Huawei App Gallery — Should developers care?

Huawei is the 2nd largest Android phone manufacturer worldwide, after Samsung (2019 — Wikipedia). Huawei has a broad product portfolio to target all categories of consumers and markets, for every need and budget. Huawei Mate and P series smartphones are its high-end models, while the cheaper smartphones are sold under its Honor brand. The premium models like P20 Pro have amazing design, superb hardware, long battery life, great display, and premium quality cameras.

The existing trade ban by the US government which stops US companies to collaborate with Huawei has been extended till May 2021. No one is sure what will happen after that, including Huawei. As of today, Huawei cannot preload its new phones with Google apps like Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Play Store, or Google Assistant. So, the recently released handsets like P40, P40 Pro, Mate 30 series, Mate Xs, and Honor 30 series, although run the Android OS, are not bundled with the usual Google apps and services.

Without Google’s apps and services, Huawei devices cannot compete with other Android device manufacturers. In today’s world, smartphones without such apps and services have very limited use. With the ongoing trade ban in the US, Huawei has quickly switched to plan B. The company has rolled out a complete platform under the name of Huawei Mobile Services(HMS) that will support all its smartphone models. The platform has services and developer libraries just like Google provides for Android devices. Along with this, Huawei has also been creating apps like Huawei App Gallery, Huawei Video, Huawei Browser, Huawei Assistant, and many more which would be pre-installed on its new models. With this new platform, Huawei has basically created an alternate platform that it wants to leverage in case the trade ban continues beyond 2021. Even without Google’s help and support, this platform would enable Huawei to still sell its phones worldwide.

Plan B seems to the logical step for Huawei. The company has been promoting the new platform and trying to encourage developers worldwide to build apps for Huawei devices using their platform services and libraries. As of today, there are approximately 45,000 apps on the Huawei App Gallery. But, this is not enough. Popular apps like Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp, Uber, etc are not yet available on the Huawei App Gallery. In comparison, Google Play Store has approximately 35,00,000 apps at the time of writing. It has only been just over a year since the launch of the Huawei App Gallery. To be fair, building a complete platform and gaining the trust of both consumers as well as developers takes a substantial amount of time and investment.

To make this platform a success, Huawei needs to convince developers of popular apps and games to publish on the Huawei App Gallery. And they have been trying to woo developers by giving various kinds of incentives to integrate Huawei platform services with their apps. Now, more and more developers are interested in publishing to the Huawei App Gallery following the release of new models like P40 series, Mate 30 series, Mate Xs, and Honor 30 series which do not have the Google Play Store.

The worldwide smartphone market will now see a considerable number of Android smartphones that do not have Google Play Store. App developers now need to think about whether it makes sense for them to target such devices and users. If there’s a sizeable number of users using the new Huawei devices, developers will have to eventually embrace the Huawei platform and the Huawei App Gallery. Based on the success, Huawei might even completely ditch Google’s support and continue to promote its own platform even if the trade ban is lifted in the future.

As per the current situation, it doesn’t look like the ongoing tussle between the US and Huawei is going to end soon. As developers, we should be prepared for this alternate app store, alongside the Google Play Store.

What is the problem?

Well, the same app that is designed and built for the Google Play Store will not work on the new Huawei smartphones. For example, apps that use Google Maps for providing location-based functionalities will no longer work on Huawei’s phones. So developers need to integrate Map Kit(Huawei’s equivalent to Google Maps) to provide the same functionality on the version of the app that will be published to the Huawei App Gallery. Apps that use push notifications now also have to integrate Push Kit(Huawei’s service) as well as FCM (Google’s service).

In a way, developers now have to maintain separate projects or codebases, one which uses Google’s services and the other which uses Huawei’s services. In such a scenario, it becomes important for developers to think about a strategy that is efficient and scalable in the long run. Now, there could be several questions that developers need to answer.

Is a new architecture or design required? How to manage these separate projects? Are more developers and testes required? Are Huawei devices required for testing? How to manage the distribution and monitoring of apps on separate stores? And many more…

Should developers care?

Huawei smartphones are here to stay, and Huawei seems to be committed to their platform regardless of the status of the ongoing trade ban. So, developers should definitely be prepared to build for Huawei devices and to publish on the Huawei App Gallery in the near future, if not right away.

While my phone and the laptop is being charged, I love to write, cook and ride away from the city on my bicycle.