US internet giant Google, whose Android mobile operating system powers most of the world’s smartphones, said it was beginning to cut ties with China’s Huawei, which Washington considers a national security threat.
The biggest question for those who already own Huawei devices is whether they’ll be able to access Google services like the Play Store, Gmail and other services on their phones. And there are millions of Huawei users. The company recently overtook Apple to become the second largest smartphone manufacturer.
“For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices,” a Google spokesperson told AFP.
Google, like all tech companies, collaborates directly with smartphone makers to ensure its systems are compatible with their devices. Due to the ban, Google will now have to halt business activities with Huawei that involve direct transfer of hardware, software and technical services that are not publicly available — meaning Huawei will only be able to use the open source version of Android, the source told AFP.
Google apps such as Gmail and Maps should remain functional on Huawei phones at least initially, another source told AFP.
But while the ban on technology sharing is in place, Huawei will be required to manually access any updates or software patches from Android Open Source Project — the code accessible to all outside programmers — and also to distribute the updates to users itself.
A person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity told Bloomberg News that Huawei will be unable to offer Google’s proprietary apps and services in the future. Huawei did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Huawei saw it coming
In 2012, The South China Morning Post reported that the Chinese tech giant was developing its own operating system.
There has been no update on the development until recently. Earlier this month, German newspaper Die Welt reported that Huawei has developed its own operating system that could replace Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows in case it is barred from using American-made products.
“We have prepared our own operating system. Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared,” Huawei executive Richard Yu said, according to a translation of the original German text.
Yu said that moving onto Huawei’s in-house platform was the company’s “plan B” and that “of course we prefer to work with the ecosystems of Google and Microsoft.”