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Huawei’s new Mate 30 flagship phone doesn’t come with any Google apps, and it’s the first big tech casualty of the US-China trade war

Huawei’s new Mate 30 flagship phone doesn’t come with any Google apps, and it’s the first big tech casualty of the US-China trade war

Huawei just unveiled its new glitzy 5G flagship phone, the Mate 30, in Munich on Thursday.

The Chinese phone maker touted the Mate 30's new souped-up circular camera array, its narrower notch, and the option to get models bound in vegan leather.

But the firm tried to gloss over the phone's biggest problem — it doesn't come with any Google apps.

The Mate 30 will run EMUI 10, its operating system based on Android 10. But it will look quite different from other flagship Huawei phones, with no Google apps pre-loaded onto the device.

That's thanks to a US blacklist on Huawei, meaning the Chinese firm couldn't furnish its new phone with the licensed version of Android, which comes pre-loaded with Google services. These include the Google search app, Gmail and, crucially, the Google Play Store, the primary way Android users download apps onto their phones.

Instead, the Mate 30 will feature Huawei's own app package, called Huawei Mobile Services. This includes a photo gallery, web browser, and Huawei's AppGallery app store. Richard Yu, Huawei's consumer chief, appealed to developers during the launch event for the Mate 30 to create apps for the ecosystem.

Spokespeople for Google and Huawei confirmed to Business Insider on Thursday that the phone would not run the licensed version of Android.

The Mate 30 comes in two editions bound in vegan leather.


The Mate 30 starts at 799 euros ($884), while the beefed-up Mate 30 Pro starts at 1099 euros ($1,216).

Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said the lack of Google will deal a big blow to Huawei's European business — Huawei is already effectively locked out of the US market.

Husson said: "While the new devices will help Huawei compete in China – still the largest smartphone market in the world – the firm will struggle in Europe due to the lack of the Google Play Store.

"If consumers can't easily access their favorite apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Google Maps and many more, retailers in some European countries may even be skeptical on the opportunity to distribute the devices."

"This direct consequence of the US-Chinese trade war demonstrates the significant geopolitical impact of technology ecosystems," he added. 

Huawei has taken a battering from the US government blacklisting and accusations that it might be spying on people for the Chinese government, which the company has always denied. But this is the first time the consequences of the trade war have become visible to consumers buying Huawei devices.

Read more: Huawei is trying to sell all its 5G patents to a Western buyer in a bid to placate Trump and dodge national security concerns

Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone manufacturer globally, ahead of Apple. It has been locked out of the US smartphone market for years, but gained popularity in Europe for high-end, well-made phones that rival the iPhone, Pixel, and Samsung's Galaxy range in quality and price.

That position is now at risk, if consumers are put off by the lack of access to Google's services and a weird, non-licensed version of Android.

The Financial Times reported in June that Google was lobbying the Trump administration to either lift the ban or grant Google an exception, but evidently these efforts have thus far been unsuccessful.

Huawei's CEO of consumer business Richard Yu said at the unveiling event that the Mate 30 will still support the Android 10 operating system. Huawei is able to use the Android OS because Google open-sources a watered-down version of the software.

Following the US ban Huawei announced it was readying its own bespoke OS called "Harmony." Huawei's senior vice president Vincent Yang said last month that Harmony was being kept as a last resort, and the company would work with Android as long as it could.