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No-one can have missed the flurry of headlines about Huawei’s latest smartphone launch. Reviews of the flagship Mate 30’s upgraded chipset, camera and display, as well as its lightning fast 5G connectivity, have been overshadowed by its lack of Google software and services. Essentially it’s a phone designed for Android, without Android.
This has been received as seriously bad news for prospective users—and it’s about to repeat as soon as next month, with the confirmation as reported by GizmoChina that the next Huawei flagship, the foldable Mate X, is being readied for an initial launch in China in October and then an international release as soon as November. The Mate X is a new device and will have the same Google licensing issue as the Mate 30.
GizmoChina cited the timing confirmation as coming from Huawei customer service rep Guan Wei, and followed Huawei consumer boss Richard Yu suggesting this as the likely timeframe when he presented at the IFA 2019 tech show earlier in September.
Once the immediate reactions to the Mate 30’s lack of Google had settled down, videos started to emerge showing after-market options for users to load Google Play, enabling most Google apps to be installed. My colleague David Phelan reported for Forbes on an insider Huawei source confirming this can be “easily” done. But as I’ve written before, it’s not without risk and the question remains as to whether millions of potential Mate 30 buyers are genuinely up for using obscure Chinese software rather than opting for an alternative device from the likes of Samsung.
Unless there is a serious change in the standoff between Washington and Huawei over the supply chain blacklist that has prevented the likes of Google from supplying the company, the high-end Mate X will land to the same reviews as the Mate 30 when it extends beyond China—great device, but seriously spoiled by its lack of Google. Because Google’s services framework is so tightly integrated into the core of a device to enable full-fat Android, the workarounds are complex and require updates to the core phone system using unauthorised software.
According to GizmoChina, the Huawei rep “suggested users to pay attention to Huawei’s official website, forum site and official Weibo account to know the exact release date of the Mate X.” But the strong assumption now is that the phone “is ready for its mass production and sales.” And then, with China’s launch out of the way, “the Mate X may come to global markets in November.”
While many of the Mate X’s specs have been published, there is still speculation as to whether it will see an upgrade from the Kirin 980 chipset to the new Kirin 990 chipset that has been designed around 5G connectivity.
Because the Mate X will ship with the same restrictions as the Mate 30, Google Mobile Services will be missing and Huawei Mobile Services will be the only option out of the box. alternative. No Google Play, Gmail or Google Maps will prompt the same debate for prospective buyers as we’re now seeing with the Mate 30.
Users who want to opt for Huawei’s high-tech foldable phone will need to decide whether that will take the risks of an after-market sideload or opt to live without. Or, of course, pick up a foldable device from a well-known alternative brand. All of which will be a major disappointment for millions of prospective buyers.