Huawei debuts phone without Google apps as US sanctions bite

Huawei launched a new flagship smartphone on Thursday but it comes without popular Google apps such as Chrome or YouTube after U.S. sanctions kicked in, limiting its appeal to consumers.

The Chinese tech giant unveiled the Mate 30 series of phones at an event in Munich, Germany.

The devices, including one for new 5G networks, run on an open source version of Google’s Android operating system, which by default doesn’t come preinstalled with the U.S. tech company’s suite of popular apps and services that licensed versions have.

It also doesn’t come with the Google Play Store, the main way users outside China access Android apps.

Huawei, the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker, is fighting to save its business after the Trump administration blocked access to U.S. components and technology in May on national security grounds.

Washington has issued temporary exemptions that let Huawei maintain software for existing devices, but they don’t cover new products such as the Mate 30.

Huawei is using its own, stripped-down version of Android, whose basic code is provided free of charge by Google.

The Mate 30 sports a four-camera system and screen that curves nearly 90 degrees around its long edges, for a borderless effect. Prices start at 799 euros ($880).

The Chinese company’s phones are popular in Europe and Asia, but little known in the U.S., where it has been effectively blocked for years.

Losing access to Google’s mobile apps will make it harder for Huawei to battle Samsung for top spot in the mobile phone market, because it will be harder to sell wireless carriers on the device, said Jean Baptiste Su, principal analyst at Atherton Research.

“I don’t think operators will risk having millions of disappointed customers that rely on Google services (who) see it doesn’t work on their brand new devices,” he said.


Chan reported from London


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