Blocked from using Google services as a result of a ban by the US government, it has been developing its own variations on Android’s open-source version, and its own app store, the AppGallery. Recently, it rolled out its own search engine, Petal Search, which plays the dual role of providing extensive search functionality, and of downloading and verifying apps that are usually only safely available in the Google Play Store.
Petal Search identifies the best download source for the app outside the Play Store and, when the user selects it, scans the app packages to check whether they meet Huawei’s security and compatibility standards. The packages usually come as .apk files, a standard format for Android apps. Once the package passes the check, the user is given a link to download a safe version of the app.
This has, naturally, raised concerns among users regarding just how safe and secure Petal Search is. As a result, Huwaei has spelled out the extensive checks and processes it has built in to the search engine and its ecosystem.
It has given assurances across four distinct categories of browser security:
“Personal data won’t be tracked or analyzed. Cookies won’t be saved. Compliant with GDPR privacy security standards.”
This means that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations, which zealously guard user privacy, is built into the filters Petal Search uses to prevent user data being collected, according to Huawei.
“Add restrictions to filter out illegal content and other age inappropriate content.”
“Content respects copyrights and is provided in cooperation with copyright organizations and in collaboration with new content providers.”
“Data is stored in your region for a more secure experience.”
In short, Huawei has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure compliance with both the principles and regulations of privacy and protection.
When concerns were raised about security issues in the reader forum at Android Central, a Huawei spokesperson offered an official response: “We treat security as the top priority of Petal Search – Find Apps; from solutions of cloud-based security testing in labs to device protection for apps downloaded – to ensure apps are safe. When installing APKs via third parties, our Optimiser will scan for viruses and instantly inform the user of any risks. The Optimiser will also continue to scan regularly to detect any risks as well as keeping users up to date with the quality of the apps running on the HMS device.”
Petal Search is fully integrated with Huawei Mobile Services, meaning it can be used on an HMS phone to find apps, news, videos, images, shopping, flights, and local businesses.
Petal Search has its own app, found in the Tools folder of the Huawei EMUI version of the Android operating system, but is also built into the search bar that appears on the front page of all new Huawei phones. Type in the name of the app, and the search results include both that app and others related to it. Facebook, for example, comes up at the top of a list that includes Twitter and Messenger.
The search window includes half-a-dozen tabs, similar to Google and Bing search, with News, Images, Videos, Apps and Music options.
Petal search results are presented in information cards, as opposed to web links, to give additional information without needing new clicks. The additional tools and functionality built into both the search function and the results cards mean that Petal is experienced as an information ecosystem.