Huawei, a Chinese company that sells far more smartphones in Asia than it does in the West, has tapped a former Apple designer to reportedly lead a team in Scandinavia working on a refresh of its phones' software so that it can be more competitive in the United States.
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That geographical juggernaut, according to The Information, came about because Huawei is concerned about the dominance of Google's Android operating system. Like most smartphone manufacturers, Huawei has designed its own skin, or customized Android look. But that skin is often referred to as an iOS ripoff, and its UI layer is heavy with background processes, which slows the phones' performance.
So last fall, Huawei brought in Abigail Brody, a former Apple software designer, to overhaul the skin. She is also reportedly leading a design team made up of former Nokia engineers in Scandinavia "to hedge its bets against Google's control of Android," The Information reports. Huawei has offices in Norway and an R&D center in Sweden.
The company is not the first Chinese manufacturer to be concerned about Android hegemony. Three years ago, a research group backed by smartphone makers and the Chinese government argued that the Chinese mobile market has perhaps become too reliant on the search giant's mobile OS.
The report pointed to discrimination on Google's part when it comes to the sharing of code and commercial agreements. It also pointed out that the lack of an effective patent system in China combined with Android's huge app ecosystem leave little incentive for companies to develop alternative OSes.
Google has also tangled with one of its biggest Android partners: Samsung. In 2013, amidst tension between the two firms, Google signed a deal with Samsung to have it more prominently feature Google's suite of apps on its mobile devices. Samsung has its own Linux-based Tizen OS, which powers some of its wearable devices, but has thus far stuck with Android for its flagship smartphones.
Google's mobile dominance has not gone unnoticed by regulators. In April, the European Commission formally filed charges against Google for anti-competitive behavior related to its Android operating system. The FTC is also reportedly investigating the search giant's Android business.
Huawei's own mobile OS won't change anything immediately, as The Information reports that efforts to develop it are still in their infancy. In the meantime, the company will continue to manufacture Google's Nexus phones for sale in the US and other countries.