Why Google Wants You to Give a New Chinese Phone a Chance


Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images


If you’re really fascinated by Android smartphones and all of the companies making them around the world, then you’re likely familiar with a few Chinese phone makers — like Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu, Vivo, and Oppo — while if you’re a little more focused on the technology that’s actually easy to purchase in the United States, those names may not be so familiar. But Google may be giving all Android fans a good reason to pay attention to Chinese smartphone makers.

According to mounting evidence, as offered by a growing number of rumors and reports, Google is partnering with a Chinese OEM to create an upcoming Nexus phone. Amir Efrati recently reported for The Information that Chinese manufacturer Huawei is in line to produce the next Google Nexus smartphone, which is said to be planned for a release this fall. The report was spotted by The Verge’s Sam Byford, who noted that a collaboration between Huawei and Google would be mark the first time that Google has partnered with a Chinese manufacturer for a device in its Nexus line of Android smartphones.

Efrati isn’t the first to report that Huawei will produce an upcoming Nexus phone; IBT recently reported that the Huawei Nexus phone was in progress, citing a source who is an employee at the company’s branch in the United Kingdom. Similarly, Android Police published word of a rumor that Google is planning to release two new Nexus phones this year, a 5.7-inch Huawei device and a 5.2-inch LG model.

As Efrati points out, the relationship between Google and Huawei could be a mutually beneficial development, with effects reaching far beyond the development of a single smartphone. Efrati reports, “Huawei Technologies has become one of Google’s strongest and most trusted partners in selling devices powered by Google’s Android software. The relationship could help Google expand its wireless network service globally while Huawei gets Google’s expertise both with its phones and its forthcoming smartwatch.”

Talks are reportedly in progress for Huawei to help Google introduce an app store in China, where government regulations have severely restricted the extent of Google’s business. The most likely way for Huawei to play a role in that endeavor is to work with Chinese authorities to launch a phone that comes preloaded with the Google Play Store in China. As Jared DiPane reports for Android Central, developers in China can sell apps in the Play Store internationally, but consumers in China can’t download anything, and many apps and services from Google itself remain blocked in the country.

As Cam Bunton reports for 9to5Google, gaining China’s approval to bring the Play Store to the country would open up content to a huge number of Android customers. More than half of the world’s Android users are based in mainland China, and Google stands to see significant financial benefits if Huawei can help Google gets its Play Store launched in China.

In return for the help in widening its reach in China, Google will help Huawei market future devices like the Huawei Watch in the United States, and is said to have discussed the possibility of making the watch work with Apple’s iPhone. Google is also expected to introduce iOS compatibility for other smartwatches built on its Android Wear platform.

A Nexus phone would undoubtedly help Huawei carve out a new market in the U.S., where it currently has little visibility or credibility. Because Google uses the Nexus line to show off the latest innovations in the newest version of Android, the Nexus line is a very visible platform via which Huawei can enter the American public’s consciousness. Google announced the last two Nexus devices, Motorola’s Nexus 6 and HTC’s Nexus 9, last October.

If one of the next Nexus phones comes from a relatively-unknown Chinese manufacturer, that could boost not only Huawei’s reputation in the United States, but also pave the way for further recognition of and opportunities for other Asian smartphone manufacturers. As Kevin Tofel reported for ZDNet in April, a Huawei executive said that the company plans to become one of the top three smartphone brands in the U.S., and is forging partnerships with carriers, who largely control the market.

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