In Depth

Google blocks Huawei’s Android licence: how the veto affects smartphone owners

Decision comes after Donald Trump declared US national emergency over fears of IT attacks by ‘foreign adversaries’

Huawei is facing another major blow after losing its Android licence – a move that may have serious implications for the Chinese tech giant’s smartphone business. 

Google has announced that it will no longer transfer “hardware, software and technical services” to Huawei’s mobile devices, Reuters reports. The only exception will be services available to the public through an open-source licence.

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone maker in the world after Samsung, and like most other devices makers, uses Google’s Android software to underpin the software of its phones.

The US search giant’s Huawei veto comes a week after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over fears that his nation’s IT infrastructure could come under attack from “foreign adversaries”.

Trump has signed an executive order that blocks US telecoms firms from using technology provided by foreign nations that may pose security risks, including Huawei and 70 of its suppliers. 

The move follows claims that the Chinese tech firm “may be obliged to spy for Beijing and steal trade secrets”, allegations which Huawei denies, The Daily Telegraph reports. 

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson said this week.  

How will Huawei owners be affected?

A Google representative told Reuters that the firm’s Google Play app store and Google Play Protect anti-malware system will continue to function “on existing Huawei devices”.

As such, Google app updates will still be available on these handsets, including older Google Nexus smartphones that use technology from the Chinese firm, according to the Telegraph.

However, the phonemaker’s future devices will not run on Android. 

Instead, Huawei will move over to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), a simpler version of Google’s mobile operating system that is open to the public, The Verge reports.

That means Huawei will be unable to distribute updates to its future mobiles until they have become available on AOSP.

The Android ban could also mean that future Huawei phones may not feature Google Maps, Chrome and YouTube, says the BBC.

And, in a significant setback for existing Huawei users, phones such as the last year’s Mate 20 Pro and the new P30 Pro won’t be compatible with Google’s new Android Q operating system, the Daily Express adds.

What does the block mean for Huawei?

Huawei had begun laying the groundwork for a shift away from the Android operating system even before the licence suspension was announced. 

In March, Huawei product chief Richard Yu told German newspaper Die Welt that the company had a “plan B” for such an eventuality, The Guardian reports. 

“We have prepared our own operating system”, said Yu. “Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared.”

That said, the firm still relies on US-made technology for its smartphones, so Trump’s executive order is likely to cause further headaches.

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