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Huawei building
Research report
21 May 2019

Google blocks Huawei

What are your options as a consumer?

Due to the US government’s trade restrictions against particular Chinese companies, Google has removed Huawei’s access to the latest updates to Android, the operating system used by most phones in the world.

Here’s what that means for you.

Current phones

If you currently have a Huawei phone, your access to apps and app updates will not change. You will still be able to access Google’s Play Store and your Google account. Your day-to-day usage shouldn’t change.

What might change are the security updates.

Usually Huawei would have access to Google’s software fixes a month or so before any known issues are released to the public. The newly restricted access means Huawei won’t have advance access to that code and their phones could be vulnerable to attacks for days until Huawei is able to deploy the security updates.

New phones

New phones will have even more restrictions as these will not be allowed access to security updates or Google apps. This includes YouTube, Gmail, Google Drive, and even the Play Store.

These restrictions would also affect third-party apps that use Google. For example, if you log in to an app using your Google credentials.

Will it last?

This all may be moot if the US calls off its trade war with China. It’s very unlikely that Google would keep the ban in place should sanctions be lifted, as Huawei is the second largest Android phone manufacturer, behind Samsung, and have made phones for Google in the past.

Huawei have said that they already have a new operating system, as a last resort in case they need to deploy it.

The U.S. Commerce Department has already created a temporary general license restoring Huawei’s ability to maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei handsets. The temporary license lasts until Aug. 19.

Your rights

First of all, don’t panic. Right now, if you own a Huawei phone, our advice is wait and see. The next security patch is when we will find out if Huawei phones are still fit for purpose.

If security updates are not available in a timely fashion from the manufacturer, then you can return the phone under the Consumer Guarantees Act. There are some caveats to this.

  • Reasonably, the phone should be less than three years old.

  • You did not buy the phone for work.

  • You must go back to the New Zealand retailer where you bought the phone.

No phone manufacturer in the world says how many security updates you will receive, or for how long, or when they will arrive. However, with a new Android phone you can expect they will come regularly from Google for at least three years.

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