Huawei losing access to Android after US trade ban

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019

Huawei losing access to Android after US trade ban

In a move that could send reverberations across the mobile ecosystem, Google has cut off Chinese telecoms vendor Huawei’s access to Android for new smartphones and other devices.

Google was responding to the US Commerce Department formally adding Huawei to the list of entities that US companies are not allowed to trade with unless they first obtain a licence.

This list was created after US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to give him the powers to prohibit US companies from using telecommunications equipment from vendors suspected of posing a national security risk.

In the wake of the decision, multiple Huawei suppliers including Google, as well as chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom, announced they will stop trading with Huawei in compliance with the order.

Google had initially indicated that it plans to cut off all access to Android for Huawei, including providing updates to existing devices. But the Commerce Department has subsequently issued a 90-day reprieve allowing US companies to continue trading with Huawei, but only to help service and maintain existing products.

This means Huawei will be able to continue providing Android updates to customers until August, but will likely not be able to launch new Android devices — including potentially its upcoming Huawei Mate X foldable smartphone.

The decision is a potentially devastating blow for Huawei, but the company has been preparing for such an eventuality and working on alternative options. Huawei will still be able to access the open-source version of Android after the ban — although this would mean losing access to the Play store and Google’s range of services.

The company has also been working on its own operating system for some time — HongMeng OS — that has at least some degree of Android compatibility, and recently developed its own app store, the App Gallery, as a potential alternative to Google Play.

But the prohibition on doing business with US companies would mean that the alternative store would lack banner applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Despite the challenges ahead, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei has downplayed the potential impact of the trade ban, telling Japanese media that the company’s growth “may slow, but only slightly”.

In an official statement, the company has also pledged to continue providing security updates and aftersales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products that have been sold or are still in stock globally.

According to Huawei Australia Director of Corporate Affairs Jeremy Mitchell, this means the impact of the decision on existing Huawei smartphone users should be minimal.

“We want to assure Huawei customers in Australia that the US actions involving Google will not impact consumers with a Huawei smartphone or tablet, or those that are planning to buy a Huawei device in the near future from an Australian retail outlet,” he said.

“Australian consumers will be able to continue using Google services like Google Play and Gmail on their Huawei phones as they normally would. Google Android updates will continue to be provided for Huawei EMUI and Google apps will not be affected.”

Huawei is Australia’s third-biggest smartphone provider, with a market share of around 6%. According to reports, while a number of Huawei smartphone owners have been inquiring about whether they are entitled to refunds under Australian law in the wake of the decision, consumers would not qualify as the smartphones are still operational.

Image credit: © Lund

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