Following an American trade ban, which also affects the technology trade between the US and China, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. has announced that it would be suspending its business relationship with China’s largest smartphone manufacturer, Huawei.
Huawei smartphones run Google’s Android operating system, and the decision to halt business operations between the two companies has resulted in Huawei’s licence to run the Google Android OS being revoked.
In effect, this means that Huawei devices will lose access to Android updates, and will also lose access to the Google Play Store and its myriad of apps. Huawei users will also not be able to access apps developed by Google, like YouTube, Chrome, Gmail and Google Maps.
Huawei holds a large part of the South African smartphone market share, and estimates are that the Chinese manufacturer sold approximately 2.5 million smartphones in South Africa in 2018.
How will this affect South African Huawei users?
Huawei South Africa has told MyBroadband that security updates and after-sales service will still be provided to existing products.
Google has also confirmed that any Huawei device that is currently in use will still have access to Google Play. Business Insider reports that the legal relationship for a Google Play user with a Huawei device is between the consumer and Google, which means that access to the Google Play Store shouldn’t immediately be affected.
However, this is not the case for security updates at a system level, which will be affected by the break between Huawei and Google. This might, consequently, have an effect on security fixes from Google, which will not be delivered via the Google/Huawei partnership as they have been in the past.
Huawei has been developing their own proprietary operating system since 2012, and chances are that the latest blow in the trade war between the US and China might force them to start running it, although Huawei has not yet made any such announcements.
In the mean time, Huawei might decide to update existing phones and new phones to run a free version of Android via the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). However, according to the Android project, updates to this operating system are about a month behind those offered to manufacturers.
For the time being, at least, local Huawei users will still have access to Google Play and apps developed by Google. Keep an eye on Agora Tec’s blog for the latest news on this matter as it develops, and to get tips on how to keep your Huawei device safe.