Customers look for 5G smartphones at a Huawei store in Shanghai, China, Nov. 28, 2020.
Huawei launched a $40 million lab in Singapore dedicated to helping developers test apps for the Chinese tech giant’s mobile devices. The move comes amid U.S. tech restrictions on Huawei’s access to semiconductors and Google’s suite of software that hit its growing smartphone business.
The Shenzhen-based company will spend $40 million over two to three years on the lab, called DigiX Lab, to helps developers and partners in Asia who develop and sell apps on Huawei phones through its HarmonyOS system, the company said in a news release.
The Huawei-developed operating system began emerging in 2019 after the U.S. restricted its access to Google’s services and apps. Huawei’s billionaire founder, Ren Zhengfei, said in 2019 that the U.S. ban will hit revenue by $30 billion. In November, Huawei sold its budget smartphone brand, Honor, to a Chinese state-led consortium to avoid the U.S. sanctions.
“This is [Huawei’s] biggest project to date and has massive implications for geopolitics,” says Abishur Prakash, a Canada-based author on technology and politics. “The lab in Singapore, focused on apps and mobile services, is about making HarmonyOS successful for Huawei and China.”
Singapore is “neutral” in tech geopolitics, Prakash adds, and other Chinese tech firms have already located in the city-state because it offers a gateway to Southeast Asia. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are the countries with the most registered Huawei developers
Some existing Huawei devices come only with HarmonyOS and users must download apps through its own app store, called AppGallery. “There is a significant opportunity for Huawei to monetize its installed base,” says Ben Stanton, a senior analyst with market research firm Canalys.
How well Huawei localizes AppGallery apps in specific Asian countries will determine some of its success, Stanton says. Banks, grocery stores and government offices may find it hard to create and update apps for a third platform, he says, so Huawei’s lab would guide them through that process.
“This lab can help Huawei get more apps onto its platform by providing support and testing services,” says Bryan Ma, devices research VP with the market analysis firm IDC. “Theoretically, more apps help Huawei counter the challenges that it faces after losing access to Google Mobile Services.”
As a news reporter I have covered some of everything since 1988, from my alma mater U.C. Berkeley to the Great Hall of the People in Beijing where I followed Communist