Updated: Aug 18
This article will be updated below as new developments are announced.
Update 29/6/2019: US President Donald Trump has announced at G20 Summit 2019 that the ban on Huawei has been lifted, and that Huawei will be allowed to purchase US products again for the time being.
Update 25/5/2019: Huawei has also lost access to the Wi-Fi Alliance and the SD Association, meaning future phones won’t be able to support microSD cards but will still be able to use Wi-Fi, albeit being uncertified. There’s no news yet about the Bluetooth SIG’s plans.
Update 22/5/2019: Panasonic has also announced their decision to halt business with Huawei due to the fact that some components they sell are manufactured in the USA.
Update 22/5/2019: the BBC has reported that UK-based chip designer ARM has stopped business dealings with Huawei. ARM licenses out their chip architecture designs for companies to build on, like Huawei’s Kirin processors. This ban would result in Huawei not being able to develop their own mobile chips.
Update 21/5/2019, the US Commerce Department has announced that it will be providing a rollback of Trump’s executive order by 90 days for Huawei to continue maintaining existing networks and provide phone updates for its users. This will last until 19 August 2019, before the executive order takes full effect.
With Huawei scrambling to get their footing after the announcement that Google and other companies will no longer be supplying parts and services, what are the biggest changes that Huawei phone users will be experiencing, and should you be rushing to sell your phone too?
Luckily, nothing huge will happen to current Huawei phone users at this very moment. Google has announced that current Huawei phones will still have access to the Google Play app store and security protections from Google Play Protect, but this begs the question, how long will this access last for? Apps get frequent patches, and an un-updated app poses a major security risk for users.
Even more pressing is the fact that Google’s Android Q and Android Pie is most likely no longer going to be available as OS updates. Apart from the aforementioned security risks, OS updates also offer better battery efficiency and new features.
Future devices will also lose access to services like Gmail, Google Maps, Google Drive and YouTube. This is a huge deal for many users outside of China, and could very well be the deciding factor in whether they’ll continue to purchase Huawei devices if access to these services and the newest versions of Android are denied to them.
What is still unclear is if current users will also eventually be unable to access these apps in the future. We have reached out to Google and Huawei for comment on how these changes will impact phone users.
Huawei has been planning for this with their own OS reportedly in development for almost 7 years. Chinese media have reported that this system is currently being trialled out and will eventually replace the Android system for Huawei phones going forward.
Other brands have unsuccessfully tried to create alternatives to Android, but failed. Without a strong pre-existing ecosystem and apps that can replace Google’s, it seems highly doubtful that Huawei’s alternative OS will be attractive enough for users to choose it over an Android device.
This development might not impact Huawei’s sales in China due to the ban on Google and its apps there, but consumers across the globe might now think twice about purchasing a Huawei product if support for the most widely used mobile operating system is unavailable.
In addition, Huawei’s sister company, HONOR, is due to launch their newest phones HONOR 20 and HONOR 20 Pro later today in London. It’s safe to say that the phone will still be launching with Android, but it’s unclear at this moment if HONOR will be subject to the same sanctions as Huawei. There are no further comments or statements from HONOR about how the ban is affecting them.
Google isn’t the only company to adhere to the executive order. With Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcomm no longer supplying parts to Huawei, the Singapore launch of the MateBook 13 and MateBook X Pro has been delayed indefinitely.
This is a minor issue for Huawei’s phones because the company has been utilising their own Kirin chipset processors, but with Intel pulling out of supplying processors, Huawei might have to turn to AMD due to the fact they have no experience in creating PC chipsets. But with Intel being the industry leader in PC chipsets and a valued brand name, switching to AMD processors might result in a dip in sales.
So are Huawei phones still worth keeping? In short, it’s definitely safe to continue using your Huawei phone right now, but seeing as the situation is still evolving, keep an eye on this page as a new development might change.
So how did this all happen?
If you haven’t been keeping up with the developments, here’s a quick rundown.
In August and November 2018, Huawei’s equipment was banned from being used for future 5G networks in Australia and New Zealand respectively. Britain removed Huawei equipment from their 4G cellular networks in late December 2018. To cap it all off, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer was arrested on 1 December 2018 on fraud charges relating to the alleged breaking of US sanctions against Iran.
But now their situation has gotten even grimmer. Thanks to the executive order signed by USA President Donald Trump, banning the sale and use of telecom equipment from “foreign adversaries” that “have the ability (..) to create and exploit vulnerabilities in information and communications technology”, Huawei has now been banned from procuring services and equipment manufactured in the United States of America.
This is a further strain on already tense relations rising from tariffs from both countries and threats of a full-blown trade war since early 2018.