Huawei ‘to launch non-Android phone’ as Google warns on ban

Huawei ‘to launch non-Android phone’ as Google warns against sidestepping US ban

24 February 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Huawei is expected to launch its first device that offers its home-made alternative to Google’s Play Store, just as Google has issued a stern warning to Android users wanting to sidestep the US embargo.

The US government added Huawei to its banned list of companies – its so-called entity list – last year, meaning the Chinese phone and equipment vendor could sign no more contracts for new devices to offer apps via the Play Store.

Now Tristan Ostrowski, legal director for Android and Play at Google, has issued a warning. “Google is prohibited from working with Huawei on new device models or providing Google’s apps including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, the Play Store and others for preload or download on these devices,” he wrote at the weekend on Google’s support website.

“Due to [US] government restrictions, Google’s apps and services are not available for preload or sideload on new Huawei devices.”

Ostrowski, an intellectual property (IP) and digital rights management (DRM) specialist, notes that Google is working with Huawei on existing devices. “Our focus has been protecting the security of Google users on the millions of existing Huawei devices around the world,” he writes. “We have continued to work with Huawei, in compliance with government regulations, to provide security updates and updates to Google’s apps and services on existing devices, and we will continue to do so as long as it is permitted.”

But that does not apply to devices launched since the US applied its embargo. “The Google Play Store, Google Play Protect, and Google’s core apps (including Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and others) are only available on Play Protect certified devices,” he writes, and that is not available for new devices.

He explains: “Play Protect certified devices go through a rigorous security review and compatibility testing process, performed by Google, to ensure user data and app information are kept safe. They also come from the factory with our Google Play Protect software, which provides protection against the device being compromised.”

New devices from Huawei will be “considered ‘uncertified’, and will not be able to utilize Google’s apps and services,” says Ostrowski, adding a warning to users trying to find a workaround.

“Sideloaded Google apps will not work reliably because we do not allow these services to run on uncertified devices where security may be compromised. Sideloading Google’s apps also carries a high risk of installing an app that has been altered or tampered with in ways that can compromise user security.”

Meanwhile Huawei is preparing to launch its alternative to the Play Store and to Android – with the expected launch of the Honor V30 phone.

Huawei was expected to launch this device at Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was due to start in Barcelona today. But the GSMA has cancelled that event, which was expected to attract more than 100,000 people, because of coronavirus.

Now, there are reports that Zhao Ming, president of Honor at Huawei, has given an interview to a Chinese website saying that the first of the Honor V30 devices will still be launched in Barcelona, despite the fact that MWC is cancelled.

The devices will use Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), the Chinese company’s alternative to Android’s Google Mobile Services.

Zhao – whose Western name is George Zhao – told the website that apps will be included in an app gallery. “The app gallery will be the third largest application platform after Apple and GMS,” he said, according to the report.