October 22, 2020

Let’s explain that weird Google app disclosure on the Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro box

Google helped explain to us why Xiaomi is now disclosing that it uses Google apps on its box art.

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Android Disclosure 1

The Xiaomi Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro are now making their way to buyers around the world. If you look at the image above, you’ll see some new branding language on the box art of the Mi 10 Pro. It says, “With easy access to the Google apps you use most.”

At first, this might seem like a not-so-subtle dig at fellow Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei. As most Android fans know by now, Huawei is barred from using technology sourced from US-based firms in its products, which means it can’t ship smartphones with Google apps. This complicates Huawei’s ability to sell smartphones outside of China, as most buyers expect to be able to use Google apps as soon as they start up the phone.

Since Xiaomi is also a Chinese company, it seemed like the “Google apps you use most” statement was a way the company came up with on its own to communicate to buyers that Xiaomi is not also barred from working with US-based firms (which it isn’t). That’s what it seemed like, anyway.

Social media statements on Google apps

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Android Disclosure 2

When people started asking about this on social media, Xiaomi unexpectedly chimed in to say that it was actually Google that pushed the branding onto the Mi 10 Pro box art. On Chinese microblogging site Weibo, the company explained that it had signed a new “cooperation agreement” (translated from Chinese) with Google that required the Google apps disclosure on its new phones.

Since we have several smartphone boxes from multiple manufacturers laying around, and none of them have this branding on it, it seemed like Xiaomi’s statement was accurate. We haven’t seen this branding before because, as Xiaomi explained, it’s a new requirement and Xiaomi is the first to abide by it.

However, we reached out to Google directly for an explanation. The company explained to us that the branding isn’t a new requirement, but rather a suggested guideline that’s existed for a long time. If that’s true, though, then why don’t boxes from other OEMs also have this Google apps statement on the front?

Google explains the branding statement

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro Android Disclosure 3

According to Google’s explanation, the “With easy access to the Google apps you use most” branding is suggested if OEMs add more apps to their devices than required to meet GMS statutes. For example, an app like Gmail is part of the prime GMS suite, but an app like Google Keep isn’t. If an OEM decides to go above and beyond the GMS requirements and include other apps that aren’t essential, Google kindly suggests that the OEM include the “With easy access…” branding. This, in Google’s view, helps consumers know the difference between a phone with just the bare minimum of Google on board and ones that go the extra distance.

That’s why you don’t see this branding much: Google hasn’t and currently doesn’t require it, so most OEMs don’t bother.

If this is all true, why did Xiaomi’s previous Weibo statement suggest that it was Google that “forced” the company to add the unique branding via a new contract? Well, that is up to interpretation at this point, but a new statement from Xiaomi tells a bit of a different story:

This line on our Mi 10 series packaging box is consistent with Google’s long-standing branding guidelines, intended to help ensure consumers are properly informed of the software on the device.

This explanation makes much more sense and lines up with what Google told Android Authority in our discussions. It’s possible there was simply some translation errors with Xiaomi’s previous Weibo statement, which used the word “requirements” and described how all OEMs going forward will need to disclose this information on their promotional materials. However, it does seem fishy that Xiaomi said one thing last week and is now saying another thing today.

Related: Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro hands-on: Killer specs at a high price

Regardless, you can likely expect this “With easy access to the Google apps you use most” branding to appear on more promotional materials from various companies, especially those based in China. Since the optional branding is supported by Google and could easily be construed by the uninformed consumer that it’s about Google apps in general — and not just the “extra” ones added on top of the usual GMS apps — it helps prevent buyers from worry that they are buying one of those other Chinese phones that don’t have Google apps on board.

One thing is for certain: Huawei phones won’t have the “With easy access…” branding on any of its devices any time soon.

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