By now, you probably know all about the long-running US trade ban on Huawei. The Chinese company can only do business with most US companies, including Google, on the basis of a restricted temporary license that has been renewed several times since May 2019.
Due to the circumstances, Huawei has not been able to launch new phones with Google Mobile Services (GMS). why does it matter? Well, GMS is the heart and soul of most Android smartphones in the market. It consists of dozens of Google apps, APIs, and cloud-based services, such as Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, Google Photos, Google Play Store, Google Chrome, and more.
Without GMS, Huawei phones not only miss out on these essential Google products, but they also lack a number of other apps available in the Play Store. Fortunately, Huawei added a bunch of apps like Twitter and Instagram to the App Gallery (more on that later) in 2022. However, many other smaller apps rely on infrastructure provided by Google through GMS. Huawei’s Play Store alternative may not support such apps.
Also read: How to download apps on Huawei phones without Play Store
So with all its limitations, Huawei’s only solution to combat the GMS shortage was to create its own competing platform – Huawei Mobile Services, or HMS.
HMS made its global debut with the launch of Honor 9X Pro, Huawei Mate XS and Honor View 30 Pro. It is now supported by all Huawei phones and tablets, including older Huawei models with GMS launched before the ban. Many Honor phones also support HMS, but Huawei’s former sub-brand is once again gaining GMS on its newer phones like the Honor Magic 4 Pro.
So what exactly does HMS contain and what does it mean for Huawei’s next smartphone purchase? Let’s dig deeper to answer some of these questions.
What is Huawei Mobile Services (HMS)?
HMS is a Huawei platform that replaces popular Google apps and services like Gmail, Maps, cloud storage, etc. on Huawei and Honor phones. HMS also provides third-party developers with tools and services to create their own applications. With HMS, Huawei aims to do for its ecosystem everything Google does for users and developers in the mainstream Android ecosystem.
HMS has a user-facing component (App Gallery and other Huawei apps and services) and a developer-facing component, called HMS Core. HMS Core consists of several APIs, SDKs, and services that developers can use to build and improve applications.
HMS is available on global variants of the Huawei Mate 40, Huawei P40, Huawei P50, Mate 30 Pro, Mate XS, Honor 9X Pro, View 30 Pro, and more, complete with pre-installed App Gallery. These are the phones launched by Huawei after the US ban. HMS is also available, along with GMS, on several other Huawei models launched before the ban.
Huawei claims that HMS already has more than 650 million monthly active users globally and its app gallery has surpassed 580 million monthly active users with more than 220,000 HMS apps. We expect all future Huawei phones to run HMS. Even if Huawei somehow gains access to GMS again in the future, it is very likely that the company will continue to develop and promote HMS on its devices.
What does HMS contain?
On the user-facing side, HMS offers a range of services aimed at replacing GMS. Chief among them is Huawei App Gallery, which is an alternative to the all-important Google Play Store. Below is a list of all the essential services provided by HMS. For clarity, we’ve created a separate section for Huawei App Gallery at the end of this list.
Related: Huawei will update 100 devices with Harmony OS
The first and most important condition for using HMS is the Huawei ID. Just like Apple ID or Google Account, Huawei ID allows you to personalize your Huawei devices. Some of your personal data, including contacts, messages, and Wi-Fi passwords, is synced to your Huawei ID.
Huawei Mobile Cloud
Huawei Mobile Cloud works in conjunction with your Huawei ID to give you access to all your device data in one place. It’s basically where things like photos, videos, contacts, calendars, notes, and more are stored for backup. You get up to 5GB of cloud storage for free, after which you can purchase up to 2TB of additional storage. If you want to access Huawei cloud data on a computer, you can head to cloud.huawei.com to see the entire backup.
The global variants of Honor 9X Pro, Huawei Mate XS and Honor View 30 Pro are all equipped with Huawei Assistant, a virtual assistant that replaces the basic functions of Google Assistant. It makes it easy to search for information and access applications. It also has a SmartCare feature that provides access to contextual cards for stocks and sports, covering 150 sporting events and more than 150 stock markets. All upcoming devices running EMUI 10 or higher will come with the digital assistant.
Huawei Themes is an HMS app. It basically lets you customize your phone with various themes, fonts, icons, lock screens, and wallpapers.
This is the company’s music streaming service. Huawei hasn’t said much about it yet and it may not be available on all devices globally at this time. However, the service’s official page tells us that it will feature music from popular artists just like any other music streaming app. It will also divide the music according to different genres, moods, regions, and much more. The Party Mode feature allows users to play the same track simultaneously on different mobile phones for a common listening experience.
Huawei Video Streaming is available on Huawei and Honor devices running EMUI version 5 or higher. It currently only works for those with Huawei IDs registered in Italy or Spain. The service features European and Spanish TV series, short videos, sports videos, documentaries and movies.
Huawei Browser is just what its name says: a tool for browsing the Internet. The browser also comes with an integrated newsfeed and features a dark mode for ease of use.
Huawei Game Center
GameCenter is Huawei’s official game service and distribution platform. Allows users to install new games. Think of it as an app store dedicated to games. You’ll get curated recommendations, exclusive offers, rewards, and more.
Huawei Books features collections of e-books, audiobooks, and magazines from around the world. You can purchase these books and also use the service to read them. The app also features a night mode for reading in dark environments. It also allows you to sync and save your books and notes summaries to the cloud so that your reading records are never lost.
Huawei App Gallery
Huawei App Gallery replaces the Google Play Store on Huawei and Honor phones. Huawei has invested over $1 billion to create apps for the App Gallery. We’re not sure how Huawei came up with these numbers and if they’re actually legit. No third-party research organization has verified Huawei’s claims yet, so it’s best to take these numbers with a grain of salt.
Related: Google warns against downloading its apps on Huawei devices
The App Gallery has been around for a while. It has also recently added a number of popular apps such as Twitter and Instagram. However, nowhere is it as big as the Google Play Store or even the Apple App Store.
Currently, it segments apps across 18 different categories, including news, social media, entertainment, and more.
So what are the popular apps you can find in the App Gallery?
Well, for now, you can find big names like Snapchat, WhatsApp, TikTok, Deezer, Amazon, Amazon Prime Videos, Booking.com, Financial Times, BBC News, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more on Huawei App Gallery. It also has some popular mobile games on board.
Obviously no YouTube, Gmail, Google Photos, Google Maps, Drive, etc. It is possible that these applications will not be available on Huawei phones until the US ban is lifted, provided that Google wants to publish them on Huawei’s competitor App Store.
On the plus side, Huawei says that if users can’t find an app in the App Gallery, they can wishlist the desired app’s name. Once this app becomes available, the user who sent it will be notified via the wishlist.
Huawei App Gallery also offers an app called Petal Search. It’s a one-stop-shop for research, news, photos, and apps. If you have a Huawei P40-series device, Petal Search will be pre-installed. If you are using an older device like the Mate 30 Pro, you will have to install the app via Huawei App Gallery.
A noteworthy feature of Huawei’s app gallery is the so-called Quick Apps. Much like Google Instant Apps, these are apps that are free to install and take up very little memory but work like native apps. Huawei says users can get more than 2,000 express apps instead of the original 20 with just 1GB of space. We don’t really know what apps are available in the form of Quick Apps, but the company claims there are over 1,700 of them released so far and more are on the way.
Besides developing its own app gallery, Huawei is also said to be working with Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo to develop a unified app upload service that will make it easier for developers to distribute their apps to users of the four OEMs. However, we haven’t heard anything about this service since 2020, so it may be in the background or canceled.
Read: Don’t underestimate the China App Store Alliance
Meanwhile, if you want to try Huawei App Gallery, you can download it here.
HMS Core: Working behind the scenes
When it comes to HMS, a lot is going on with the developer side of things.
HMS includes a suite of developer services called HMS Core. This includes tools for location tracking, logins, in-app purchases, ads, face detection, text recognition, and more. Developers can use these core services as well as other APIs and SDKs provided by Huawei to build applications for HMS.
Huawei has built its own version of important APIs that developers would otherwise rely on GMS. Without these APIs, a number of Android apps simply wouldn’t work on Huawei phones. This is why some Google apps can be downloaded on Huawei phones but they don’t actually work.
Back in December 2019, Huawei promised developers that if their app was on the Play Store, it would take less than 10 minutes to transfer it to HMS. The company has hundreds of APIs available across a number of development kits that will help developers build applications for HMS.
Besides providing developers with the necessary tools, Huawei also incentivizes them with money to port their apps to HMS. The company is said to be working with developers in each market to ensure that the best Android apps are pre-installed on Huawei phones.
If you’re making the switch to a Huawei phone, HMS will be a learning curve for you, especially if you’ve been comfortable with Google’s products over the years. Unfortunately, Huawei can do little under these circumstances except expand its ecosystem. Hopefully, they will get stronger over the next few years, or in an ideal world, their problems will end, and GMS will be allowed once again on Huawei phones.
We will update this article when Huawei adds more features and services to HMS.