Huawei’s breakthrough Petal Search app helps users install content banned by the U.S.

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You might remember that back in May, we told you about Huawei’s plan to work around the manufacturer’s inclusion on the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List. The U.S. put the company on this list because it considers the firm to be a national security threat. Placed on the Entity List, Huawei is not allowed to access its U.S. supply chain which means that it cannot license the Google Mobile Services version of Android. It also means that Google’s Android apps like Search, Maps, YouTube, the Play Store, Drive, and Gmail can not be installed on a Huawei phone. Most of Google’s apps are banned in China anyway, so only the international variant of the company’s phones are impacted.

Huawei’s Petal Search app finds third party app stores that house apps banned from Huawei phones

The Entity List placement also means that Huawei cannot work with U.S. firms including app developers. So Huawei’s phones, both inside and outside China, do not give users a selection of popular U.S. based apps to use. For example, in Huawei’s own AppGallery Android app distribution platform, you won’t find apps like Amazon, Snapchat, Speedtest.net, and AccuWeather. But as we pointed out in May, Huawei developed a new search engine called Petal Search. Petal Search will not only list “daily weather forecasts and top news; live sports scores and schedules; video, image, and music searches; and financial news and stock market updates.” When it comes to travel, it will “search millions of hotels worldwide and book rooms; and check flights and travel info for top global destinations.” Petal Search will also “look up local services and businesses with comprehensive directories.” But that isn’t the exciting cool feature. When you open up Petal Search and tap in the name of an app, the search engine looks for the one that you have in mind. If it finds the title in the AppGallery, it will be installed on your Huawei handset. If Petal Search can’t find a listing, it will search for it on third-party app stores. If it finds the app, a simple tap of the Install button will handle the task of downloading it on your phone.

When we first heard about Petal Search, we told you that the idea behind it was to help Huawei customers find and install apps that are blocked due to the U.S. ban. These include Google’s own Android apps and U.S. developed social media and entertainment apps. And now, according to Forbes, Petal Search has become a full-service search engine as well. Petal even got some promotion during last week’s unveiling of the new flagship Mate 40 series.

With the U.S. continuing to be offended by Huawei’s will to survive, the company could end up having to leave the smartphone industry and concentrate on providing an ecosystem to other phone manufacturers. Huawei created its own Mobile Services ecosystem that has over 700 million users, a 32% annual gain from last year. More importantly, the number of app developers registered by Huawei has risen 76% year-over-year to 1.6 million. This is of major importance because the larger the number of developers working on content for HMS, the more of a challenge Huawei becomes to other phone manufacturers.

The main challenge that Huawei has at the current time is finding a foundry that can produce cutting-edge chips without using American-made technology. Back in May, the U.S. Commerce Department changed its export rules preventing foundries like TSMC from shipping chips to Huawei without a special license issued by the U.S. Recently it was discovered that the Chinese manufacturer ordered 15 million units of its 5nm Kirin 9000 chipset but received only 8.8 million of them. The new export rule started to take effect on September 15th.

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