Screenshots of the Huawei Search app. (Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei is testing a new search app similar to Google for its smartphone ecosystem in a bold new step to further challenge the US search giant on its home turf.

Why it matters: The Chinese telecom and smartphone giant has been working on replacing all Google apps and services for its in-house Huawei Mobile Service (HMS) framework on Android phones.

  • The world’s second-largest smartphone vendor is banned from using Google products on handsets which have launched after May because of a US trade blacklist.
  • The Shenzhen-based company debuted in Europe last month a phone with HMS pre-installed. Instead of using Google Play, the buyers will have to use the company’s App Gallery to download apps.

Details: Huawei is recruiting users in the UAE to test its new Huawei Search app, according to a forum post published on Feb. 26 on the company’s website.

  • “We are excited to announce the upcoming launch of the Huawei Search app and invite our UAE users to participate in our user beta test,” the company said in the post.
  • The app allows users to search the internet for webpages, videos, news articles, and images, according to XDA Developers, which first reported the beta test.
  • The search service is operated by Aspiegel Limited, a subsidiary based in Ireland, according to the app’s user agreement. Aspiegel’s website describes it as a mobile service provider for Huawei device users in Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • However, it is unclear whether the company developed the search engine from scratch or it used a third-party search service. According to the XDA story, the search app’s Privacy Statement says users have the “right to request delisting of a search result,” which may imply that it is not a third-party search engine.
  • Huawei declined to comment when contacted by TechNode on Tuesday. 

Context: Citing security reasons, Google last month warned users against loading its apps through unofficial channels to new Huawei devices made available to the public after the trade blacklist.

  • Last month, the company released a new version of HMS, adding capabilities such as Quick Response (QR) code extraction, near-field communication (NFC), and identity authentication.
  • HMS provides mobile applications corresponding to Google offerings. They include Huawei App Gallery, a mobile wallet, a video-streaming platform, and a music app.

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about... More by Wei Sheng

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