Google’s move to end business ties with Huawei will affect current devices and future purchases.BBC News
Presumably Google does not want to break ties with what is the world’s second bestselling Android phone-maker after Samsung – the Chinese firm recently said more than half a billion consumers use its handsets.
In theory, the US’s Bureau of Industry and Security could issue a licence to let Google continue the relationship or at least parts of it, or even make a U-turn and drop its restrictions altogether.
But assuming the matter is not resolved soon, let’s try and pick our way through the consequences.
What exactly is Google doing?
The US tech firm is suspending all business activity with Huawei related to “non-public” transfers of hardware, software and technical services.
That does not mean that Huawei loses all access to Android, as the core operating system is an open source project. Any manufacturer can modify it and install it on their devices without having to get permission.
But in practice, all the major vendors rely on a lot of support from Google.
In addition, Google controls access to several add-on bits of software, including:
- the Play app store
- its own apps
- the Google Assistant virtual helper
- the Gmail email service
- tools that allow third-party services access to certain functions
How does this affect existing Huawei handsets?
Owners of Huawei or Honor phones will not find that they suddenly cannot install new apps or get updates for Google services.
The reason is that their devices have already been certified under processes known as the Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) and the Vendor Test Suite (VTS).
As a consequence, Google can provide them with new versions of its products and authorise downloads from its Play marketplace, without having to directly deal with Huawei itself.
However, matters become more complex when it comes to security updates.
The way these typically work is that Google gives Android device-makers the code for its software fixes about one month before it reveals details to the public about the vulnerabilities involved.
This gives manufacturers time to check the patches do not cause problems for their own proprietary software, and then to package up a customised version of the fixes as a download.
Huawei will now only learn of the patches on the same day they are released to the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), meaning there will be a lag before it can distribute them.
That could theoretically result in a situation in which a serious flaw is revealed and Huawei’s devices remain exposed for several days or weeks.