Chinese smartphone brands build consortium to challenge Google Play domination

Four giants of the Chinese smartphone industry have apparently formed a consortium to take on the dominance of the Google Play Store, which cannot be accessed in China due to Google services being banned there. However, while making it easier to access apps, the consortium’s plans may also be a response to the current political situation between China and the U.S., which has already affected Huawei’s relationship with Google.

Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo have reportedly formed the Global Developer Service Alliance, or GDSA, which will build an internationally available platform for developers to present and promote their apps to new audiences through all the brands’ own application stores. In China, all smartphone brands have their own app stores — Huawei’s App Gallery, and Xiaomi’s App Store, for example — which are a valuable source of revenue for each. The process would be streamlined so apps only need to be uploaded once to appear across all the stores.

The plans are unofficial at the moment, and have been revealed through anonymous sources speaking to Reuters. The platform’s availability will apparently cover nine regions around the world, with India, Indonesia, and Russia specifically mentioned. Research company Canalys told Reuters the companies will want to draw on each other’s geographical strengths, with Huawei being particularly strong in Europe, and Xiaomi in India.

Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo can all use Google Play and other Google services on devices they sell internationally. Huawei, due to its presence on the U.S.’s Entity List, has lost the ability to install Google Play on future smartphones. Its response has been to further develop the App Gallery, strike up new relationships, and offer greater developer benefits. However, its catalog is still smaller than Google Play’s, with many major app names missing. Local support and the backing of other big smartphone names would likely help it attract developer attention.

While there is no indication the other members of the GDSA are at risk of similar treatment by the U.S. for now, it makes sense for them all to band together for financial reasons. Xiaomi sells its smartphones at rock-bottom prices, and caps profit margin on hardware at 5%. It makes other profits from subscription services like video, and from other software-driven services. These will become even more essential for Xiaomi and the other GDSA members if global smartphone hardware sales continue to drop.

The GDSA’s platform may launch in March, according to Reuters sources, but this is not an official date and may change.

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