Huawei is in a fraught battle to narrow the app gap between its homegrown AppGallery and the ubiquitous Google Play Store. Progress has been steady, signing up the likes of Snapchat, Microsoft and, most recently, navigation tool Here WeGo.
Here WeGo has long been the third-party maps app of choice, featuring prominently on Windows Phone and the Amazon Fire tablets. It's a rare independent player in a market heavily dominated by Google and Apple. So it's not much of a surprise that it would end up on Huawei's Google-free phones.
You could almost argue that in the absence of the usual suspects, it has a captive market – which is a great position for any company to be in. What little competition it has on the AppGallery comes from relatively obscure products, or those that are utterly feature-crippled, only supporting offline navigation.
Still, this news is indicative of the ongoing woes of Huawei and its desperate battle to recover ground lost over the previous calendar year.
Mid-2019, Huawei was placed on an Entity List by the US treasury, which prohibited American companies from selling or licensing technology to it. Unfortunately for Huawei, this included Google Mobile Services (GMS) – the suite of apps that includes the Google Play Store.
This has spelled disaster for Huawei's ambitions in the West. There's a reluctance among consumers to buy a phone that lacks access to day-to-day apps. To address this, Huawei has earmarked over $1bn to bolster its own app platform, and claims it has more than 3,000 developers working on its ecosystem.
Still, the relatively late arrival of a mapping tool highlights the gaping chasms found in the Huawei AppGallery. And this is only more apparent when you look for things like banking apps, and other day-to-day tools.
The real test of the Huawei AppGallery will be whether it can build on its existing momentum throughout the rest of the year, attracting developers and forging partnerships in order to create a viable alternative to the Play Store. In such a scenario, the biggest loser would inevitably be Google, effectively losing its monopoly – and much of the tasty commissions it creams from the top of app sales. ®