Huawei has quietly launched its own Google Search competitor, born from its recently introduced Petal Search app. Petal Search launched in June 2020 as a way to quickly find apps for a new Huawei phone. It was an important, helpful step toward smoothing the transition from a Google Play- or Apple App Store-equipped phone, to one with Huawei’s Mobile Services (HMS) and the AppGallery store. However, it’s now time for Huawei to show what the app is really all about: It’s the HMS alternative to Google Search.
The Petal Search app now works as a general search engine providing results for regular queries alongside news, images, and videos. You can also use it for shopping and booking flights just like on Google or Bing.
This isn’t a huge surprise. Since losing access to Google Mobile Services (GMS), Huawei has been working on its own replacements for the apps it didn’t already have in its arsenal, such as maps, so a wider search system makes sense.
Huawei has focused on making HMS and the App Gallery relevant to specific local markets since the beginning, so efforts to attract local partners for search fit in with its overall strategy. The priority will be on the news, shopping, travel, and local business results.
Huawei says its own technology will be used in several regions, where its PetalBot will crawl and index the web for results. Elsewhere, other partners will be more heavily involved, with the French search engine Qwant specifically mentioned.
Petal Search has visual and voice search functions, with Huawei already having a visual search tool — HiTouch — in its arsenal. Its extensive artificial intelligence (A.I.) expertise will also be a feature in Petal Search. It’s all accessed through a dedicated app, or as a widget on the home screen, just like Google’s own search bar on an Android phone with GMS.
In the future, Petal Search will be available throughout EMUI, including the pull-down search menu and likely through its Celia virtual assistant. These features will be introduced gradually, with Huawei promising new features arriving each month. On the privacy side, Petal Search’s activities are under the user’s control, plus it’s General Data Protection Regulation-compliant, part of the IWF Safe Search initiative, and also adheres to copyright guidelines. There’s an incognito mode too.
Petal Search is already available on all modern Huawei smartphones, but the full search experience is gradually being launched in particular regions, with Huawei mentioning Spain and Turkey as initial test locations.