VideoLAN was right to ban Huawei phones from downloading VLC, but it’s users that lose
Huawei is the third-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
Huawei makes a lot of phones — 155 million in 2017, according to IDC. As of July 15, none of those or any other “recent” models from Huawei can download the VLC media player from the Google Play Store because VideoLAN, the developer and publisher of VLC, blacklisted the brand stating Huawei’s software’s “ridiculous policy of killing all background apps” as the reason.
PSA: @HuaweiMobile phones are now blacklisted and cannot get VLC on the Play Store.Their ridiculous policy of killing all background apps (except their own) breaks VLC audio background playback (of course).See https://t.co/QzDW7KbV4I and many other reports…@HuaweiFr
— VideoLAN (@videolan) July 25, 2018
It’s important to note that VideoLAN has still allowed for the VLC app to be downloaded directly from its website and sideloaded on all these Huawei phones. It’s also worth reading the entire Twitter thread to see shocking behavior from whoever is running VideoLAN’s account, including the sentiment that users installing malware is less important than VLC receiving “bad notes” which I assume means poor reviews — VideoLAN is a French company and web translation apps are horrible.
Google also will restrict background use of an app with Android P — after you say it’s OK to do so.
Huawei’s version of Android has a bad habit of aggressively killing off applications that want to run in the background, even those that follow all the rules and best practices. Since VLC is primarily a music player, it will spend much of its time in the background playing music. On Huawei phones, it can’t because it gets killed off.
A few things to get out of the way. Regarding the LGPL: VideoLAN is not violating the license by restricting the usage of an application covered under it. It is restricting the distribution by removing the ability to install from Google Play, but users of Huawei phones are still able to download and install the app manually. It’s also important, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, to understand that VideoLAN is a volunteer group and VLC is an open source project that makes no money.
This whole thing is a bit crazy. On one hand, you have Huawei, which is a billion-dollar business that can’t seem to build Android correctly according to Google’s rules. VLC runs the correct background service APIs and is a completely normal Android app. Huawei kills it because it’s not whitelisted by the company.
On another hand, you have VideoLAN, which used the nuclear option and blocked millions and millions of phones from downloading VLC through Google Play. Finally, you have disgruntled users who think VideoLAN should be educating users how to fix what Huawei purposefully breaks — even though VideoLAN is a not-for-profit company consisting solely of volunteers.
Huawei is shipping broken phones. Google is certifying them for use of the Play Store. You are getting the short end of their stick.
Huawei, fix your shit. That needs to be said before anything else and loudly. At least stop killing apps that hold audio focus if you insist on breaking Android. We should also wonder why Google allows them to do so and still certifies these devices for the Play Store …
But this isn’t about a poor user experience. This is about ratings in Google Play. When a large number of users who downloaded your app are asked to rate how much they liked it on a scale of one to five, and that app doesn’t work as expected, the rating is going to plummet. I know about VLC and VideoLAN, as do many of you reading this. But others who don’t will look at the app rating to help them decide if they should give it a try. I’ve looked at ratings for apps I didn’t know anything about and you probably have too. Those ratings mean something. Even if you think VideoLAN jumped the gun here and did things a bit prematurely (I do) you can’t blame them for doing it. They had no choice.
The good news is that after failed attempts at a resolution, Huawei and VideoLAN may soon reach some sort of solution. The bad news is that any solution that comes from Huawei will take months to reach your phone.
We finally got an answer from Huawei.We hope to find a solution on this, in the next few weeks… https://t.co/8YWU3uHBvZ
— VideoLAN (@videolan) July 26, 2018
Just another week in Android land.