Smartphones from Xiaomi will, from now on, be shipping to users outside China with the phone and messages applications from Google, instead of those from the company’s own internal software division.
Xiaomi has traditionally shipped its devices everywhere with its own apps for things like messages, contacts, phone/dialer, camera and other experiences. This, while not going down with those among us that are Android purists, has been pretty much standard practice for most Android device makers.
However, in recent days, the Chinese phone maker has softened its stance on pushing the components of its own software experience, MIUI, by shipping newer devices with Google’s messaging application pre-installed and as the main and only messaging app. The same has been the case for the dialer application.
In 2020 and beyond, the company is expanding that to include all the global variants of its devices i.e. those meant for the international market. The company won’t even provide their MIUI equivalents.
While Android device makers sticking with their own variations of apps and services that are also offered by Google, and which they have to bundle because of Google’s licensing terms, is nothing new, there has been a movement for the longest time to push them to stop duplicating services. For instance, you will find that most device makers provide their own custom mobile web browser alongside the Chrome browser they have to bundle because it is part of the Google mobile services.
As far as we are concerned, there have been a few wins. Huawei, for instance, now ships its devices (at least for those not affected by last year’s ban) with Android Messages, Google’s messaging app, as the main – and only – messaging app. The same is true of the likes of Tecno and Infinix which have ditched their own custom messaging apps for Google’s.
Others, like Samsung, still insist on bundling their own messaging app in addition to Android Messages.
Xiaomi’s move is informed by the stringent data protection and privacy laws being enacted and passed in various regions around the world.
In May last year, Europe’s data protection laws, GDPR, took effect. A few days ago, at the start of this new year, California’s data law, CCPA, also went into effect (even though Xiaomi doesn’t officially sell its devices anywhere in the US).
Instead of opting for Google services where possible, Huawei’s own way of countering this has been to transfer its mobile app store, App Gallery, and cloud service, Huawei Cloud, to a European subsidiary for users outside China.