Report: Huawei Loses Google's Help With Android

Credit: Volodymyr Plysiuk / ShutterstockCredit: Volodymyr Plysiuk / Shutterstock

Android isn't as open a platform as many people think. The heart of the operating system is open source, but manufacturers can only use Google's apps or the Google Play store with the company's permission, and Reuters today reported that Huawei will soon lose access to those aspects of Android.

Reuters said that "a source close to the matter" revealed that "Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products except those covered by open source licenses." That won't stop Huawei from using Android in future smartphones, but it will mean that the company has to create its own software marketplace and recreate apps for essential tasks like managing email or searching the web.

Google's decision followed the U.S. Department of Commerce announcement that Huawei joined the Entity List. That means it's significantly harder for American businesses to work with the company--doing so requires a special license from the Bureau of Industry and Security. (U.S. President Donald Trump also issued an executive order meant to curb the use of technologies created by companies related to "foreign adversaries" that same day.)

Huawei's addition to the Entity List practically made Google's decision--provided Reuters was correct--inevitable. Of course the company's going to stop providing technical support, access to its apps, and other services to Huawei now that the U.S. government has all but forbidden it. But this is another reminder that the perception of Android as a totally open platform isn't accurate. It's far more open than iOS, sure, but Google still has some control.

How much this decision will affect Huawei is unclear. Companies have managed to make Android work despite eschewing Google's services, like Amazon has with its Kindle Fire products, but we suspect most people would be confused if they bought an Android phone that didn't feature them. The lack of Google services could eventually outweigh the value offered by Huawei phones--they're cheap but often well-regarded--for many consumers.

More information about what aspects of Android will remain available to Huawei is available via the Android Open Source Project website. Reuters said in its report that Google is still discussing which services it will still be able to offer despite Huawei being on the Entity List while Huawei also considers the effects of its addition to that list. Such is the joy of being the unwilling poster child for the brewing trade war between the U.S. and China.