GOOGLE is set to revoke Huawei’s access to its Android mobile operating system, dealing the Chinese company a major blow in accordance with US sanctions.
Other than Apple devices which run on iOS, smartphones makers including Samsung and LG are almost all dependent on the Google-developed Android operating system to power their devices.
Google has confirmed it is complying with sanctions issued by the White House last week, although it is unclear what that will involve.
The company said it was “reviewing the implications” of complying with the sanctions, but added that the Android app store Google Play and the security protections provided by Google Play Protect would continue to function on existing Huawei devices.
According to Reuters, Google’s move means Huawei devices will immediately lose access to updates from Android, meaning security updates for the operating system will no longer protect those devices.
Reuters added that new Huawei devices will also lose access to the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps, likely because they won’t be based on either Android or iOS – the only mobile operating systems those services are available on.
In a statement, the company said: “Huawei 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 or are still in stock globally.”
Huawei’s enormous sales figures in China and impressive growth in parts of Europe have seen the company overtake iPhone maker Apple in terms of market share.
Figures released earlier this month suggested that Huawei was now only behind Samsung when it comes to global smartphone sales, with 59.1 million shipments in the first quarter of 2019.
At the beginning of this year, the company grew its sales where those of rivals including Apple and Samsung shrank.
But the impact of the White House sanctions could cripple the company’s hopes of further expansion.
While a custom Huawei-built operating system would cause little issue in its home market, where most Google apps are banned anyway, it would likely be rejected by Western customers.
Google apps and services are a critical part of Android devices, and Huawei owners in Europe and the UK may now be forced to seek alternatives to what the Chinese company has to offer.
Former US government adviser Philip Levy told Sky News that “serious things” needed to be sorted for Huawei, Google and chip makers, for whom the “rules are being turned upside down on them”.
He also warned that the US sanctions against China did not have a “clear direction” and could be disruptive to the country’s economic engagement – with the potential damage felt around the world.
Huawei stated it has made “substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world”.
It added: “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.”
Last week, Huawei’s UK executive vice president Jeremy Thompson told Sky News the company was willing to go the “extra mile” to reassure countries its technology is safe – specifically regarding its telecommunications equipment rather than its consumer devices.
His comments came after Prime Minister Theresa May came in for criticism over a National Security Council decision to back the use of Huawei technology in “non-core” 5G network infrastructure in the UK.
That was despite a warning from the National Cyber Security Centre and the US government that the company could not be trusted.
Donald Trump has declared a “national emergency” over the perceived threat posed by Chinese companies and imposed severe sanctions on Huawei, with US companies barred from using telecommunications equipment made by firms deemed to pose a national security risk.
The US commerce department has also added Huawei and 70 affiliated companies to a blacklist banning it from acquiring components and technology from US firms without government approval.
Google stated: “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.”
Meanwhile, a US warship has sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which will likely anger Beijing further at a time of ever-increasing tension between the two powers.