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Huawei: Your smartphone is running as usual, security updates will come later


Since mid-May, US companies are no longer allowed to do business with Huawai. An exemption for Google ends today. What does that mean for users?

" Nothing has changed ": The future promise of the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei sounds optimistic. Everything has changed in the past few months. Since mid-May, US companies have been banned from doing business with Huawei. As a result, Google and other companies ended much of the collaboration. As a result, future Huawei smartphones will no longer have access to Google services like Maps or the Play Store. There will be no Google security updates for the Android operating system in the future. On May 21, US President Donald Trump granted Google and Huawei a "grace period" of 90 days to work together. This deadline expires today. What happens to the Huawei smartphones now? Will users in Europe soon have to switch to other smartphone manufacturers? And what are the long-term effects of the sanctions?

Why is full support for Android updates and security patches ending now?

On May 21, 2019, the US government granted Huawei and Google a grace period. For 90 days was a rule that allowed Google to do with Huawei until 19 August. It was mainly about the supply of existing Huawei smartphones and the operation of mobile networks that use Huawei technology. Until August 19, Google was allowed to provide Huawei smartphones with Android updates and security patches.

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What happens to Huawai smartphones after August 19th?

If you already own a Huawei smartphone, Google services like the Play Store or Gmail and Maps are still available. Apps should be able to update as usual. Google Play Protect, which protects users from malware from the Play Store, will continue to work. Huawei also said that users can easily reset their devices to factory settings - for example because something is damaged - without losing access to Android services and the Play Store. Because all on the market Huawei devices already have a Google license and can no longer lose them, regardless of the US sanctions.

After the grace period expires on August 19, security updates and bug fixes will be available later than before. This not only applies to new devices, but also to smartphones that are already in circulation. For security updates, Huawei must in the future rely on freely available Android software that provides the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). These AOSP updates always appear after the Google version.

Updates for the Android operating system will also be available to users only when AOSP publishes them. Because of the 90-day grace period, the company from Shenzhen still had the opportunity to purchase the new Android version 10 Q for certain devices. According to the manufacturer, the 17 Huawei smartphone models, including the flagship P30 Pro or the 5G model Mate 20 X. Later Android versions will take longer in the future. Until AOSP provides them, the phones will stay up-to-date and new features in the operating system will not be added either.

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What happens to new Huawei devices?

This is currently unclear. Should it stay with the sanctions, the long-term consequences would be significant in future appearing devices. Google services like the Play Store and apps like Gmail or Maps are unlikely to be accessible because of the missing license. Users would be forced to get their applications from other stores. The Chinese company could still use the smaller open source Android version of AOSP. It does not include licensed services and apps like the Play Store or Gmail and Maps. By eliminating the Android Play Services applications would also no longer automatically kept up to date. Google Play Protect also dropped. The devices would be much less secure.

Future Huawei phones would require significantly more maintenance from their owners, which would be unattractive to many customers. That would be harsh for Huawei, since Google services are particularly popular in Europe. In May 2019, according to the statistic portal Statista, every second user in Germany used the Google Chrome browser on their smartphone.

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What are alternatives to the Google Play Store?

Huawei owns AppGallery, an in-house alternative to the Google Play Store, pre-installed on all newer devices. The offer of both differs considerably, however, because there was AppGallery until the beginning of 2018 only in China. Since Google, Facebook and WhatsApp are not available in the country, they are missing in AppGallery. Instead, users get the chat program WeChat displayed in Chinese characters. If you are looking for Netflix, you will only find a Netflorist app. Well-known apps available in AppGallery are, or Amazon. Huawei is currently vying for developers to offer their apps in their own store.

An alternative to AppGallery is the open source F-Droid store, which is aimed primarily at developers and hobbyists. Uptodown or the Amazon App Store are other services, but do not come close to the scope of Google. Either way, users of future Huawei devices would probably need to install several app stores to get all their programs up to now.

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Can Huawei's App Store prevail in Europe?

Currently, this is unlikely because the popular Google services continue to work on Huawei devices in circulation. Huawei users are therefore not dependent on Huawei's App Store. In the long term, the success of AppGallery will depend on whether app manufacturers offer their programs, which are also popular in Germany and Europe. And they will only do that if there are enough users in the store. Because in order to be able to sell apps there, developers have to adapt their billing models and digital rights management, for example. This requires programming effort, costs time and money.

Also, in the past, others have failed to be an alternative to the Google Play Store, such as Microsoft or Nokia. It is also questionable so far whether US-American developers may offer their programs because of the sanctions at all in Huawei's AppGallery.

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Does the spell hit Huawei unprepared?

Not that one. Probably heavier than originally thought. In an internal memo, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei recently wrote that the smartphone division is facing a "painful long march". In Europe, Huawei sold significantly fewer devices in the second quarter of 2019, according to market research firm Canalys. From April to June 2019, the company delivered only 8.5 million smartphones, compared to 10.1 million in the same period last year. Whether this is due to the sanctions has not been proven, but is considered likely.

In order to become independent from Google in the future, a separate operating system called Harmony OS has been in development for some time. On August 9, it was featured on the HDC 2019 Developer Conference in China. The operating system should run on several device classes such as smartphones, televisions, smart home devices and cars. This is comfortable for developers who have to adapt their software for individual devices such as tablets or TVs. Also Google developed with its operating system Fuchsia a uniform software for different device classes.

According to Huawei Harmony OS is open source and compatible with Google's Android, so as to address as many developers. For the time being, Huawei wants to stay with Android, as long as the political situation allows, it was said. In the long term, the company from Shenzhen wants to establish a full-fledged alternative to Google's Android system. A smart TV from Huawei's subsidiary Honor and a first smartphone with Harmony are expected to come onto the market this year, but for the time being both devices are only available in China. According to a report by the state-run Chinese newspaper Global Times , Huawei will be double-tracked in the future: Smartphones like the upcoming Mate 30 or the foldable Mate X could be released with open source Android software from the Android Open Source Project, but should also work with Harmony OS for security.

Huawei would make Harmony OS more independent of Google and an unpredictable US president. But it is unclear whether the operating system can be successful outside of China. Because similar to Huawei's own App Store, Harmony OS is unlikely to provide Google services and apps from US tech companies such as Netflix due to US sanctions. Many Google-spoiled customers from Europe should still not convince.

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Source: zeit

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