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Huawei may need Google more than Google needs Huawei, but the ban still threatens Android’s dominance.

May 2019 saw the US President sign an executive order banning ‘foreign adversaries’ from dealing with America’s telecoms industry.

The unnamed ‘foreign adversary’ is Huawei.

Huawei is already banned from building US 5G cellular networks. The order also stopped US companies from working with Huawei’s phone handset business.

This meant Google suspended its business with Huawei. That was a blow for the Chinese phone maker, Huawei phones run on Google’s Android software.

Beyond Android

The ban goes beyond Android. It means Huawei phones can’t use the Play app store. Nor can they use Google Maps, Gmail or the official Search app. Google Mobile Services features are central to the Android phone experience.

Huawei makes some of the best Android phones. It has a huge market share, now second only to Samsung. Yet the company sells little in the US.

With Huawei phones unable to ship with Google apps installed, sales have fallen outside China.

Otherwise, Huawei appears to be in good shape. In October it announced revenues were up 24 percent on the previous year. The company signed 60 contracts to build 5G networks last year.

Huawei could sit out the ban. Many think it is as much about US trade protectionism as anything to do with security.

Subscribers to this school of thought believe the US could lift the Huawei ban as part of trade negotiations.

While that is plausible, Huawei never wants to be in this position again. It cannot afford to be dependent on Google when the US could turn off the tap again at any moment.

Huawei has offered Chinese customers a non-Google version of its phones for years. It isn’t a problem there. It is more of an issue in places like New Zealand, Australia and Europe where people rely on Google services.

To get around the ban, Huawei is replacing Google Mobile Services with its own services. It aims to spend US$ 3 billion this year getting developers to improve Huawei Mobile Services. It has set aside another billion to market those services.

Harmony in my head

Huawei is also developing its own Harmony OS. It scheduled release for early this year. Now Huawei says it is running late and could take years to emerge.

The acid test for Huawei’s post-Google life is the P40 phone launch. It will have no Google services. Huawei expects to lose some market share.

Reuters reports Huawei plans to join forces with other Chinese phone makers to set up a rival to Android and challenge Google Play.

The original plan was to launch in March. This could be set-back by the recent coronavirus outbreak.

Joining Huawei are Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi. For now, the other Chinese phone makers are not locked out of Google. Yet the move amounts to admission they fear the ban could extend to them.

Between them, the four account for 40 percent of handsets sold worldwide. Yet for now they restrict their project to nine regions including India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Russia.

It is still early days. Yet it seems the US ban on Huawei is speeding up Chinese tech companies becoming independent of US ones. They already buy less American hardware, software and services. Google and Android remain strong, but one outcome of the ban is to undermine the near monopoly.

9 thoughts on “Android after Huawei: No winners

  1. Many think it is as much about US trade protectionism as anything to do with security.

    True.

    With China becoming the ‘World’s Engine’ the US is losing out on the prestige and power that it once had when it was in that position.

    Subscribers to this school of thought believe the US could lift the Huawei ban as part of trade negotiations.

    Well, I suppose some subscribers to that school of thought may believe that. Personally, I think that the US is working to become the major industrial power that it once was and continuing to allow trade with China will prevent that.

    Of course, if the Rest of the World continues to trade with China then all the US is doing is accelerating its decline.

    Interestingly enough, increasing productivity will eventually allow all countries to stand on their own two feet and not have to trade which will remove these global super-powers that are so detrimental to peace and prosperity.

    While that is plausible, Huawei never wants to be in this position again. It cannot afford to be dependent on Google when the US could turn off the tap again at any moment.

    This highlights another problem and one that is inherent within capitalism and the lack of regulation of standards. That problem is the rise of monopolies through the use of proprietary technologies. Microsoft is the biggest of these effective monopolies but others are around as well and not just in the tech industry.

    Through such use Google has become the monopoly provider for Android apps. Apple is, of course, the monopoly provider for Apple OS apps. Through this monopoly that they have they then control the apps that are available to the general public. Some censorship is desirable but that should only be done through democratic means and not via a private company with its own political agenda. One of the apps on that list was banned because it ‘ridiculed public figures’ and thus we have Apple reinstituting Lèse-majesté.

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