The US-China trade battle is finally coming for your smartphone. Google is going to block Huawei from using Android apps on its devices.The tech giant has pulled Huawei’s license following an executive order by US president Donald Trump which aims to ban the Chinese company’s equipment from US networks.
Huawei’s phones are unavailable to buy in the US following concerns by the US government of the company’s links to the Chinese government, so a ban of this nature won’t really affect US consumers. Instead, it’s more likely to have an effect in the UK and Europe, some of Huawei’s biggest phone markets.
Ben Wood, mobile industry analyst at CSS Insights, called the news “alarming” on Twitter. “Being unable to get support from Google for Android updates and apps would be highly problematic for Huawei’s consumer devices business,” he wrote.
What is the future of Huawei in relation to this ban?
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.
That means anything from the recent Huawei P30 range release, the upcoming Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, and previous devices are all fine.
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.
Huawei phones not affected by the Google ban
- Huawei P30: P30 Pro, P30, P30 Lite
- Huawei P Smart
- Huawei Mate 20: Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20, Mate 20 Lite, Mate 20 X
- Huawei P20: P20 Pro, P20, P20 Lite
- Huawei Mate 10: Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Mate 10 Lite
- Huawei P10: P10 Plus, P10, P10 Lite
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 last week, 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.
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.