The top 10 Chinese smartphone vendors, including Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Corp, joined hands on Tuesday to promote technical standards for "fast apps," which are designed to compete against Tencent Holdings Ltd's mini programs.
The move came after Tencent's mini programs lured a significant part of revenue away from smartphone companies' app stores.
This is also part of the hardware makers' broader push to wrestle with software companies for control over user data, the big prize in the emerging era of artificial intelligence.
Fast apps allow mobile phone users to scan a quick response code and access a vast number of services such as bike-sharing and food-ordering, without the need to download separate applications.
But unlike mini programs that are built into Tencent's WeChat ecosystem, fast apps are directly linked to the mobile operating systems of phones, which means they are under control of smartphone vendors.
Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, ZTE, Gionee, Lenovo, Meizu, OnePlus and Nubia said on Tuesday that they will make a joint push to promote the development of fast apps.
As the technical standards are finalized, software programmers can develop fast apps that are compatible with the mobile operating systems of the smartphone makers.
He Guili, vice-president of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, said more efforts are needed to promote open-source software rather than embrace a closed cyber world.
Chinese handset vendors have all rolled out their own versions of app stores and charge commissions for download of applications. Application developers also tend to pay smartphone companies to have their apps preinstalled with mobile phones to expand possible usage.
But with the popularity of WeChat's mini programs, consumers don't have to download apps to access services such as meal-ordering and buying movie tickets, which harms smartphone companies' revenue.
Xiang Ligang, a smartphone expert and CEO of telecom industry website Cctime, said this is a push by smartphone vendors to fight for their future cash cow. App-related revenue will constitute an increasingly larger proportion of smartphone companies' overall sales.