Huawei accuses US of ‘cynically timed’ Google ban

Latest: The US executive order leading to Google’s restricting Huawei’s use of key software has been labelled a “cynically timed” measure to hurt China in its trade war with the US, a Huawei executive has said.

Google confirmed on Monday it was restricting Huawei’s access to the Android operating system on which the Chinese firm’s mobile devices depend.

It follows an executive order issued last week by US President Donald Trump which prohibited the technology of “foreign adversaries” using US tech without government approval.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One, Huawei’s executive vice president in the UK, Jeremy Thompson said the dispute was about trade, not security.

“We’re in the middle of a trade war between two big countries so the timing of this is to inflict maximum hurt on our organisation,” he said.

We're a football in between this trade war

He added that although the company had developed its own operating system it could use instead of Android, that was a “plan B” and the company “would rather” work with Google.

“This is 100% about trade and we did expect something along these lines – not perhaps as cynically-timed as it is right now, but we are developing parallel operating systems – that’s why we invest 14 billion dollars a year in R&D, and we have used some of that investment to find alternatives.”

The Huawei executive also said the company remained hopeful the restrictions could be avoided.

“We have been making plans for this possible outcome but it hasn’t happened yet – the executive order that was announced last week has got 150 days to be implemented. We’re all, including Google, seeking to understand the full implications of it,” he said.

“But our focus right now is on our existing customers and ensuring that we maintain the good service that we’ve been able to give them and we can continue to do that right now.”

Mr Thompson also rejected the argument that Huawei phones were no longer worth buying.

“No I don’t think that’s the case, it is still a good phone and it will continue to work with the Google Protect – which is their security – and Google Play,” he said.

“What we’re talking about here is future products that we launch – so anything that is in the market today is supported.

“It’s supported for the time being and our expectation is that this issue will be resolved within the 150 days or so that the executive order has to run.”

When asked if he could see why some people now argued against buying a Huawei phone, he said: “I think that’s precisely the purpose of the US government, to create uncertainty and doubt at this particular time in the trade negotiations, but our hope and wish is it will be resolved in the coming weeks and months.”

- Press Association

Buying Huawei phones a ‘real risk’ after Google block

Update 1.20pm: Buying a new Huawei phone poses a “real risk” to people in the wake of Google’s restrictions on the Chinese firm using its Android software, industry experts have said.

The Chinese phone giant has been blocked by Google from receiving updates for the Android operating system it uses to power its devices, as Google complies with a US executive order restricting access to American technology.

The order, from President Donald Trump last week, prevents “foreign adversaries” from accessing US technology without government approval.

Industry expert Tristan Rayner, senior editor with the Android Authority news website, said the block means security updates to Huawei phones from Google will stop, and, as a result, future devices may lack the reliability of other Android phones.

“Future Huawei devices will be significantly affected. We now know that future devices cannot be loaded with the Google Play Store, or those Google apps like Gmail or Google Maps,” he said.

“Play Services will also not be available, which is a core set of features responsible for many underlying operations on modern Android devices. That makes buying a Huawei phone today a real risk.”

He warned that current Huawei device owners could also face some issues.

“Existing Huawei device owners will be significantly impacted,” he said.

Whether it’s someone with a brand new Huawei P30 Pro, which was unveiled last month, or the owner of an older Huawei Mate device that’s a few years old, it’s now clear that their Android operating system will no longer receive important security updates

Huawei is currently the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, behind Samsung.

Kate Bevan, editor of Which? Computing, suggested that some recent purchasers of Huawei devices could consider returning their phones.

It’s unacceptable for consumers to be left without adequate security on their mobiles and Huawei owners will be seeking urgent reassurance that the safety of their devices will not be compromised

“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.”

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

“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 spokesman said.

In response to the restrictions, Huawei said it would “continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those which have been sold or are still in stock globally”.

The Chinese company also remains at the centre of a security debate in the UK over its involvement in forthcoming 5G networks.

Critics of the company have said using Huawei equipment in key communications infrastructure poses a risk to national security because of alleged links between the firm and the Chinese state.

Huawei has always denied the claims.

- Press Association

Huawei phone users ‘significantly impacted’ by Google block

Update 11.25am: Huawei users have been warned they will be “significantly impacted” by Google restricting the Chinese firm’s access to its Android software.

The block is the result of an executive order from US President Donald Trump last week which prevents “foreign adversaries” from accessing US technology without government approval.

Industry expert Tristan Rayner, senior editor with the Android Authority news website, said the block means security updates to Huawei phones from Google will stop, and that buying a Huawei phone is now a “real risk”.

“Existing Huawei device owners will be significantly impacted,” he said.

The Huawei Mate 10 smartphone (Huawei/PA)
The Huawei Mate 10 smartphone (Huawei/PA)

“Whether it’s someone with a brand new Huawei P30 Pro, which was unveiled last month, or the owner of an older Huawei Mate device that’s a few years old, it’s now clear that their Android operating system will no longer receive important security updates.

“Google’s engineers are now forbidden to collaborate with Huawei engineers on these important updates. Google has said that users can still access the Google Play Store, and all the usual Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Search, Assistant, and so on.

“Therefore, while there will be some disruption, we do have some reassurances from Google that it isn’t going to leave owners with a brick, effectively.”

But, despite the assurances, Mr Rayner warned that buying future Huawei phones would be a “real risk” under the restrictions.

“Future Huawei devices will be significantly affected. We now know that future devices cannot be loaded with the Google Play Store, or those Google apps like Gmail or Google Maps,” he said.

“Play Services will also not be available, which is a core set of features responsible for many underlying operations on modern Android devices. That makes buying a Huawei phone today a real risk.

“All of this may change rapidly – it’s a US government directive, and we can’t guess at what may play out between the US and China regarding technology bans.”

The Huawei P30 Pro (Martyn Landi/PA)
The Huawei P30 Pro (Martyn Landi/PA)

Kate Bevan, editor of Which? Computing, said some recent purchasers of Huawei devices could consider returning their phones.

“It’s unacceptable for consumers to be left without adequate security on their mobiles and Huawei owners will be seeking urgent reassurance that the safety of their devices will not be compromised,” she said.

“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.”

- Press Association

Google confirms Huawei block to ‘comply with US order’

Update 8.45am: Google has confirmed it has blocked Huawei from updating some parts of its Android software used on Huawei phones to comply with a US government order blacklisting the Chinese firm.

The tech giant said it was “complying with the order and reviewing the implications”, but assured Huawei users that their current phones would continue to work.

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

“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 spokesman said.

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

Huawei has not commented on the block.

Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Huawei from using US technology without government permission (AP)
Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Huawei from using US technology without government permission (AP)

Industry analyst Ben Wood from CCS Insight said the cut-off could have “considerable implications” for Huawei’s gadgets business.

“We still don’t have a clear understanding of what Google has told Huawei and what elements of the Android operating system may be restricted, so it remains unclear what the ramifications will be,” he said.

“However, any disruption in getting updates to the software or the associated applications would have considerable implications for Huawei’s consumer device business.

“People who currently own Huawei smartphones do not need to worry. At present any measures would only affect future devices and future updates. 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, 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.”

Huawei has previously confirmed it has been working on its own mobile operating system for use in the event of such blocks, something Mr Wood said now appeared likely.

“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,” he said.

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

“Last year, CCS Insight predicted that tensions between 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.”

The UK Government has said it is yet to make a decision on whether to allow another part of Huawei’s business, its telecoms equipment, to be a part of new 5G networks in the UK.

Retired brigadier general Robert Spalding, the former senior director for strategy at the National Security Council, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the UK “must recognise” the strength of US feeling on Huawei.

He wrote: “Other nations must not make the mistake of thinking President Trump’s recent executive order banning companies like Huawei from US networks is merely an afterthought of the trade war.

“The severity of President Trump’s declaration underscores just how seriously the US views this issue, and the UK must recognise this strength of feeling.”

- Press Association

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