Flashback two years ago and Huawei was attempting to crack the US market with its very impressive Mate 10 Pro, aided by AT&T and Verizon. Huawei’s Richard Yu had planned to announce carrier support for the handset during the CES 2018 keynote but the rug was unceremoniously pulled from under his feet by pressure applied by the US government on the two carriers, resulting in him twisting in the wind with nothing to talk about just hours before the big reveal. And while the unlocked variant of the Mate 10 Pro went on sale from retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, ultimately, the phone that was so well received across the world was doomed to fail in the US.
Flash forward to the present time and Huawei has been banned by the US government from including Google’s apps and services on new handsets launched after May 16, 2019. After an abortive Mate 30 Pro launch back in September last year, the company defiantly planning to launch its new P40 series sometime in March/April at an event to be held in Paris, France.
The question has to be asked, though, is there any point to Huawei holding a launch event in the west where it won’t go on sale?
Before we delve further, for reasons of clarity I must admit that I’m a big fan of Huawei handsets thanks to the great battery life, fantastic cameras, and vibrant AMOLED displays that they usually feature. I’m still toting the P30 Pro around as my daily driver, and it’s also the handset I rely on for imagery during events.
What I’m not a fan of is the company basically announcing what can only be classed as vaporware. Let’s take the Mate 30 Pro as an example. There was the customary big launch held in Munich last September, but the Mate 30 Pro is still not on sale in any major western market, and if you desperately want one you have to find a reputable third-party importer to buy one. Sans Google apps and services, of course.
Since the ban was introduced in May 2019, Huawei has re-launched the brilliant P30 Pro in a bunch of new colors with the addition of Android 10/EMUI 10 as its unique selling points, with adverts referring to the new P30 Pro. Huawei’s current strategy is basically to rehash current handsets, tweaking them slightly and using old processors because the new Kirin 810 and Kirin 990 5G chipsets aren’t certified in the west. Just a week ago the company announced the P30 Lite New Edition, which is basically exactly the same as the P30 Lite that launched back in March 2019 but with 2GB more RAM and 256GB of storage instead of 128GB. Huawei can only launch tweaked versions of handsets announced before May 2019, else it will violate the US ban that restricts the company’s access to Google apps. It’s a strategy that can only last so long before the company crosses the line portraying mutton as lamb.
Despite the likelihood that the P40 and P40 Pro will once again push the photography envelope with new camera abilities, unless the ban is lifted, it’s doubtful that the new phones will go on sale in western markets. Even though Huawei is working feverishly on developing its own version of the GMS (Google Mobile Services), known as HMS (Huawei Mobile Services), many of us are so invested in Google services that we wouldn’t consider an alternative app, whether for reasons of functionality or security. And while the company is no doubt still scrambling to get its HarmonyOS operating system up to scratch, there’s little chance of it being ready for use in flagship smartphones such as the P40 Pro.
So the big question is this: if the US ban isn’t lifted any time soon, is Huawei still a smartphone brand that has relevance in western markets? Are you willing to buy/import Huawei handsets that don’t have Google apps and services baked in?
Vote in the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.