(Bloomberg) — Millions of Huawei smartphone owners around the world are suddenly interested in the trade war between China and the US.
A recent ban by U.S. President Donald Trump means many U.S. companies can’t work with the Chinese technology giant. On Monday, there was a 90-day reprieve. But after that, Huawei phones won’t get the same access to Google software updates as most other major handsets that use the U.S. company’s Android operating system.
Huawei phones aren’t that popular in the U.S., but they are widely used almost everywhere else. For millions, the devices are cheap-but-quality alternatives to the $1,000 phones America’s hardware champion Apple peddles. Inside China, Huawei devices won’t be affected. But nearly half of these handsets are sold outside that country, according to Counterpoint Research.
“I’m very worried. I’m the owner of a P30 Pro which I bought a month ago,” Ania K from Poland wrote on Twitter. “I don’t know if I will have any updates anymore. Many people are very worried about that too.”
A Google spokesman said the company will continue to provide software updates and security patches to existing Huawei models for the next 90 days.
“While we are complying with all US gov’t requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device,” Google’s Android unit wrote on Twitter.
All Huawei phones developed and certified by Google before May 16 will still get access to Google’s Play app store and other pre-loaded apps and services from the internet giant. Updates from Google will continue because these are transactions between Google and end users, not Google and Huawei.
However, Google won’t be allowed to work with Huawei on software bugs and other technical fixes for Google’s version of Android going forward. Instead, the Chinese company will have to do this on its own, using the open-source version of Android.
For new Huawei phones beyond May 16, there will be no Google support because that would require a new transaction between Google and the Chinese company.
Huawei Technologies Co.’s marketing team was enacting a full-court press on social media on Tuesday, assuring customers their phones would continue to be safe and usable.
“Huawei will 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 still in stock globally,” the company wrote on Twitter to fans in Nigeria.
Some Huawei customers asked on social media if they could return their handsets. Others said they would stick with the company and encouraged it to keep fighting what they saw as an attack on a foreign company by President Trump.
“You can do it, Huawei. You didn’t come all the way to the top to get beaten for nothing,” Boon Leo, a user from Malaysia wrote on the company’s Facebook page.
Huawei is working on its own mobile operating system and will consider rivals to Google’s Android.
“Not letting go of your phones so you better come up with your own softwares and OS…. Asap,” wrote another user from Kenya on Twitter.
With assistance from Mark Bergen. To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at [email protected]