Google will once again be working with Huawei to ensure its handsets are kept up-to-date and secure, following a decision by the US government to partially retract a ban it had placed on the Chinese smartphone maker. The company confirmed the plan to continue pushing updates via an email statement provided to CNBC and says that it will use the leeway to provide updates to Huawei for its Android handsets through August 19.
Huawei has reportedly declined to comment on the matter but Google indicates that the move is for the best with regard to security for end users.
As the world's second-largest mobile manufacturer and a leading networking equipment provider, a complete ban from the US would have meant that a significant number of Android users would have been left without the latest updates. Reports from Canalys have indicated that nearly half of Huawei’s smartphone shipments were sent outside of its home region in the first quarter of 2019 alone.
Google's statement on the matter follows a similar sentiment, suggesting that the temporary suspension of the ban is in "everyone’s best interests."
The government ban
The change in tone from Google follows its decision just days ago to follow in lock-step with the US government and suspend Huawei's Android license outright. Summarily, the smartphone maker lost all access to Android and its plethora of updates moving forward and to Google apps that form the basis of many Android experiences.
Primarily, that would have affected smartphones sold outside of China -- around 49-percent of its gadgets, as noted above -- since those sold in the company's home region can't have those installed anyway due to strict bans on Google services.
The ban in question was put in place and remains mostly in place following a little over a year tumultuous scandal and an ongoing battle with the US government. The company has chiefly faced down concerns and accusations since 2012 centered around whether or not it would use its network buildouts to collect or spy on sensitive government data for Chinese officials.
That and other subsequent legal allegations against several executives amid an ongoing trade war between the US and China culminated with US President Donald Trump signing an executive order banning US companies from working with the company. The effective ban was accomplished by the addition of Huawei and approximately 68 other companies to an "Entity List." Companies on the list require a permit from the US Commerce Department to export any US technologies.
Where do things go from here?
The US Commerce Department has extended Huawei a 90-day general license at this point but that doesn't eliminate uncertainty about whether or not it can continue working with US companies, including on projects such as Android. The ban is effectively still in place, pending Huawei's cooperation with the US authorities.
If Huawei follows any guidelines and rules put in place by regulating agencies, it could follow ZTE and continue operating in the US and working with companies in the country such as Google, Qualcomm, and other tech giants. Conversely, Huawei has previously hinted at the build-out of its own mobile operating system to compete with Android if the need arises due to worsening relations and the above-mentioned trade war. So there's no guarantee that the status quo will remain indefinitely in any eventuality.