When the U.S. added Huawei to an entity last in May 2019, prohibiting American companies from providing hardware and software to the company, there was no immediate impact on the Chinese tech giant’s existing smartphone users. The U.S. granted Huawei a Temporary General License (TGL), to enable existing hardware and software to receive maintenance and security updates, to provide some time for these users to “wean themselves off” Huawei and to select alternatives.
The TGL was primarily intended for America’s rural carriers who rely on Huawei network equipment. But it also meant its smartphone users would not lose the Google software and services they relied on to drive their existing devices. The TGL has been repeatedly extended since then, but the last time around the Commerce Department warned that it would not be extended again. And now the license has expired—as of August 13, with serious implications for those users.
The details are currently unclear—other than confirmations in a report in the Washington Post from the Commerce Department, that the TGL has expired, and from Google that the TGL was the basis of its continued support for devices that predated the blacklist. Huawei has always assured that its users will not be left high and dry by the U.S. blacklist. If their device shipped with Google’s apps, the company has said, then it will keep Google’s apps. Further, the Android OS on those devices will be secure and maintained—it will not be left exposed.
As things stand, it’s almost certain that Huawei will be able to keep updating the core Android OS on those devices. This doesn’t require proprietary software to be provided to the Chinese company. But some of the security certificates on those devices might change, and that might impact some of the third party apps on the phone, perhaps banking or games or media viewers. The core suite of Google apps themselves, though, and some of Google’s underlying services might be at risk. It’s not yet clear that these will be updated and re-certified with new OS updates.
We’re now well into the second year of the U.S. blacklist, and the truth is that Huawei phones that shipped with Google—even the face-lifted P30—are becoming outdated compared to the latest flagships to hit the market. Huawei’s Mate 30, P40 and the imminent Mate 40 are much better devices, but ship without Google. As the company confirmed to me this week, it’s all about its HMS alternative to Google now, and filling Google-shaped gaps with its own apps and services.
In the meantime, for users holding on to Huawei devices that do still carry Google, you should watch for updates from Huawei as the situation with Google becomes clearer over the next few days. I will also provide updates as they come.
There have been no further comments from Huawei or Google as yet.