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Here's what Google's decision to cut ties with Huawei means if you own one of their phones

Ryan Browne
  • Google has decided to stop licensing its Android operating system to Huawei.
  • CNBC runs through what that means if you own a Huawei phone.

Google GOOGL has severed business ties with Huawei, in a stunning move that could threaten the smartphone maker's global ambitions .

The U.S. tech giant has decided to stop licensing its Android operating system to the Chinese telecommunications firm, in order to comply with a U.S. trade blacklist.

It can however continue to use an open-source version of Android, but won't be able to integrate key Google services like the Play app store.

CNBC runs through what that means if you own a Huawei phone right now, or are looking to buy one in the future.

Longer term impact?

Reuters reported Sunday that Huawei will now lose access to Android updates. That's pretty significant considering all Huawei phones operate on Android. The operating system powers more than 80% of the world's smartphones.

Huawei's new phones will also reportedly lose access to proprietary apps like the Google Play app store, Gmail and YouTube.

But Google said people with existing Huawei devices will still be able to use Google apps and download updates for them.

But the problem could be longer term. Peter Richardson, a research director of tech strategies at Counterpoint Research, told CNBC via email that Huawei will not have access to the new version of Android, code-named Q, that will be launched later in the year.

"The revocation of its Android license will mean that it won't be able to provide core Google services to its smartphones," Richardson said.

No impact in China

Huawei said in a statement that it will "continue to provide security updates" to all of its existing phones. Meanwhile, there's also talk of Huawei developing its own operating system for smartphones and computers.

Experts predict the impact will likely be limited in the short term. The consensus view is that anyone with a Huawei and Honor handset should be safe for now.

"The current devices will continue to support Google services and Google updates," Francisco Jeronimo, associate vice president for European devices at IDC, told CNBC by telephone. "I think it's more of a long-term impact than very short term."

In China, the story is a little different. Consumers there have access to a more limited version of the operating system, which doesn't come pre-installed with Google services that are blocked there.

"For Chinese consumers, definitely there's no impact," Jeronimo says.

International shipments accounted for almost half of Huawei's overall smartphone sales in the first quarter, according to Canalys data.

'Bad news for Huawei'

For the most part, IDC's Jeronimo thinks the U.S. and China will reach a trade deal, and Google will be able to resume its licensing arrangement with Huawei. In that case, Huawei customers shouldn't be impacted.

However, "if this is a real security threat, then it's a long-term impact," he said. "The biggest impact will be end of the year for Huawei because that's the biggest sales season of the year."

The bottom line? "This is bad news for Huawei," Richardson says, "which has been one of the strongest Android players."

Huawei is yet to launch its latest flagship phone, the Huawei Mate X, which will be its first foray into the world of foldable phones.

The Shenzhen-based firm is the second-largest smartphone maker in the world, and the top globally when it comes to telecommunications equipment. But it's been under intense pressure from Washington amid the U.S.-Sino trade battle.

Most recently, the President Donald Trump administration added Huawei to a trade blacklist that blocks it from buying U.S. technology without special approval. And Google hasn't been the only company distancing itself from Huawei — top chipmakers Intel INTC , Qualcomm QCOM , Broadcom AVGO and Infineon IFX-DE have also reportedly cut ties with the firm.




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