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What does Huawei's Google ban mean for your Huawei or Honor phone?

In case you haven’t heard, Google has had to change the way it deals with Huawei. The Chinese giant has been blacklisted by the US in the latest skirmish of the ongoing trade war.

The order from the US Government essentially means the company can’t buy tech from US firms without its endorsement.

The ruling means that for now Huawei can only use the openly available version of Android – which doesn’t include access to Google apps like Maps and YouTube, the Play Store or Google Assistant.

Google says it is “complying with the order and reviewing the implications” but clearly it isn’t an ideal situation for them either – it would always prefer vendors used Google apps.

So what does that mean for the Huawei device you have in your hand, and what does it mean for the one you might buy next? Let’s investigate.

What does it mean for existing Huawei devices?

Both Google and Huawei have said that existing Huawei devices like the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro will continue to be unaffected. Because Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, the same implications would apply to its handsets, too.

Google is clear on this point: “For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices”.

For its part, Huawei says it “will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those which have been sold or are still in stock globally.”

That much is clear. However “security updates and after sales services” does not include feature updates – so it could mean Android Q features are off the cards for existing Huawei and Honor users. And that has the potential to affect sales of current handsets over the coming months.

What does it mean for imminent devices?

This move is, however, likely to have implications for unreleased devices that haven’t yet been through the Google Play certification process for access to the Play Store and other Google apps. Again, it means that they won’t get feature updates like the update to Android Q.

Huawei’s statement above is very specific, mentioning devices that “have been sold or are still in stock globally”. So anything that is on sale now won’t have an issue. We also think this probably applies to imminently-released handsets such as the Mate 20 X 5G and Honor 20 Pro. They’ll have been through the Google Play certification process already.

Coincidentally, Honor has been in touch to say that its Honor 20 launch is proceeding as planned tomorrow. 

What’s less clear is whether Huawei’s statement covers a device like the Mate X foldable phone. It’s already been announced but won’t be released until the summer. It’s being manufactured as we speak probably, but we wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “in stock” to use Huawei’s phrasing.

What does it mean for future devices?

The current implication of the move by Google is that future Huawei and Honor devices won’t have access to the Google Play Store and other key Google apps. Huawei can still use the open source version of the Android operating system rather than one that’s gone through Google’s certification process.

That means the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro we’re expecting in October won’t have access to Google Play apps as things stand. That would make them very unappealing for many buyers. They may use a Huawei developed operating system which we know it has developed as a backup – but that seems very much a last-ditch scenario.  

Things could get even tricker for Huawei as a result of its trade blacklisting, too, with other suppliers such as Intel and Qualcomm reported to have had to suspend trading with Huawei.

As Huawei can and does develop its own phone hardware, the Qualcomm partnership could be less of a problem, but Intel supplies the chips for Huawei’s laptop line, a market that it was hoping to make an impression on in the UK and Europe as well.

Will this situation continue?

We think a solution to this situation will be found. Often when tech companies have fallen out or had a trade dispute, it usually gets resolved. Look at Apple and Qualcomm’s resolution from just last month.

The variable here is the US Government and, as we’ve seen from the recent past, it doesn’t back down easily. The tensions between the US and China appear to be escalating currently, a situation that won’t be resolved quickly.



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