Google is suspending some business with Huawei, and this could impact the future of Android on smartphones made by the Chinese company and its sub-brand, Honor. The news was first reported by Reuters Monday. Neither Google nor Huawei has issued a detailed official statement.
What has Google done?
According to Reuters, Google has suspended business that “requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services” with Huawei. Everything is impacted, except features available via open source licencing. In effect, Google has cancelled Huawei’s Android licence.
Google acted after the Donald Trump administration added Huawei to a trade blacklist that bars American companies from doing business with blacklisted companies without “explicit approval” from the government. “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” Google said in a statement.
What happens to people who have Huawei phones?
Unless Huawei is taken off the “Entity List”, there is a good chance its phones will not be able to run Android’s proprietary services and apps like Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome in the future. While Android will continue to work for now, it is unclear what happens next — including whether existing Huawei phones will ever get an Android update again. Android has monthly security updates and yearly operating system updates.
Huawei can still use Android from the Android Open Source Project, but proprietary services cannot be accessed without a commercial licence from Google. Future Huawei phones may not come with Google and Android services.
Google’s Android account tweeted: “For Huawei users’ questions regarding our steps to comply with the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US govt requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”
But again, Play Store and Play Protect are proprietary services, and Google has not said what will happen in the future. Access to Play Store is an important part of the Android experience, and is crucial for Huawei in markets outside China. In China, Google and its services are banned, so Huawei phones there are unlikely to be impacted.
What has Huawei said on the situation?
A spokesperson for the company 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. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”
What it did not confirm was whether existing Huawei phones would be updated to the next version of Android, and whether future phones would run the operating system.
Huawei phones also run EMUI, the company’s own OS, on top of Android. It comes its own unique user interface and personalised apps. This is a common approach in the Android world — companies often add their own user interface to Android, although the core Google services are part of all devices.
Senior Huawei executive Richard Yu recently told the German daily Die Welt that the company was preparing its “own operating system”.
“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,” he said.
How will Huawei be impacted?
In the first quarter of 2019, Huawei became the world’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. According to numbers from research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), Huawei is ahead of Apple, behind only Samsung in the list of smartphone vendors. The company saw a year-over-year growth of 50.3% in the quarter, with 59.1 million units being shipped. Canalys, another big research form, said 50.6% of Huawei’s shipments were in China; the rest in international markets.
Huawei’s flagship phones, P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, have got excellent reviews. Honor is a more affordable, mid-range brand. The new Honor 20 series is coming this week.
“Globally, of course, it (Google’s action) will have a major impact since almost half of its (Huawei’s) business comes from outside China, especially from the many markets in Europe. In India, they have never been able to scale up to be a major player. Huawei and Honor together have around 4.5% of the market share in India. But this does put a spanner in Huawei’s possible aggressive plans for India as the growth market in the next 2-3 years outside of China,” Navkendar Singh, Research Director, Devices and Ecosystem, India and South Asia, IDC, told The Indian Express.
Canalysis said in a statement that “Google services and Android OS are still critical to consumers in international markets”, and “losing Google’s mobile services will be detrimental to Huawei’s smartphone business”.
Bloomberg reported that Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc, Xilinx Inc, and Broadcom Inc, too, have also said they won’t be supplying Huawei until further notice.
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