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Huawei ban: What Google’s cessation of service means for owners of Huawei and Honor phones

The Chinese tech giant faces impending bans — here's what you need to know if you own, or are planning to purchase a Huawei device.

In the months leading up to its release, the Huawei P30 was one of the most hyped-about smartphones for 2019. The phone’s camera was lauded as the first in the new era of smartphone photography — with its Leica lenses, incredible zoom capabilities, and low-light sensors. The company has been making the headlines for another reason recently though: a ‘ban’ on American companies selling to the tech giant, as imposed by the White House.

Following the announcement, Google has stopped providing software and hardware services to Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, to comply with the US government order.

Future versions of Huawei smartphones that run on Android will lose access to popular services including the Google Play Store, Gmail and YouTube apps.

(Related: The most anticipated smartphones for 2019)

In response to the ban, a Huawei spokesman said on Monday (May 20) that the firm “will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.”

US tech firms Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx and Broadcom will stop supplying hardware components to Huawei until further notice.

How the moves will affect Huawei and Honor (Huawei’s sub-brand) users:

 

CAN I USE GOOGLE APPS AND SERVICES ON MY HUAWEI SMARTPHONE?

Existing owners of Huawei smartphones can continue to enjoy Google apps and services, such as Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube. They can still use the Google Play Store and receive security and software updates for Google apps and services.

Huawei P30

Image: Huawei

WHAT ABOUT FUTURE HUAWEI SMARTPHONES?

The same Google apps and services will not be available on future Huawei smartphones because of the US ban. The same already applies to smartphones built for the China market, which substitute Google apps and services for Chinese-made equivalents from the likes of Baidu and Tencent.

Huawei can still use the Android mobile operating system, which is available via an open-source licence. This open-source version – Android Open Source Project (AOSP) – can be used and modified by anyone. Huawei, though, will lose early access to future versions of Android, potentially delaying new Android updates.

But the biggest blow is the lack of Google apps and services, which will dissuade most users outside China from buying Huawei smartphones. This will likely dash Huawei’s hopes of overtaking South Korea’s Samsung as the top smartphone maker this year.

SHOULD I BUY A HUAWEI SMARTPHONE?

Existing Huawei smartphones, like the recent Huawei P30 Pro, will continue to have access to Google apps and services, as well as security updates. But Huawei may not be able to update the Android software to the next version promptly, if at all.

Since most Android smartphone makers, such as Samsung, take months to update the Android software with the latest features, consumers may not be overly concerned about this.

Huawei said it has been stockpiling hardware components in anticipation of a US ban. It also makes its own proprietary smartphone processors. Hence, it is likely that Huawei will be able to replace any damaged components in the event that a smartphone breaks down within its warranty period.

(Related: How one CEO is using Youtube, Facebook and apps to drive productivity)

Huawei MateBook X Pro

Image: Huawei

WHAT ABOUT OTHER HUAWEI DEVICES?

Besides smartphones, Huawei makes tablets, smartwatches and laptops. Its smartwatches are probably the least affected, as they run Huawei’s own LiteOS  software instead of Google’s. But Huawei’s Android tablets will likely face the same issues as its smartphones.

The US ban is also a blow to Huawei’s aspirations in the PC market. Its MateBook laptops had received excellent reviews last year and new, updated models are slated to launch in the US and other countries, including Singapore, this year. But, like most computers, these Huawei laptops will be affected as they rely on technology from US firms – Microsoft’s Windows software and Intel processors.

A Huawei spokesman told The Straits Times that a media event in Singapore for its MateBook laptop planned for May 22 has been postponed with no new date given. Huawei also would not say if it will launch its laptop in Singapore on May 30, as originally announced earlier this month.

A version of this article was originally published in The Straits Times.