Android is famous for its fragmentation, but there is another “mini-fragmentation” going on when it comes to its apps. Region lock is something the plagues not just smartphones but even gaming consoles as well and there is also the case of OEM-specific apps that you can’t install on competitor’s phones. At least not without room. VLC’s case, however, might be the first time when an app actually blacklists phones from a specific manufacturer. And it’s all because Huawei might be a bit too aggressive in killing background apps.
This drastic, surprising, and definitely controversial move feels almost like a retaliation from VLC developers VideoLAN. It has been flooded by reviews on the Google Play Store from users complaining about one broken feature. They are complaining about how VLC stops playing in the background, despite its settings, once the screensaver or lock screen starts.
It turns out it only happens on Huawei devices and not because of any shortcoming on VLC’s part. Like some Android phones these days, Huawei implements its own battery optimization system that kills unnecessary background processes except its own. Other OEMs like Samsung also has such a feature but don’t exercise favoritism.
Frustrated by this, VLC developers decided to disallow Huawei phones from finding the app in the Google Play Store. They’re not without recourse, though, because VideoLAN also provides an APK that users can download and manually install on their devices. Of course, that doesn’t come with the same safeguards as Google Play, depending on how much you trust those.
While VideoLAN’s actions may have been prompted by the situation, one can’t help but feel like it is punishing users for Huawei’s actions. Perhaps it is acting in kind based on how users punished it by giving it low ratings for the same Huawei behavior. Sadly, no one wins in this kind of game because both VLC and users lose while Huawei is probably unaffected.