a product that still needs such adjustments. Especially since the installation of software from unknown sources is a security risk.

However, the “Huawei App Gallery”, in which more than 11,000 applications are available, is pre-installed on all devices of the group. An alternative to the Play Store, the platform is not yet – there are 2.7 million applications that cover all aspects of mobile life. One-billion-dollar investment is designed to encourage app developers to adapt their software.

According to internal calculations Huawei assumes that at least half of the customers in Germany would buy the Mate 30 models without Google services. The basis of this forecast: At this level – so insiders report – the sales figures fell in mid-May, when the sanctions of the US government had become known. Over the next few weeks, sales have recovered. When and where the devices will be available, the group did not communicate.

Even when looking to the future Huawei remained vague. The Group is developing its own operating system called in China Hongmeng OS, international Harmony OS. In the past, Richard Yu has repeatedly stressed that the group wants to use Android, but have an alternative and they can introduce soon. Already for the P40, which is to come out in the spring, it is ready for use, so Yu recently on the Ifa. At the product demonstration, however, he did not comment on it.

So far, according to Handelsblatt information, two scenarios are considered plausible: either offer the operating system first on models of the low-priced brand Honor and look how it will be accepted by the users in China. Or Harmony OS will be used for the first time on the Huawei P40. Perhaps the company will give more details at the spring presentation.

More: The Google blockade against Huawei currently divides the existing technology world. This could open up an opportunity for Europe's economy. A comment by Stephan Scheuer.

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