Over 70% of the mobile market share in China belongs to our beloved Android operating system, even though Apple has been gaining ground thanks to aggressively entering the country. Apple’s growth in China is likely to continue as the company is committed to expanding its retail presence in China from 15 to 40 stores within the next two years. These tactics coupled with Google’s absence in China is something that should worry Google.
You see, despite Android’s current dominance in China, your typical Android device sold in China greatly differs from what’s found elsewhere around the globe. Android phones or tablets in China are lacking Google services and applications. Google officially left China back in 2010 following cyber-attacks that were attributed to the Chinese government and all Google services are blocked via The Great Firewall of China, because Google vowed to not censor search results. As a direct result, Android devices in China sport various third-party application stores and services such as Baidu, which includes search, a mobile assistant, cloud storage, a browser, a photo app, and more.
With Apple getting on the aggressive with sales in China and Google not making any money off of Google-less Android devices in China, the Mountain View company needs a plan to enter the Chinese market before it’s too late. Sundar Pichai himself stated last February that China was an important market, included huge opportunities for Google, and he hoped Google would have a chance to offer other services in the future. Perhaps 5 years is enough to time heal cyber-attack and anti-censorship wounds, especially when money is on the line.
According to The Information, Google is in the final stages of forming an agreement with the Chinese government, which would allow a stripped down version of the Google Play Store, that complies with local Chinese laws, to exist. In other words, this Chinese version of Google Play would be void of any apps the Chinese government doesn’t agree with.
The Information also reports that Google has partnerships in place with local Chinese companies to help them achieve these goals. We recently speculated that Google and Huawei’s upcoming Nexus smartphone and Android Wear powered smartwatch could be a gateway for Google returning to mainland China and it seems that this is likely the case.
If the reports are true and Google officially returns to China, they’re still going to have a large uphill battle with various Android OEMs that are already booming with sales and success without Google’s offerings. Google will need to persuade Chinese OEMs into offering Google services and ditch existing partnerships. Besides Huawei, other popular Chinese OEMs include Xiaomi, Oppo, Lenovo, and ZTE. We’ll have to wait and see how many of them team up with Google’s reported reentry into their homeland.