Google ban: What you should do if you have a Huawei smartphone

Huawei
Huawei phone.
Here's what Huawei smartphone owners need to know after the ban on Android updates and Google apps.

Google confirmed today that it has blocked Android updates on Huawei phones, to comply with a US government order blacklisting the Chinese firm.

Last week, US president Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning the Chinese firm from using US technology without government permission.

Google said it was "complying with the order and reviewing the implications", but assured Huawei users that their current phones would continue to work.

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Here's what you need to know about the ban, and how it will affect you.

What is Google doing to support Android customers?

Google said that "Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices".

In other words, you will still be able to download apps from the Google Play store and benefit from Google's built-in malware protection for Android.

For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.

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However, the block is likely to prevent future updates to Android reaching Huawei devices.

Key Google apps such as the Google Play Store, Gmail and Google Maps may also not appear on future Huawei devices.

Instead, the Chinese firm will be reliant on the version of Android available through an open source licence, which is vastly more limited in its features.

What is Huawei doing to support customers?

Huawei said it will continue to provide security updates and after sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products.

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This includes those that have been sold or are still in stock globally.

"Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world," the Chinese company said in a statement.

"As one of Android's key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.

"We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally."

What should you do if you own a Huawei or Honor phone?

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According to Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight, people who currently own Huawei smartphones do not need to worry.

"At present any measures would only affect future devices and future updates," he said.

"Google has publicly stated that its App Store, Google Play, and security updates from Google Play Protect will continue working on existing Huawei devices."

However, he added that any disruption in getting updates to the software or the associated applications would have considerable implications for Huawei's smartphone business.

"Until we have a clear understanding of what exact measures Google has decided to take it is impossible to second guess the impact on future devices," he said.

According to the consumer watchdog Which?, anyone who bought a phone online in the last 14 days can return it under Consumer Contracts Regulations.

You could also look at trading in your Huawei device for another smartphone brand, if you are concerned about not receiving future updates.

"It's unacceptable for consumers to be left without adequate security on their mobiles," said Kate Bevan, Editor of Which? Computing.

"In this situation, your consumer rights are limited as there's currently nothing faulty with these phones.

"However, if you purchased a phone in recent weeks it may be worth checking the retailer's returns policy."

Should you buy a new Huawei phone?

If you were planning to buy a new Huawei or Honor phone, it might be worth holding off for now, until it is clear what the company plans to do.

If Google continues to withhold Android updates from future Huawei phones, the Chinese company may be forced to develop its own operating system.

"Huawei has been working hard on developing its own App Gallery and other software assets in a similar manner to the work it has done on developing its own chipsets for phones," said Wood.

"There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny.

"Last year, CCS Insight predicted that tensions between the China and the US would present a strong incentive for Chinese companies to create their own operating system for smart devices.

"Given recent developments that seems more likely than ever."

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