While there doesn’t seem to be an end yet to the US-Huawei story, the latter has gone full force in preparing for a life without Google. They have been working on something called AppGallery, the alternative to Google Play Store and Huawei Mobile Services, their replacement for Google Play Services. One important thing that seems to be missing is the all-important search, but Huawei hasn’t forgotten it. They are now testing out the Huawei Search app, which can be both good news and bad news for the rest of the world.
XDA Developers says that the testing is currently going on in the UAE but they were able to load it on the Huawei Mate 30 Pro to see what the deal is. It seems to be just a basic search app where you put in a query and it will give you search results. You get webpages, videos, news, or images. The app also gives you shortcuts to weather, sports, unit conversion, and calculator. You are also able to see your search history, give feedback, change app settings, and even supports the dark theme of EMUI 10 (their version of Android 10).
Huawei Search is operated by Aspiegel Limited, their subsidiary that is based out of Ireland. But as to what search engine powers this app, that is less certain. It doesn’t seem to match results from Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, Ask, or AOL. They may not be using a third-party search engine, and so that’s where the bad news may lie. China has been known to control the information that comes out of their Internet, and despite disassociating themselves from the supposed close ties with the government, Huawei is still a Chinese company subject to Chinese laws.
Forbes reports that this is a “potential filter” that will still be serving content to hundreds of millions of users worldwide from a company that is based “in the most highly censored country on the planet”. This is a potential concern as the Search app is a big part of the whole Huawei operating ecosystem that will be serving both Chinese and non-Chinese customers. This is one of the unintended consequences of the U.S. blacklisting the Chinese company – the potential for Huawei to “carve itself a dominant position” in this new alternative to the currently still-dominant Android/Google eco-system.
In any case, it’s still early days for the Huawei Search app and the whole Huawei Mobile Services. We might even see the U.S. backtracking on their blacklist. The question would be if Huawei would go back to Google’s loving arms or if they will continue to pursue their own platform, which will eventually result in the issues mentioned above.