Alphabet’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the US government has sought to blacklist around the world.
Current Huawei smartphone owners in South Africa with Google apps will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google.
“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 spokesperson said, without giving further details.
The suspension could hobble Huawei’s smartphone business outside China as the tech giant will immediately lose access to updates to Google’s Android operating system. Future versions of Huawei smartphones that run on Android will also lose access to popular services including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps.
Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google.
The Trump administration added Huawei to a trade blacklist, immediately enacting restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with US counterparts.
The extent to which Huawei will be hurt by the US government’s blacklist is not yet known as its global supply chain assesses the impact. Chip experts have questioned Huawei’s ability to continue to operate without US help.
Chipmakers including Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom have told their employees they will not supply critical software and components to Huawei until further notice.
Huawei will continue to have access to the version of the Android operating system available through the open source license, known as Android Open Source Project (AOSP), that is available for free to anyone who wishes to use it. There are about 2.5 billion active Android devices worldwide, according to Google.
But Google will stop providing Huawei with access, technical support and collaboration involving its proprietary apps and services going forward.
Huawei has said it has spent the last few years preparing a contingency plan by developing its own technology in case it is blocked from using Android. Some of this technology is already being used in products sold in China.
Popular Google apps such as Gmail, YouTube and the Chrome browser that are available through Google’s Play Store will disappear from future Huawei handsets as those services are not covered by the open source license and require a commercial agreement with Google.
But users of existing Huawei devices who have access to the Google Play Store will still be able to download app updates provided by Google. Apps such as Gmail are updated through the store, unlike operating system updates which are typically handled by phone manufacturers and telecoms carriers, which the blacklist could affect.