Huawei Google ban: What does the international argument actually mean for my phone?

Decision could have huge implications for Chinese company – but also for its users

Anthony Cuthbertson
Thursday 30 May 2019 10:58 BST
Google blocks Huawei phones from Android updates after Trump blacklisting

The rising tension between the US and Chinese phone maker Huawei has resulted in a major ruling that could be devastating for both the tech giant and its customers.

After being placed on a list by the US government that bans US companies from doing business with it, Huawei will now be restricted from using key technology that powers its smartphones.

The most significant of Huawei’s US business dealings is with Google, the developer of the Android mobile operating system.

This could have huge implications for owners of Huawei smartphones and tablets, as well as anyone hoping to buy a Huawei device in the future.

As the world’s second biggest smartphone maker, the consequences for Huawei’s business could be catastrophic.

Why did Google strip Huawei of its Android licence?

Google was forced into suspending Huawei’s Android license following a move by the US government to list the Chinese tech giant among firms that US companies are banned from doing business with.

The ruling by the Trump administration stems from concerns that Huawei has ties to the Chinese state.

Some claim such ties could allow China to spy on the US and other foreign powers through secret backdoors built into Huawei products and services, though no evidence of this has been formally presented.

Given the amount of business the US firm is set to lose as a result of the ruling, Google is likely to do all it can to have it overturned.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson said. “For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

What does this mean for Huawei smartphone users?

Google says that anyone who already owns a Huawei smartphone will be largely unaffected, as they will still be able to download app and software updates - at least for the next three months. On 19 August, a temporary license granted to Huawei by the US government will expire.

Users will also lose the ability to install future versions of the Android operating system.

“Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those have been sold or still in stock globally,” a Huawei spokesperson told The Independent.

“We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”

The Trump administration is weary of Chinese multinational telecommunications manufacturer Huawei (AFP/Getty)

But this will not be the case for future versions of Huawei smartphones, which will lose access to popular Google apps like Maps and YouTube.

The suspension will also mean owners of new Huawei phones will not be able to download any apps using the Google Play store.

Will Huawei’s smartphone business survive without Google?

Huawei says it has been preparing for this eventuality by building its own technology that is not reliant on US tech giants.

Chief executive Richard Yu said in an interview last year that it has a backup plan should it ever be cut off from the likes of Google and Microsoft.

“We have prepared our own operating system,” he told German publication Die Welt. “Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared.That’s our plan B but of course we prefer to work with the ecosystems of Google and Microsoft.”

After the Trump administration placed Huawei on its “entity list” last week, Huawei executive Ren Zhengfei reiterated this in comments to Japanese media.

“We have already been preparing for this,” he said.

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