Let us Play: Smartphone brand Honor lets slip it has gained access to Google Mobile Services licences

Suggests sales of former Huawei sub might resurface


Honor, the phone brand formerly owned by Huawei, appears to have secured Google Mobile Services (GMS) licences, paving the way for a meaningful return to the European market.

The news came from Honor’s German arm. A since-deleted tweet confirmed the firm’s upcoming Honor 50 smartphone series would carry the proprietary Google Android apps. It seems likely the public announcement went out before HQ made it official.

GMS is a collection of APIs and apps that run upon the base Android operating system. These include Google Play, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Search.

While the Chocolate Factory doesn’t charge vendors for the software, it is nevertheless distributed under strict licensing requirements designed to prioritize Google’s own products, thus bringing in search and download revenue.

Because of this transactional nature (whereas the Android Open Source Project is freely available to anyone), Google was prevented from issuing licenses to Honor during part of the period when it was a subsidiary of Huawei. As a result, Huawei's shipments dropped dramatically in areas where Android is inextricably linked with Google, namely Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Huawei's smartphones currently ship with its own software store called the AppGallery.

Huawei infamously fell afoul of US sanctions in May 2019, preventing it from acquiring technology or software from American suppliers, including Google, which announced it was pulling services from the Huawei's mobiles later that month.

Additionally, Huawei’s presence on a Treasury Department entity list limited its ability to tap the wider international supply chain. Foreign suppliers were prohibited from selling components with partial US origins to Huawei, which hamstrung its ability to source semiconductors and memory devices.

In the face of declining handset sales, Huawei sold Honor to a consortium of dealers and state-owned enterprises last November for an undisclosed price.

The newly independent entity has since rebuilt its supply chain, inking deals with Qualcomm, Intel, AMD, and Microsoft, to list but a few, as it prepares to re-assert itself beyond mainland China.

Last week, the company announced two new professional-oriented laptops for the Western Market, suggesting this process is gathering pace.

The Register has asked Honor for comment and a company representative told us to expect a statement.

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