Top Chinese smartphone makers including Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo are teaming up to form an alternative to Google’s Play store to distribute Android apps to users outside China, Reuters reported Thursday.

Why it matters: The four Chinese handset giants together accounted for around 40% of global smartphone shipments in the fourth quarter, underscoring the potential for the partnership to take a chunk of business from Google’s Play store in the international Android app distribution market.

  • Huawei’s ban from accessing Google services or apps on its new phones is a strong motivating factor for the world’s second-largest smartphone maker to create a Play store alternative.
  • Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo, however, are not restricted by the ban and have full access to Google’s services overseas.

Details: The four companies are forming a group known as the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA) which aims to make it easier for developers of games, music, movies, and other apps to market their products in overseas markets, according to the Reuters report citing anonymous sources.

  • The GDSA was initially aiming to launch in March, but it is unclear how the plan will be affected by the recent coronavirus outbreak.
  • The alliance plans to offer its services to developers in nine “regions” including Russia, India, and Indonesia, according to its website.
  • The website, however, does not list Huawei as a member.
  • A Xiaomi spokesman told Reuters that the GDSA “solely serves to facilitate the uploading of apps by developers to respective app stores of Xiaomi, OPPO and Vivo simultaneously.” The spokesman denied that Huawei was involved in the alliance.

Context: The four companies use respective self-developed Android app stores in addition to third party app stores in the China market because Google services are not accessible in the country.

  • Huawei has been actively looking for replacements since it lost access to Google apps and services. The company updated last month its developer tools in efforts to lure more developers to work on its Huawei Mobile Service ecosystem.
  • The company released in August its Harmony operating system as an Android alternative. However, company executives have said that Huawei is still using Android as a “first choice.”

Writing about semiconductors and telecommunications.

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