As US-China tech cold war escalates, Google revokes Huawei’s Android support, allows only those covered under open source licensing

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Update: On Wednesday, according to a leaked memo received by BBC, UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff it must suspend business with Huawei. Also, BT Group Plc won’t offer phones from Huawei when it starts Britain’s first 5G mobile network next week. A number of wireless operators are ditching Huawei’s handsets.

On Monday, The U.S. Commerce Department granted a 90-day license for mobile phone companies and internet broadband providers to work with Huawei allowing Google to send software updates to Huawei phones which use its Android operating system till August 19.

As of 20th May, the U.S. government temporarily minimized some trade restrictions on Huawei, to help the company’s customers around the world. The U.S. Commerce Department will allow Huawei Technologies to purchase American-made goods in order to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets.

According to a report by Reuters, Google has suspended all business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services. Huawei will also be limited from getting updates to Google’s Android operating system. They will only be able to use the public version of Android (known as the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). Huawei will have to create their own update mechanism for security patches.


Future versions of Huawei smartphones that run on Android will also lose access to popular services, including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps said Reuters. However, the impact is expected to be minimal in the Chinese market, considering most Google mobile apps are already banned in China. This also means that alternatives offered by domestic competitors such as Tencent and Baidu may see a rise in popularity.

Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson told Reuters. They further added, “We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications. For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.”

Per a Bloomberg report, chipmakers including Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom have told their employees they will not supply Huawei till further notice. This can also disrupt the businesses of American chip giants and slow down the rollout of critical 5G wireless networks worldwide — including in China. Last week the FCC voted unanimously to deny China Mobile’s bid to provide US telecommunications services.

Huawei suspension from Google comes after The Trump administration added the Chinese telecom giant to trade blacklist, last week. The Commerce Department said by adding Huawei Technologies and its 70 affiliates under this list means it will ban the company from acquiring components and technology from US firms without government approval. President Donald Trump has taken this decision to “prevent American technology from being used by foreign-owned entities in ways that potentially undermine US national security or foreign policy interests”, said US Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement. The order signed by the President did not specify any country or company but, US officials have previously labeled Huawei a “threat” and actively lobbied allies not to use Huawei network equipment in next-generation 5G networks.

Huawei’s ban was not received well by the public especially those with Huawei devices. This is a lose-lose situation for both companies, short term, this hurts Huawei, long term this hurts Android. The news of the US ban did not sit well with Chinese citizens as well.  Per a report by Buzzfeed, people in China are calling for a boycott of Apple products. In February, Huawei was accused of stealing Apple’s trade secrets. Per Buzzfeed, many people took to Weibo, China’s popular social media platform to speak against Apple.

The functions in Huawei are comparable to Apple iPhones or even better. We have such a good smartphone alternative, why are we still using Apple?” commented one user.

I think Huawei’s branding is amazing, it chops an apple into eight pieces,” said another post, describing the company’s spliced, red logo.

On Twitter, people openly criticized Google’s move as well as the US ban.

The U.S. China cold war has escalated to become a messy trade war. Now, China faces incremental pressure to build its own smartphone operating system, design its own chips, develop its own semiconductor technology, and implement its own technology standards.

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Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub. I blog about new and upcoming tech trends ranging from Data science, Web development, Programming, Cloud & Networking, IoT, Security and Game development.