Huawei has confirmed to MyBroadband that its upcoming flagship smartphones are coming to South Africa.
These devices will be the first flagship smartphones from Huawei to launch locally without Google Mobile Services (GMS), due to the placement of the company on the US Entity List last year.
Instead, Huawei smartphones will run Android 10 with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and AppGallery in place of the GMS and Play Store-based ecosystems of previous-generation devices.
HMS is not a separate operating system, however, it is simply a replacement for GMS which runs natively on Android devices and enables certain features and services.
This means that instead of signing into your Android smartphone with a Google account and having Google apps preloaded, you will sign in with a Huawei account and have Huawei apps preloaded on your smartphone.
Same apps on Android
Huawei has prepared its ecosystem for the launch of Android smartphones with HMS, offering a selection of popular global and local applications through its AppGallery store.
Importantly, applications that run on Android will remain supported – as Huawei is still using the Android operating system.
“The menus, settings, etc., will all look and feel the same,” Huawei South Africa CTO Akhram Mohamed said.
“Over and above that, HMS is the replacement of core services for GMS. A consumer does not engage on a core services level, they engage on an app level.”
Certain app functions – such as back up to Google Drive – may not be supported due to the lack of GMS, but in many cases HMS features may be available in their place.
Huawei is not only positioning its AppGallery and HMS offering as a necessary replacement for GMS and Google Play Store on Android, however. It also aims to be a serious competitor.
By implementing HMS, Huawei has more options to integrate its own apps and features into Android.
While AppGallery and HMS may be a change for users, there are many differences which may come as improvements.
The integration of HMS apps and functionality into Android will retain features such as cloud backups, cross-app biometric authentication, and more – while also offering a tailored local experience.
By adding local features and integrations with applications such as EskomSePush, services like TravelStart, or major ecommerce players, Huawei smartphones powered by HMS may provide more relevant native information to South Africans than their GMS-powered competitors.
The porting and development of local apps is key to Huawei’s HMS launch strategy, the company previously told MyBroadband.
The company has conducted compatibility tests on the top 3,000 applications in the world as well as the top 100 applications in South Africa.
This means that Huawei users will retain access to the same functionality they expect of Huawei smartphones.
It remains to be seen how HMS-powered devices will hold up to traditional GMS smartphones, but Huawei’s latest move may provide a serious competitor to Google’s dominance over the open-source Android ecosystem.