It is the one big question that has been hanging over the upcoming launch of the Huawei Mate 30 line, and now it has been answered. The new Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro will launch in Europe without a licensed version of Android, Google apps or services.
The news comes after company executives told Reuters that the Chinese company will go to Plan B after failing to settle a dispute with the United States that lead to it being placed on the Entity List. The new Mate 30 line will be presented on September 18 in Munich, but we don't know exactly when it will go on sale. A new promotional image revealed the design of the upcoming device yesterday.
The flagship smartphone is Huawei's first major device to launch after the Trump administration blacklisted the company from working with American partners in May. The U.S. President claims Huawei is a risk to national security. The Chinese technology firm denies the charges. The 30-day reprieve given to Huawei does not cover new products such as the Mate 30.
Being on the Entity List does not totally blacklist overseas companies from working with firms in the U.S. American companies can apply for a license to trade specific products with banned partners, essentially seeking exemption. We know that 130 applications have been received from companies wanting to sell U.S. goods to Huawei, but we don't know if Google or Alphabet Inc is one of them.
Either way, given that a grand total of zero licenses from those 130 applications have been granted, it seems futile to even speculate on an exemption for Google apps and services for Huawei at this stage.
Harmony OS must be moved up a gear
A Google spokesman told Reuters the Mate 30 (Pro) cannot be sold with licensed Google apps and services, and thus Huawei must push forward with plans for its own alternative operating system to Android. We were already hoping for more information about Huawei's new OS to be revealed during the Mate 30 launch event. Now, that seems inevitable.
Huawei has repeatedly stated that it would continue to use Android OS if it were allowed to by the U.S. government, otherwise it would develop its own operating system and ecosystem. The company registered the name Harmony in Europe for its own OS last month, with the application mentioning both "mobile operating systems" and "computer operating systems". To me, it sounds like what Google is doing with Fuchsia, and I'm excited about this approach.
Aside from a sort of concept presentation seen at the Huawei Developer Conference in Dongguan earlier this month, Harmony is still yet to be seen up and running on a smartphone. CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, has confirmed that Android apps will not be compatible with Harmony OS out-of-the-box, but that it will be “very easy” to transfer Android apps to Huawei's own OS. Is that good enough? I'm not so sure.
This could be one of the most interesting smartphone launches we've seen in some time.