Google ‘restricts Huawei’s use of Android’

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Google has cut phone maker Huawei off from some updates to the Android operating system, Reuters reports.

New smartphones made by the company will also lose access to Google’s app store and software such as Gmail, the news agency’s story says.

Huawei declined to comment and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

What services precisely will be severed is still being discussed at Google, said Reuters, citing an unnamed source.

Huawei can still use the version of the Android operating system available through the open source license.

‘Big implications”

On Wednesday the Trump administration added Huawei to its “entity list“, blocking the sale or transfer of American technology without a licence.

“Until there is a clear statement from Google, it is hard to speculate about the ramifications,” said Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“But should the Reuters report be accurate, it would have big implications for Huawei’s consumer business.”

Several governments around the world have blocked telecoms companies from using Huawei gear in next-generation 5G mobile networks, citing security concerns.

So far the UK has held back from any formal ban.

“Huawei has been working hard on developing its own App Gallery and other software assets in a similar manner to its work on chipset solutions. There is little doubt these efforts are part of its desire to control its own destiny,” said Mr Wood.

Short-term damage for Huawei?

By Leo Kelion, BBC Technology desk editor

In the short term, this could be very damaging for Huawei in the West.

Smartphone shoppers would not want an Android phone that lacked access to Google’s Play Store, its virtual assistant or security updates, assuming these are among the services that would be pulled.

Longer term, though, this might give smartphone vendors in general a reason to seriously consider the need for a viable alternative to Google’s operating system, particularly at a time the search giant is trying to push its own Pixel brand at their expense.

As far as Huawei is concerned, it appears to have prepared for the eventuality of being cut off from American know-how.

Its smartphones are already powered by its own proprietary processors, and earlier this year its consumer devices chief told German newspaper Die Welt that “we have prepared out own operating systems – that’s our plan B”.

Even so, this move could knock its ambition to overtake Samsung and become the bestselling smartphone brand in 2020 seriously off course.

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