Since the middle of 2019, Huawei and its subsidiaries have been on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List, which has prevented them from licensing Google Mobile Services for new devices. For the first few months, Huawei shifted its international smartphone release strategy to focus on releasing essentially rebranded versions of its existing, precertified devices. Behind the scenes, Huawei has also been working on AppGallery, its alternative the Google Play Store, and Huawei Mobile Services, its alternative to Google Play Services. With the recent launch of the Honor View30 Pro and the upcoming launch of the Huawei P40 series, Huawei will need to convince potential customers that they can live without Google apps. One of the most basic applications missing on Huawei’s Google-less devices right now is a dedicated search app, but that might be changing soon as Huawei is now beta testing the Huawei Search app.
Redditor /u/beingnull informed us that Huawei is recruiting users in the UAE to test the new Huawei Search application. The APK file is attached to the forum post, so XDA’s Max Weinbach loaded it on his Mate 30 Pro to give it a spin. Unlike the Google App which not only provides access to the Google search engine but also to Google Assistant, Google Lens, Google Podcasts, and more, Huawei Search is a basic search app that just lets you input a query to search the Internet for webpages, videos, news articles, or images. There is a shortcut to see the current weather, which brings up a widget of the current 24-hour forecast powered by Huafeng-AccuWeather, a joint venture that apparently sources forecast data from the China Meteorological Administration. There are also shortcuts for “sports,” “unit conversion,” and “calculator.” In Settings, the user can see their search history (or toggle it off), give feedback, change their search region and language, toggle safe search, or change the app’s search scope, which controls what Huawei applications the Huawei Search app can also search through. Oh, and the app supports EMUI 10’s dark theme.
According to the User Agreement for Huawei Search, the service is operated by Aspiegel Limited, Huawei’s subsidiary based in Ireland. Huawei shifted much of its mobile software services to Aspiegel in 2019 to ease concerns over the company’s handling of user data. The User Agreement states that users “must have a Huawei ID” to use the service and that the service is “only available in the Huawei Device as an app or embedded search filed in Huawei services, such as Assistant (i.e. Search is not publically available in the web).” Interestingly, we discovered that Huawei Search can be accessed in any web browser by navigating to this URL. Huawei’s app may just be a WebView wrapper for this page.
One of the questions we sought to answer is what search engine powers Huawei Search. We couldn’t match search results from Huawei Search with results from Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, Ask, or AOL. In the Privacy Statement, Huawei says the user has the “right to request delisting of a search result” which is in accordance with GDPR. That Huawei is able to delist search results suggests that Huawei Search may not be using a third-party engine, but we aren’t entirely sure if this is the case. For now, the app seems pretty limited in what it can do, and the service itself seems to only be intended for use on Huawei’s smartphones. It would be premature to say that Huawei Search is an alternative to Google search or Microsoft Bing, but there’s a possibility that this service could evolve into a decent competitor down the line.
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