U.S. vs. Huawei: As trade war escalates, tech companies sit in the crosshairs

Facebook bans its bloatware from any future Huawei phones

Huawei has been placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s “Entity List,” prohibiting the company from acquiring parts and components from U.S. companies without the approval of the federal government. This occurred on May 15, and the move is thought to be leverage in the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

The situation continues to alter by the day, with more questions arising. Here’s what you need to know.

No pre-installed Facebook apps

Facebook will not allow Huawei to pre-install its apps on future smartphones, according to a Reuters report. This affects the Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram apps, which are often packaged into Huawei’s version of Android, without a need to visit the Google Play Store to find them.

All existing Huawei phones, and any future Huawei phones with Google Play, will still be able to install, update, and use Facebook’s apps. This situation only affects phones being installed with Android that have not yet left the factory, according to Reuters’ anonymous sources. Currently, the situation regarding which Huawei phones will use Google Play is unknown. While this ban doesn’t help Huawei, it’s the least of its problems around software, and it is likely equally as damaging to Facebook.

China denies ties, trade war deal is key

The spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry has responded to accusations of Huawei’s ties with the Chinese government, and the potential for espionage. Lu Kang is quoted as saying:

“Recently, some U.S. politicians have continually fabricated rumors about Huawei but have never produced the clear evidence that countries have requested.” He continued, stating the message was provoking suspicion in the U.S and, “instigating opposition.”

The first indication Huawei’s situation may alter when the trade war between China and the U.S. ends came from comments made by U.S. President Donald Trump. “If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form or some part of it,” he said.

90-day extension

Officials told Reuters the decision will make it difficult, if not impossible, for Huawei to sell some products due to its reliance on U.S. suppliers. However, to avoid unintended negative consequences to U.S. companies who have been dealing with Huawei, the Commerce Department soon rolled back some of its earlier restrictions on the Chinese telecom firm, according to a Reuters report.

In revising its policy temporarily for 90 days, the U.S. government will allow Huawei to purchase American-made parts and components so that it can maintain existing networks and update existing smartphones. The company is still prohibited from purchasing U.S.-made goods for new products without license approvals — which will likely be denied. The short-term reprieve has been implemented as a temporary general license, in effect until August 19.

Affect on U.S. business

Banning a massive, global company from buying U.S. made products affects companies in the U.S., particularly in the long-term. Small wireless companies operating outside cities use Huawei components, and are being forced to abandon expansion plans in their severely underserved areas, according to a report by The New York Times. Huawei sells equipment to about one-quarter of small U.S. wireless firms.

According to the Rural Wireless Association, a group representing 55 small carriers, the government’s ban will cost its members between $800 million and $1 billion to replace networking equipment from the Chinese firms, which have been rural suppliers for the better part of a decade, and sometimes charged as much as 30% less than competitors. If the small carriers must ditch that equipment, some may not be able to survive. To mitigate that prospect, a new bill in the Senate proposes to set aside some $700 million in grants to carriers forced to replace components as a result of the new ban.

Companies respond

Google was first to comply with the U.S. government ruling, and Huawei cannot purchase the required licenses to use Android with Google Services for some future devices. It may also mean Huawei smartphones will not receive version updates in the future, unless the situation is resolved.

Both the Wi-Fi Alliance and the SD Association examined their relationship with Huawei in order to ensure compliance with the Entity List ban, soon after it was announced, resulting in a temporary suspension of activities. On May 29, a Huawei spokesperson confirmed to Digital Trends that its membership of the Wi-Fi Alliance has been reinstated. The company has not released an official statement on the matter at this time, but one is expected in the near future, and we will update here with more details on this developing story.

Ultimately, it means Huawei is cleared to continue using key Wi-Fi technology in its existing and future devices. This follows similar action from the SD Association, which is responsible for memory card technology often used in Huawei smartphones and other mobile devices. Huawei’s membership was also reinstated on May 29.

A number of significant chipmakers, including Qualcomm and Intel, have supposedly told their employees that they will no longer be supplying Huawei. While Huawei creates its own processors for its smartphones, the company still requires hardware from other manufacturers. Huawei has been stockpiling chips in advance of such an outcome though, and according to Bloomberg, the company had built up a three-month stockpile ahead of the ban.

ARM, the U.K.-based company that designs the architecture on which most of the world’s mobile and computer chips are produced, has issued instructions to cease working with Huawei. This first came according to leaked documents obtained by the BBC, but has since been confirmed by The Verge. The instruction doesn’t stop Huawei from making chips now, but it may hurt future chip design and production. Huawei produces its own mobile processors, named Kirin, under a separate arm of the company called HiSilicon. It works closely with ARM on the development of these chips, just like Apple, Qualcomm, and Samsung.

ARM has since released a statement, in which it stated: “ARM is complying with the latest restrictions set forth by the U.S. government and is having ongoing conversations with the appropriate U.S. government agencies to ensure we remain compliant. ARM values its relationship with our long-time partner HiSilicon and we are hopeful for a swift resolution on this matter.”

Huawei response

Honor, sister company to Huawei, released this statement to Digital Trends soon after the ban:

“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry. Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”

A Twitter feed from the company called “Huawei Facts” cited an article in Asia Times on May 20 arguing that the bans will not slow Huawei down. Indeed, it’s “full steam ahead.”

Huawei has also issued another statement, saying the ban will do more harm than good:

“This decision is in no one’s interest. It will do significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business, affect tens of thousands of American jobs, and disrupt the current collaboration and mutual trust that exist on the global supply chain. Huawei will seek remedies immediately and find a resolution to this matter. We will also proactively endeavor to mitigate the impacts of this incident.”

What does it mean to you?

Currently, if you own a Huawei phone, it will work in exactly the same way as it has been doing. Access to the Google Play Store, Play Protect, and other such apps will not be revoked, as confirmed in a tweet from the official Android Twitter account. But it’s rumored that existing Huawei devices are now cut off from future Android updates, which might cause them to lose Play certification. This could make using the Huawei Mate 20 Pro in the Android Q beta a risky choice.

Huawei’s future

The future may be very different for Huawei, should the situation not be resolved. Without the correct Google licenses, which it cannot purchase under the ban, Huawei will lose access to updates for the Android mobile operating system.

Future Huawei devices on Android will also not be able to offer services such as the Google Play Store nor apps such as Gmail, Chrome, and YouTube. That is, unless the situation is resolved. Huawei will still be able to use the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), the open-source public version of Android. But without access to Google’s proprietary apps and services, staying on Android will not make much sense on devices sold outside China.

Huawei has been working on an alternate mobile operating system, a South China Morning Post report from last year claimed, as there were concerns that the company would lose its Android license from Google. The plan was dubbed a “worst-case scenario” — but it appears Huawei may have no choice but to proceed with it in the near future. The operating system is likely similar to that installed on its phones in China, where Google services are banned.

The ban is bad news for phone lovers, as the Chinese manufacturer has been releasing top-notch smartphones such as the P30 Pro, the Mate 20, and the Mate 20 Pro, and although the phones are not officially for sale in the U.S., fans have been able to import them. The U.S. government has previously committed to similar actions against other Chinese companies, most notably in the ZTE ban last year. That ban was eventually lifted, which should give Huawei fans some hope, but it’s no guarantee this situation will play out in the same way.

Updated on May 29, 2019: Added confirmation Huawei’s membership in the Wi-Fi Alliance and the SD Association has been reinstated.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Huawei Mate 30 Pro render shows 2019 really is all about weird camera arrays

The Huawei Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro may join the Mate X folding phone as the company's star products for late 2019. This is what we know about the Huawei Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro so far.
Mobile

Global Honor 20 launch marred by fear, as Huawei gets squeezed by U.S. ban

The launch of the Honor 20 series may be the first new device range to be seriously hit by Huawei’s presence on the Entity List. Huawei executives reportedly fear sales will be poor, which may force it to cut off shipments.
Mobile

Huawei’s lock screen ads were a mistake, but may be a sign of things to come

Ads were placed on the lock screen of Huawei device owners yesterday, causing outcry on forums and social media. Huawei initially said it wasn't responsible, but that's no longer the case. Here's what happened.
Mobile

Huawei trademarks its Android alternative globally, as work on it intensifies

Huawei is developing its own mobile operating system to potentially replace Google's Android. Rumors have spread for some time about the software project, known as Hongmeng or Ark OS, and development has now sped up.
Mobile

Put down the controller and pick up the best phones for gaming on the go

Which phones are the best if all you want to do is play some mobile games? We've done the hard work and put together a list of the best gaming phones on Android and iOS, so you can keep playing and winning.
Mobile

Israeli company claims it can unlock any iPhone up to iOS 12.3 for police

Israel-based forensics firm Cellebrite claimed that its UFED Premium service can unlock any iPhone. The device will be sold as an on-premises tool, which means that the police will be able to use it any way they want.
Cars

Uber drivers reportedly triggering higher fares through Surge Club

Uber drivers are reportedly participating in a so-called Surge Club to artificially trigger higher fares. Many drivers said that they do not want to join the shady practice, but they are forced to do so due to pay cuts.
Mobile

American Airlines expands its fast in-flight Wi-Fi, but it will still cost you

American Airlines has completed the installation of satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi for the whole of its mainline narrowbody fleet comprising more than 700 planes, mainly on its domestic routes. But the service still costs.
Mobile

How to turn on Now Playing and see music history on your Google Pixel

The new Now Playing feature is perfect for if you often hear songs you like but don't know the name of. The feature essentially shows songs playing around you on the Pixel lock screen. Here's how to turn on Now Playing on your Pixel.
Mobile

Mastercard’s new card lets LGBTQIA+ customers use their true name

According to Mastercard, a major source of anxiety for those in the LGBTQIA+ community could be that their credit or debit card doesn't show their true name. The company aims to solve that issue with the new True Name card.
Mobile

Apple will bring 5G to the iPhone in 2020, according to analyst

We're still many months away from the launch of a 2019 iPhone, so do we know anything at all about the 2020 iPhone? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, and the rumors are picking up the pace.
Mobile

Need a do-over? Here's how to factory reset an iPhone, from XS on down

Resetting an iPhone can alleviate all sorts of software woes, and wipe away personal data should you sell your device or give it to someone else. Here's how to factory reset an iPhone from within iOS or iTunes.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 13 Beta 2 is available to developers -- here are the changes

Apple announced iOS 13 during the keynote presentation at its 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference. This is the next version of its mobile operating system, which will come to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod near you soon.