Chinese smartphone maker Huawei is in hot water with western governments. The powers that be have accused the second biggest mobile maker in the world of spying and having close ties with the Chinese government, something Huawei strongly denies.
As a result, the US has effectively banned American companies from using the firm’s equipment in its telecommunications infrastructure. This has led to Google cutting off Huawei’s license to use Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system.
So what does this mean if you have a Huawei smartphone? Read on, and we’ll explain all.
Amid rising tensions concerning an ongoing trade war between the two nations, the US is taking aim on Chinese companies. President Trump recently signed an executive order giving the federal government the power to block US companies from buying foreign-made telecommunications equipment deemed to be a national security risk.
The order doesn’t name any individual companies. But it’s widely seen as a move against Huawei, the Chinese firm accused of having close ties to its native government.
America’s argument is that the Chinese government could force companies like Huawei to install backdoors in its equipment to spy on mobile networks. Huawei denies this could happen.
This isn’t the first time the US has singled out the firm. Previously, the FBI and CIA warned US citizens not to use phones made by Huawei or fellow Chinese company ZTE due to spying fears. The US and China are also currently engulfed in a trade war, which has been raising tension significantly in recent months.
Why has Google banned Huawei from Android?
Following this executive order, Google cut off Huawei’s license to use Android. Google says it’s just complying with the executive order and is “reviewing the implications”.
In other words, Google will stop providing Huawei with technical support and collaborative efforts for Android and Google services.
That means Huawei has now been restricted to using the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Huawei phones will still run Android, but they won’t be able to access mainstay Google apps and services that you would expect to see on an Android phone.
It also impacts on the phones’ security. Huawei will only be able to release security updates for Android once they’re available in AOSP. Typically, these come much later to AOSP, which could be worrying when it comes to security updates. However, Huawei has confirmed that its devices will remain safe from malware and security bugs.
In a statement, the Chinese firm 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.”
What does it mean for Huawei customers?
At the moment, not much. Google has confirmed that the Google Play Store and Android’s security features will continue to be available on existing Huawei devices at least until 19th August. That’s when a temporary license that was granted to Huawei by the US government will expire.
It’s more likely to impact on future devices Huawei releases. These could lose access to key Google apps like Google Maps, Gmail and the Play Store. Potentially affected devices include the Huawei Mate 30, which is due for release in October.
Which Huawei handsets won’t be affected by the Android ban?
At the moment, the ban doesn’t affect any existing Huawei handsets. So for reference, that includes:
- Huawei P30 Pro, P30 and P30 Lite
- Huawei P Smart
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20, Mate 20 Lite and Mate 20X
- Huawei P20 Pro, P20 and P20 Lite
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10 and Mate 10 Lite
- Huawei P10 Plus, P10 and P10 Lite
How have UK mobile networks reacted?
Following the news, EE announced it would yank the upcoming Huawei Mate 20X 5G, Huawei’s first 5G phone, from its line-up. Vodafone, which uses Huawei equipment in its 4G infrastructure, also cancelled an event concerning its 5G rollout.
Does Huawei have its own operating system?
Yes it does. Huawei has created its own operating system called HarmonyOS, which does a really good job of delivering an excellent smartphone experience.
It also has its own app store called the Huawei App Gallery and a search engine called Petal Search, both of which work very well. However, because of the ban that affects some of the world's most popular apps, you won't be able to download apps like Facebook, YouTube or Gmail.
Having said that, Huawei is working with app developers across the globe and is adding more apps to its store all the time.
We had a chat with Anson Zhang, CEO of the consumer devision at Huawei, to find out a bit more about what Huawei's App Gallery has to offer. He said: "We are working with all the (food and banking apps) and we already have some of them onboard... Banking apps are a little bit more complex than other apps and that is the reason why it's taking longer. But in the near future, you'll see more apps in the Huawei App Gallery".
Is this the same as the Huawei 5G ban?
No, the Huawei 5G ban that will come into effect on 31st December 2020 is not connected to the Google ban, nor will it have an impact on your Huawei devices.
The 5G ban that the UK government has implemented is related to the equipment Huawei supplies to help mobile networks build their 5G infrastructure.
The government has now decided that all Huawei 5G equipment must be removed by 2027.
Again, this won’t make a difference to your Huawei devices, like smartphones and tablets, and you can continue using them as normal.
Find out more about the Huawei 5G ban here