Huawei forced to launch Mate 30 phone without Google apps

New Android smartphone falls foul of trade war and Trump’s blacklisting of Chinese firm

The launch of Huawei’s latest smartphone, the Mate 30, has been hampered by the ongoing trade war between China and the US, which has resulted in Google pulling its apps and services from the company’s new devices.

Announced in Munich on Thursday, the high-end Mate 30 series, which features Huawei’s latest class-leading camera and 5G technology, runs Android 10 but not the Google version. It lacks Google’s apps, such as Gmail and Chrome, Google’s Play Store and the associated Google Play Services, which increasingly form the backend of all Android apps developed for a western audience. Instead Huawei is pushing its own “fully open” mobile services platform for Android.

That is because Huawei is still on Donald Trump’s blacklist, which prevents US companies doing business with it including issuing licences to use software, as Google does for its apps and services. Despite the US government issuing two temporary 90-day reprieves for Huawei, they only cover existing products, not new ones.

While Google services are not included on phones sold in China, where they are loaded with alternatives from Chinese companies, Google’s apps are considered essential for the western market. It is possible enterprising users may be able to load Google’s app suite on to the phones, but the lack of out-of-box support could be a dealbreaker for many.

“Huawei has already developed a strong brand in Europe and I’m sure there will be a market for any new products given Huawei’s good track record in slick design and leading edge features such as multiple cameras with great zoom capability,” said Ben Wood, the chief of research at CCS Insight. “However, not having Google services will mean it’s a huge challenge for customers. There is also a risk consumers will buy a new Huawei and then find it does not offer everything they expected and will decide to return it.”

As such it may be a killer blow to sales of the Mate 30 and therefore Huawei’s ambition to be the largest smartphone manufacturer by volume. It was second behind only Samsung until Trump’s action, but its market share has since dropped by 5% in Europe. Huawei expects the US ban to cost it £8bn.

“It is very hard to see how Huawei can become the world’s biggest mobile phone maker at present given it is banned in the US market and it has suffered serious reputational damage as a result of being added to the US ‘entity list’,” said Wood. “Until those issues are resolved its main focus will have to be on its home market in China where it has a very strong position and is already selling tens of millions of units every quarter.”

Huawei has attempted to get around the US restrictions outside of China by launching a revamped version of its existing P30 Pro, with new colours and new Android 10 software complete with Google apps. It has also pledged to bring Android 10 – in the guise of its custom version, EMUI 10 – to many of its existing models by the end of the year.

The back of the Mate 30 Pro has a circular camera array.
The back of the Mate 30 Pro has a circular camera array. Photograph: Lukas Barth-Tuttas/EPA

The new top-of-the-line Mate 30 Pro features a 6.53in Horizon Display flexible OLED, which curves to 88 degrees around the left and right sides of the device and replaces the physical volume buttons with virtual sliders. It features both a second-generation in-display fingerprint sensor and 3D face recognition.

A circular array of cameras on the back includes a 40MP main camera, a 40MP ultra-wide, an 8MP 3x optical zoom camera and a depth sensor. Huawei said it was capable of professional video capture and up to 7,680 fframes per second super-slow motion – where competitors are limited to 960fps.

Huawei has said the new 5G version of phone also has some of the widest support of 5G bands of any device, enabling it to work in more regions around the world, and faster than any other phone including the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. It also supports dual-sim 5G, for using two networks at once, and has a large 4,500mAh battery to keep it running for longer.

Huawei also introduced new vegan leather editions, alongside various glass colours, and continued its design collaboration with Porsche Design, previously seen in the Mate 30 RS.

It also launched a new smartwatch and the AI-powered Vision TV. The Mate 30 will cost €799, while the Mate 30 Pro will be €1,099 or €1,199 with 5G, but the company did not announce when or where it would go on sale.


Samuel Gibbs Consumer technology editor

The GuardianTramp

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