Update, May 19, 2019 (11:50 pm ET): Google has released a new statement regarding the Huawei situation, this time via the Android Twitter account. As seen below, the company states that current Huawei (and likely Honor) phones will continue having access to services like Google Play and security from Google Play Protect.
Google plans to comply with the U.S. government’s order to place Huawei on its Entity List. It’s still unclear what effect this decision will have on the future of Huawei.
Original post, May 19, 2019 (3:14 pm ET): Google has suspended business operations with Huawei effectively immediately, a forced move that will have a dramatic impact on Huawei devices across the globe.
According to Reuters, citing a source close to the matter, Google was forced into suspending business with Huawei that “requires the transfer of hardware and software products.”
“Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app,” Reuters noted.
This effectively means no further Android security updates for devices new and old, including the recent P30 and P30 Pro, Mate 20 Pro, and many more.
Google’s actions come after the U.S. Commerce Department’s announcement on Wednesday, which placed Huawei and some 68 affiliates on a so-called Entity List, a trade blacklist, following an executive order signed by U.S. President Trump.
This is the same list that ZTE was added to and subsequently removed from, over the course of 2018, which caused it massive disruption. Huawei is now effectively forbidden from buying parts and components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval – which includes Android.
This is, of course, a massive blow if the story is accurate. One of Huawei’s arms, its HiSilicon chip division, had stated it has “long been ready” for any ban, while Huawei has previously mentioned it has been preparing for six years or more for any ban of Android. Honor, a sub-brand of Huawei, had been set to launch the Honor 20 on Tuesday May 21, in London — it’s unclear what will now happen.
The Chinese giant said in a statement earlier this week that it was “against the decision made by the Bureau of Industry and Security of the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
President Trump issued an executive order last week banning “foreign adversaries” from doing telecommunication business in the US. The move was widely understood as a ban on Huawei products, and now we’re starting to see the fallout. According to a report from Reuters, Google has “suspended” business with Huawei, and the company will be locked out of Google’s Android ecosystem. It’s the ZTE ban all over again.
Reuters details the fallout from Trump’s order, saying “Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app.”
Huawei’s loss of access “to updates” is most likely a reference to Android Q, which hardware manufacturers get early access to. Since Android is open source, Huawei could resume development once the source code comes out. The real killer is the loss of the Google Play Store and Google Play Services, which unlocks access to the billions of Android apps and popular Google apps like Gmail and Maps. Reuters claims this will only happen to “the next version” of Huawei’s smartphones, presumably meaning existing devices with the Play Store will continue to work.
Huawei doesn’t do much smartphone business in the US, so banning Huawei from selling phones to US consumers won’t change much. Huawei has made a few attempts to break into the US market, but pressure from Congress on Huawei’s individual business partners, like AT&T and Verizon, have caused them to walk away from deals with the company. Besides smartphones, Huawei is also one of the biggest suppliers of network and telecom equipment in the world, and this ban will keep the company’s routers, towers, and other equipment out of US networks. An earlier Reuters report detailed the problem the ban would cause in rural states like Wyoming and Oregon, which have adopted Huawei equipment.
The real change here is the banning of US companies from supplying Huawei with software and hardware. Outside of China, this move is a death sentence for Huawei smartphones in places like Europe and India. There isn’t a single viable alternative to Google’s Android ecosystem, so Google-less Huawei smartphones would have a tough time in the market. The only company that has sort of made Google-less Android work is Amazon, which sells forked Android tablets that are so cheap and disposable they come in a six-pack. Amazon is also a US company, though, so the Amazon App Store presumably wouldn’t be available to Huawei, either.
Huawei’s explosive growth will probably be coming to an end, if the ban sticks.
In Huawei’s home nation of China, not much will change. Google doesn’t do much business in China, so the Play Store and Google Play Services do not exist there. The app store landscape is pretty fragmented as a result, with most OEMs running their own app store or licensing a third-party app store from other Chinese companies like Tencent or 360 Mobile.