It’s been a few weeks since Google pulled Android support for future Huawei phones following an executive order by US President Trump but Huawei appears to be unaffected by the Google ban.
“Anyone who has already bought or is about to buy a Huawei smartphone can continue to access the world of apps as they have always done. All devices continue to be covered by our manufacturer’s warranty and will receive full-service support accordingly,” says the statement.
This means the recent P30 and Mate 20 range will receive the Android Q update when it comes out in October.
However, there are concerns that the next round of Huawei phones will not be Android devices.
Here’s what the Huawei ban could mean for you and the future of smartphones.
What is the Google Huawei ban about?
The Chinese tech giant has been accused by President Trump’s administration of stealing trade secrets, fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran, claims which have led the US president to ban Huawei’s equipment from US networks in an effort to protect national security.
As a result, Google was forced to pull Huawei’s Android license.
Other companies are affected by the executive order, including chip designers ARM and Qualcomm.
What does the Google Huawei ban mean for Huawei phone owners?
At the moment, Huawei phones run on Google’s Android mobile operating system (OS), the base code which the phones run on. Huawei then adds what is called a “skin” on top of the standard Android user interface, essentially adding its own spin on Android.
Right now, this ban shouldn’t mean anything. Google has said the Google Play Store, the Android app store through which Android device owners get their links to the outside world, and the security features which come with Android, will continue to be available on existing Huawei devices.
However, it looks like anything the company releases in the future, such as the upcoming Mate 30 range, which is slated for an October release, could lose access to crucial Android services, including Google Play, Maps and the Gmail app.
The US government had previously temporarily eased some of the restrictions on Huawei which means for the next three months, the company is allowed to purchase US-made goods and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets.
Google hasn’t published an update to its statement released in May, so it seems like your current Huawei device is safe for now. But for new Huawei devices, trouble is already starting to emerge.
In particular, if you were thinking about buying the new Honor 20 device, released by Huawei’s millennial-focused brand Honor, you might want to reconsider. According to a report in Bloomberg, Huawei may end up pulling shipments of the device if sales are poor, following the US government blacklist.
As well, the company is forecasting that it may see a drop in smartphone shipments, from a predicted 60 million down to 40 million.
Does this mean Huawei phones won’t be Android phones?
Not exactly. Any company that designs and builds a phone can use Android’s mobile operating system because of its open source nature.
However, this move means Google is no longer going to provide technical support and collaboration for Android and Google services to Huawei.
As well, Android updates only come to the open-source version a lot later than the licensed one. This is particularly concerning when it comes to security updates. For instance, in the case of the WhatsApp spyware issues a few weeks ago, phone owners were encouraged to update their device’s software to ensure they were safe from an attack of this nature.
Not being able to access the most recent Android security updates could have implications for Huawei phone owners.
In a statement, Huawei said: “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.”
The company does have a back-up plan. Huawei’s head of consumer, Richard Yu, told the German publication Die Welt back in March that it had been working on its own operating system, should it ever come to this.
Then again, Huawei’s Android skin, EMUI, isn’t the easiest phone interface to use already so who knows what a Huawei phone would be like to use, completely devoid of Android.
In the meantime, there have been a wealth of other Android phones released in 2019 already to try.
When will the ban come into force?
Huawei has been given a three-month respite before the ban on it using US tech comes into force, which should be around August time. However, Google is reportedly asking the the Trump administration to delay the ban because of security risks.
Google is apparently concerned about the risks posed to Google users who use Huawei phones without the trademark Android software.
Google isn’t alone in wanting to delay the ban. Trump’s acting budget chief has also asked to delay the restrictions for two years: “to ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition without compromised desired security objectives.”
In response to the allegations, Huawei is preparing to file a lawsuit against the US government to “halt illegal action” against it, calling the restrictions on their equipment an attempt to put it out of business. The outcome of this lawsuit could also affect what happens with the ban.
What does this mean for Huawei and 5G?
Back in February at the annual Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Huawei announced its first 5G smartphone would be the Mate 20 X 5G. It followed up with an event last week in London to unveil the device officially and the networks it would be available on, including O2, Three and EE.
However, since the Google/Android debacle, EE has revealed it is pulling the Huawei 5G phone from its device line-up. Marc Allera, the chief executive of EE, said the company has “paused” the launch of Huawei’s 5G phones, following the unsure circumstances around the company.
Already, this demonstrates the effect the license ban is having on Huawei after only a few days.
This could affect the future of smartphones
Huawei is championed as one of the most innovative smartphone brands, often showcasing its design and technical prowess at various keynote events around the world.
This is how the company has managed to go from a largely obscure Chinese brand to one of the biggest phone makers in the world, selling 59.1 million phones in the first quarter of 2019.
This ban will have implications for Huawei in terms of how consumers trust the company or even want to use and buy the phones.
It also has implications for the future of smartphone design. Take, for instance, the Huawei Mate X, the company’s folding phone. Google has been working with both Huawei and Samsung to create the next version of Android that works well on folding phones.
By ending this close relationship, future smartphone design will certainly be affected.
All the companies that have paused working with Huawei so far
Google isn’t the only tech company distancing itself from Huawei.
Since the Android block last week, other companies have paused their working relationship with the Chinese conglomerate, including chip designers ARM and Qualcomm, SD Association and the Wi-Fi Alliance, which all has implications for the way Huawei makes and designs its phones.
Subscribe to Women Tech Charge, a new podcast from the Evening Standard.
From fashion to finance, technology is revolutionising our lives. Meet the extraordinary women who are leading the charge.