The new platform is said to include Huawei, the world’s No.2 mobile phone vendor which has been shut out from Google’s mobile services last year. Xiaomi, one of the members of the new alliance, has denied Huawei’s involvement.

A four-member club of major smartphone makers has been set up in China to create a digital distribution service that would take on Google Play, the go-to app store used on most Android devices, Reuters reports.

It is claimed that this club, called the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA), includes Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

Together, these companies accounted for 40.1 percent of global mobile phone shipments and 77.4 percent of the Chinese market in Q4 2019, according to figures from the research consultancy IDC.

The GDSA aims to provide a platform for its members to simultaneously upload apps and other content, such as music and movies, in all countries it covers.

Its website, still in beta, says the platform’s services already cover “nine countries and regions such as India, Indonesia, Russia and Malaysia”.

Its stated goal is to provide “one-stop services including content distribution, development support, marketing operation, brand promotion and traffic monetisation to global developers”.

Industry sources told Reuters that the service was initially scheduled to launch in March this year, but the recent outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus in China could delay the plans.

Analysts suggest that the GDSA could attract app developers because it would be easier for them to market their products there than in Google’s already-crowded store.

It remains to be seen how the firms will maintain a balance of power in their alliance.

Notably, the GDSA prototype website does not appear to contain any mention of Huawei, contradicting Reuters’ report. Xiaomi has also denied that Huawei is involved and that the GSA aims to act as a competitor to Google Play. The other three companies declined to comment.

Huawei could have an interest in developing its own platform after the Trump administration banned the firm from buying products and services from American companies, citing espionage allegations that Huawei rejects. This means that – unlike Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi – Huawei’s new phones don’t have Google apps like Play Store, YouTube, Maps or Google Assistant.

The company has been working on its own app ecosystem to replace Google apps and has been developing its own operating system, Harmony OS, to cut reliance on the Google-owned operating system Android.