The Huawei US trade ban and Google spat explained

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Brian Adam
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Huawei has grown from a network equipment manufacturer into one of the world’s biggest and most recognised consumer electronics brands in a matter of years. It’s now the second biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world, ahead of Apple and behind only Samsung, but there is uncertainty around Huawei’s future due to the US’s trade war with China.

Huawei’s future outside China was looking a little shaky following Google’s decision to comply with President Trump’s ruling over the company, which saw it added to the US trade blacklist. Google even vowed to no longer support Huawei (or sub-brand Honor) phones and tablets, meaning future devices would not be able to run Google apps and services. It’s still possible to ‘sideload’ these Google services onto Huawei devices, but Google itself has warned users not to, citing security risks.

Following Google’s announcement, chip makers such as Intel and Qualcomm were committed to stop supplying parts to Huawei until further notice, also sparking fears for its laptop business.

The US ban was temporarily lifted until 19 August, and since then has seen a series of 90-day extensions. Fast-forward to February 2020 and still no-one seemingly knows the future plan, causing confusion for consumers who are, as a result, much less likely to invest in Huawei products.

Tech Advisor believes the UK (and US) should continue to work with Huawei for seven very important reasons, and only one of those is the fact it makes some fantastic phones and tablets. 

The Huawei Mate 30 Pro went on sale in the UK in February 2020 (via Carphone Warehouse), some five months after its launch. But it still doesn’t include Google apps and services, unlike previous Huawei devices, and the same is true for other upcoming devices like the Mate Xs foldable phone.

Going forward, Huawei appears to have given up on finding some common ground. Last month a Huawei exec confirmed that even if it could install Google apps and services it would not – and, to be fair, it makes sense that Huawei needs to have in place a firm future plan that is not reliant on whether or not the US feels like trusting it.

With that in mind Huawei is teaming up with Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo to create its own alternative to the Google Play store that can run on Chinese Android phones. Though Xiaomi has since added that it has no desire to compete with Android, its single app store will effectively do just that. 

There might be some glimmer of hope though, as Google at least hasn’t given up. In February 2020 the vice president for Google Play and Android, Sameer Samat, told German news agency DPA that the company had applied to the US government for a license to trade with Huawei, potentially opening the door to re-installing Google Play Services on current and future Huawei devices.

There’s no word on when the US might make a decision on the license, but it’s not without precedent – Microsoft was granted a similar license in late 2019, which is why Huawei and Honor laptops are still able to ship with Windows 10 installed.

What this means for existing Huawei and Honor devices

If you’ve already bought a Huawei or Honor phone, tablet or other device that was announced before the trade ban there really is no cause for concern because nothing is about to change: Google is committed to providing continued support for these devices.

It 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 is not clear is whether this will extend to new features, such as those provided in Android 10 and 11.

Though it appears that the relationship may have since soured, Huawei made an official statement on the news of the original ban back in summer 2019: “Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry.

“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 this means for future Huawei and Honor devices

While the above applied to every Huawei or Honor device that is on sale right now, it was less clear what would happen with upcoming devices. With the Mate 30 Pro on sale in the UK without Google services, however, a Google-less future is becoming apparent.

Future devices including the Mate Xs, MatePad Pro 5G tablet, and Honor’s 9X Pro and View 30 Pro will also ship without Google services. It is however likely that Google could be retroactively added into any of these devices if and when Google is ever permitted to trade with Huawei again.

For those who buy into the Huawei and Honor ecosystem there is some relief, and right now it is possible to add Google services to these devices after purchase. We’ve outlined how to add Google apps to the Huawei Mate 30 series in this separate article. 

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