Huawei P8 Mobile Phone
Published 29 May 2019


The fallout from the US-China trade battle continues. Huawei have been added to the US's 'The Entity List', which "identifies entities reasonably believed to be involved, or pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States". 

Google Revoke Android License

That forces companies that are doing business with Huawei to stop doing so. The ramifications of this are going to be felt around the globe, because it has forced Google's hand and they have declared that they are rescinding Huawei's Android License. (Ironically, it was Huawei that used to build Google's own Nexus 6P!)

Not surprisingly, you can't buy a Huawei phone in the US, so it is the rest of the world that is going to feel the pain here. The UK and Europe are some of Huawei’s biggest phone markets outside of the far East. The phones are cheap and well-built, and have a compelling specification. It's not for nothing they are often called flagship-killers.

What Affect Will That Have?

For the present, nothing. Let's see where this goes. Google have said that existing Huawei mobile phones (and those from Huawei's offshoot company Honor) will still be supported and security updates will be issued. The Google Play store will still be available. This could change of course, but for now it's business as usual. It is almost certain that upgrades to future versions of Android will not be rolled out to these phones however.

It is the future, new to market, Huawei products that are likely to lose access to vital Android components such as Google Play, Maps and the Gmail.

Android is open source, so anyone can take it and use it and, even, modify it. HTC, Samsung and Huawei all tweak Android to include their own bells and whistles. In theory Huawei could take the open source version and build on that, license or no license.

But just using Android as your base operating system doesn't imply you're going to get support from Google. Moreover, Android updates only come to the open-source versions a long time after they've arrived for the licensed versions. 

In a statement, Huawei 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 and that are still in stock globally." Whether they can uphold that is another matter.

So what are your options? 

Do Nothing

Do nothing, stay as you are and keep using the mobile phone you've got. The problem with this approach is that if the patches and security fixes do stop, you will progressively become more exposed to cyber threats. But you can carry on using your phone until that happens. If it ever does.

Buy A Different Brand

Bite the bullet and go and buy something else. How unattractive that will appear depends on how much you paid for your Huawei or Honor phone and how long you've had it. If it was a budget model and you've had it a few years you might be thinking about a new phone anyway. If it was a more expensive and recent purchase that could be a bitter pill to swallow. Xiaomi and Motorola both make good value, well-specified budget priced handsets.

Use a Different Android

Keep the mobile phone and change the operating system. It's a gutsy move and you'd probably need techie assistance to do it, but Huawei's take on Android isn't the only game in town.

A now-defunct project called CyanogenMod was the most successful open source and alternative spin on Android. It took stock, open source Android and added much finer, granular control and customisation capabilities and removed all of the Google tracking.

Although that project was terminated the source code was used as the base for a new version and a new project, called LineageOS. This is in active development and has a thriving contributor ecosystem and dedicated user base. 

LineageOS has also been used as the base of another project called Replicant, which puts "the emphasis on freedom and privacy/security".

Another privacy and freedom-focussed operating systems for phones is called /e/. Although it wins the prize for the most stupid name, it is a promising project with lofty ideals and a lot of momentum.

Not All Doom and Gloom

It's definitely exciting times for Huawei and Honor mobile phone owners. The good news is there are options and no matter how different the road ahead may be from the one you imagined when you bought your mobile phone, at least there is a road and not just a bleak dead end. 

Questions?

If you have a Huawei or Honor mobile phone and have questions, do get in touch. This is a very volatile situation and the position may change quickly, but we'll advise as best as we can.

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