At the moment, Huawei phones run on Google’s Android mobile operating system (OS), the base code which the phones run on. Huawei then adds what is called a “skin” on top of the standard Android user interface, essentially adding its own spin on Android.
Right now, this ban shouldn’t mean anything. Google has said the Google Play Store, the Android app store through which Android device owners get their links to the outside world, and the security features which come with Android, will continue to be available on existing Huawei devices.
Huawei has been blocked from using Google software on its phones, dealing a huge blow to the Chinese tech giant.
New Huawei-made phones will not have access to apps such as Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store.
Existing phones will still have services such as Google Play but users will not be able to upgrade to newer versions of the Android operating system.
Huawei can still use Android’s more limited open-source alternative but it will not include Google’s own-brand apps such as YouTube and Chrome.
The move from Google deals a major blow Huawei and is likely to cripple its expansion.
The Chinese firm would be reliant on the version of Android available through an open source licence, which is vastly more limited in its features.
Huawei has previously said it is working on its own mobile operating system for use in the event of such blocks.
‘Huawei has been working hard on developing its own App Gallery and other software assets in a similar manner to the work it has done on developing its own chipsets for phones,’ said industry analyst Ben Wood.
‘There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny.’
‘We still don’t have a clear understanding of what Google has told Huawei and what elements of the Android operating system may be restricted, so it remains unclear what the ramifications will be.’
Tristan Rayner, another expert, warned that buying future Huawei phones would be a ‘real risk’ under the restrictions.
What does this mean for my Huawei phone?
If you currently have a Huawei phone, you will still be able to use Google apps such as Gmail and Maps.
You can also still download app updates.
However, you will not be able to update to a newer version of the Android operating system if one becomes available.
If you buy a newly manufactured Huawei phone it will not have access to Google’s own apps.
Huawei can still use a version of the Android operating system available through an open source license.
But popular apps such as YouTube and the Chrome browser require a commercial agreement with Google.
‘Google’s engineers are now forbidden to collaborate with Huawei engineers on these important updates,’ he said.
Huawei said today it would continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to existing smartphone users.
‘Real risk’ in buying new Huawei phones
Industry expert Tristan Rayner has said that buying a Huawei phone is now a ‘real risk’.
Mr Rayner, a senior editor with the Android Authority news website, said users of existing Huawei phones would be ‘significantly impacted’.
‘Google’s engineers are now forbidden to collaborate with Huawei engineers on important updates,’ he said.
‘We now know that future devices cannot be loaded with the Google Play Store, or those Google apps like Gmail or Google Maps.
The firm’s sub-brand Honor said Huawei was ‘actively seeking resolution on this’.
Google’s move is the latest flashpoint in an increasingly bitter trade war between Beijing and Washington, after the Trump administration added Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to a trade blacklist last week.
The measure requires Huawei to obtain U.S. government approval on purchases of American technology.
As this has not been given, Google cannot collaborate with the smartphone maker to ensure its systems are compatible with Huawei devices.
Trump’s executive order also allows the government to ban the technology and services of ‘foreign adversaries’ deemed to pose ‘unacceptable risks’ to national security.
Huawei sells some models in U.S. electronics stores and online but has a minimal share of an American market in which most sales are through carriers.
The firm says it supplies 45 of the world’s top 50 phone companies, but only about two per cent of telecom equipment purchased by North American carriers was Huawei-made in 2017.
A deal between Huawei and AT&T to sell the smartphones was called off in January last year.
Last August Trump signed a bill that barred the US government from using equipment from Huawei and China’s ZTE Corp.
The firm’s lawyers are still studying the effect of Trump’s intervention, a company spokesman said on Friday.
What is the ‘open source’ version of Android which Huawei may have to use?
Google designs Android software for phones and tablets, used by manufacturers such as Samsung.
The U.S. firm allows anyone to use a free version of the software under the Android Open Source Project.
Using an open-source license, designers can adapt the source code and customize it as they wish.
This means Huawei could continue to use a version of the Android system on its phones despite Google cutting off relations.
However, the open-source version is vastly more limited.
In particular, it does not include Google’s own proprietary apps such as Gmail, YouTube and Google Maps.
Today Beijing foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said officials had noted the latest and would look into it and pay attention to developments.
‘At the same time, China supports Chinese companies to use legal weapons to defend their legitimate rights,’ he added.
Huawei is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, and is now Europe’s third-largest smartphone maker behind Samsung and Apple.
But it has been seen by officials in Washington as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services.
The U.S. worries that China could use Huawei to gain access to private, commercial or other information that could compromise Nato and allied intelligence operations.
Huawei denies involvement in Chinese spying and last week unveiled its first 5G-ready smartphone despite the ongoing row.
The company’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said Huawei had ‘already been preparing’ for a U.S. crackdown.
One Huawei executive, chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada last year and faces criminal charges in the United States.
Meng’s arrest set off a diplomatic furore and severely strained Canadian relations with China.
Beijing detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on December 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng.
The state news agency said that the pair had acted together to steal state secrets.
A Chinese court also sentenced a Canadian to death in a sudden retrial, overturning a 15-year prison term handed down earlier.
U.S. charges against Huawei allege that the company stole trade secrets, misled banks about its business and violated U.S. sanctions.
As well as its smartphone business, Huawei is a market leader in equipment needed to build next-generation 5G mobile data networks.
In Europe, the UK has been embroiled in a row over Huawei’s possible role building such a network.
5G is expected to begin rolling out this year and will offer mobile internet speeds likely to be at least several times that of 4G, it has been claimed.
Last month it was claimed that Prime Minister Theresa May had given the green light to Huawei’s involvement at a meeting of the UK’s National Security Council.
The claims led to the sacking of defense minister Gavin Williamson, who was accused of leaking details of the meeting, although he denied it.
UK networks said today they would ‘work closely with Google and Huawei’ to provide software updates to its customers.
Sounding a hostile note today, Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said: ‘China is not a democracy and has a certain spirit of imperialism and control. Italians’ sensitive data must remain in Italian hands.’
Retired brigadier general Robert Spalding, the former senior director for strategy at the National Security Council, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the UK ‘must recognise’ the strength of U.S. feeling on Huawei.
He wrote: ‘Other nations must not make the mistake of thinking President Trump’s recent executive order banning companies like Huawei from US networks is merely an afterthought of the trade war.
‘The severity of President Trump’s declaration underscores just how seriously the US views this issue, and the UK must recognise this strength of feeling.
‘To miss the significance of his actions would be a grave misjudgment of how seriously we take our security in an ever-more dangerous world.’
In April, the technical director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said some of the firm’s products had ‘shoddy’ security.
But Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei said earlier this year: ‘I still love my country, I support the Communist party, but I will never do anything to harm any country in the world.’
Asked how the company would respond to a state demand for a customer’s details, he insisted: ‘We would definitely say no to such a request’.
Dr Ian Levy warned that Huawei’s ‘poor’ engineering was ‘like it’s back in the year 2000’.
Washington’s trade war with China has seen Trump raise tariffs on $200billion worth of Chinese products.
Trump said China had demanded major changes to a trade deal which U.S. officials said had been largely agreed.
He warned his opposite number, President Xi Jinping, that China ‘will be hurt very badly’ if it does not agree to a trade deal.
‘I say openly to President Xi and all of my many friends in China that China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal because companies will be forced to leave China for other countries,’ he said.
‘Too expensive to buy in China. You had a great deal, almost completed, & you backed out!
In retaliation, Beijing announced it was raising tariffs on $60billion of U.S. goods.
The finance ministry said the new penalty duties on hundreds of American products, including batteries, spinach and coffee, will take effect on June 1.
WHY DO BRITISH INTELLIGENCE THINK HUAWEI’S PRODUCTS MAY POSE A SECURITY THREAT?
China’s controversial telecommunications equipment maker Huawei openly supports the ruling Communist Party.
Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineer, founded the company in 1987 and it has risen to rank among the world’s top manufacturers of network equipment.
But his PLA service has led to concerns of close links with the Chinese military and government, which Huawei has consistently denied.
Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engineer, founded the company in 1987 and it has risen to rank among the world’s top manufacturers of network equipment. But his PLA service has led to concerns of close links with the Chinese military and government, which Huawei has consistently denied
Huawei operates in 170 countries and the company says one third of the world’s population communicate using its products in some way.
It is the world’s second largest network equipment supplier behind Sweden’s Ericsson, and has made a large push into consumer products such smartphones in recent years.
Fears around its capabilities to tap into sensitive information stem from rumours of backdoors in in the firm’s software.
Although no such vulnerability has ever been found, allegations for their capabilities range from the ability to tap into encrypted data to knocking out communications facilities.
The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, which is part of GCHQ, has not claimed to find evidence of such vulnerabilities.
However, intelligence experts say they can only provide limited assurances that the Chinese company is not a risk to broadband and phone networks in the UK.