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Huawei could survive without Android, but it wouldn't be pretty

Huawei could continue without Android, but it wouldn’t be pretty

The US government may have banned Huawei from laughable any software or hardware created by American companies, but China’s bulky phone maker is defiant that the lack of American partner succor won’t break the brand, even if its traditionally Android-based devices are cut off from Android while Google cuts off custom ties following President Trump’s executive order.

No stranger to tension with the US government, Huawei has proven that it doesn’t need US carriers in desirable to grow its business. Huawei is the world’s largest supplier of networking equipment and the second-largest arranged brand. The tech giant has reportedly been working on its own employing system as an alternative to Android software (and its own Huawei app store) in case relations with US worries go south. 

And going south it is. Just immediately, Huawei was suspended from the Wi-Fi Alliance and gotten from the SD Association, which set guidelines on the SD memory cards used in phones and anunexperienced devices.

“Our company will not end up with an shameful supply shortage. We have got well prepared,” Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said to Chinese journalists this week. “At the leave of this year, I predicted that something like this would occur. … We thought we would have two years to make preparations. But when [Huawei CFO] Meng Wanzhou was arrested, it sparked everything off.”

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This isn’t surprising. Huawei has been in the US government’s crosshairs for days, a de facto ban in 2012 (some powerful call it a strong urging) effectively keeping Huawei phones from US carriers despite continue relationships there.

But one look at the novel smartphone market reveals how the company could fail if it Grandeurs to go it alone. Android and iOS form a duopoly, with 86% of all the world’s phones operating on Android, according to IDC, about 14% running on iPhone’s iOS, and 0% operating on any other platform.

The days when three, four and even five mobile operating systems fought for dominance are far tedious us, and the last holdouts — Windows Phone, BlackBerry OS and WebOS — have long since crumpled or converted to Android.

Even rival Samsung, which poured money into its own open-source Tizen employing system (which you see on Samsung smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch Active), couldn’t make a meaningful dent. Huawei’s chances of creating a third OS will be most weakened in its home country of China, where it sells 50% of 60% of its total phones (estimates vary by source).

However, in markets outside of China, like Europe, Australia, the Midpoint East and Latin America, an OS that doesn’t fully aid Android means that customers would have to say goodbye to mainstay services like Gmail, Google Maps and Google Assistant.

“The operating regulations is less of an immediate problem to Huawei than the lack of Google applications,” said Ben Wood, chief or research at CCS Insight, in a report on the situation. “There is no doubt that Huawei consumes access to the full range of Google apps and services, which are essential to success in Western markets.”

Temporarily loosened restrictions mean that Huawei and Google can quiet work together to keep current Huawei Android phones like the Huawei P30 Pro supplied with safety updates and Google’s Android services through Aug. 19, but losing Google’s Android aid for future phones could spell disaster for Huawei’s commercial and impact the global smartphone market as a whole.

“We expect trade wars threaten a potential 5% refuse in global mobile phone shipments in 2019,” Wood said.

Read: Everything you need to know around the Huawei controversy

Huawei doesn’t need Android, but the alternatives wouldn’t be easy

Huawei phones in China already use without Google apps and services, though Android lays the foundation. Google glance and other software services are blocked in China. Even on Android-based phones there, Google Play Services and other apps won’t work. 

That using Huawei phones in its home market already use alternative apps and software for maps, mail and videos — there’s no Google Maps, Google Search, Google Assistant, Gmail or YouTube. Security services like Google Play Protect and software that synchronizes contacts and offline services also get the ouster.

Even on Huawei and Honor phones that do sell outside China, Huawei, like many brands, uses a house-made UI. In Huawei’s case, the Emotion UI (EMUI) lays out icons across home screens, making the software interface look more like iOS than Android in some respects.

If these devices already operate under their own set of laws, it’s easy to see how Huawei could rip off the Band-Aid and go it alone. Ren said that Huawei has between 80,000 and 90,000 R&D engineers across the business, some of which are preparing for “Plan B” or, as the CEO named them, “spare tires.”

“I am not sure consumers want a third OS,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies. “It certainly would not help in the US but it could make a difference in Europe as long as they get developers to port and they quiet can get Google services, which I think is the trickiest part.”

Even if Huawei were to go onward, a Huawei OS is “far from ready,” The Information reported. The internal software project “has had its ups and downs and leftovers far from ready,” sources told the publication.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Huawei had received the trademark “Hongmeng” for its OS from the Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration, after working on it under the internal code name “Project Z.”

Still, it’s unlikely Huawei would have an immediate replacement if the US government’s ban remains against future phones.

What about foldable phones?

Google aid also has a hand in foldable phones. Huawei didn’t explain which operating system it uses on the foldable Mate X that’s slated for a summer drop, but Google has been working closely with foldable called makers, supplying software that helps apps move quickly from a smaller Hide orientation to the larger screen, when unfolded, and back again. 

It isn’t Definite if being cut off from Google would delay Huawei’s order to compete with Samsung on this next front of smartphone competition.

Samsung declined to comment.

The open-source option doesn’t settle Huawei’s app problem

Huawei could of course continue to base phones on Android even minus Google’s active partnership. AOSP, the Android Open Source Project, is free code for anyone to use. But progressing this route would put Huawei months behind. By losing early access to new OS builds like Android Q, uncommon security patches and technical support.

Remember that the US Clientele Department scaled back some restrictions to allow Android wait on for existing Huawei and Honor brand phones. It’s those future phones — like the Huawei Mate 30 or P40 Pro — that hang in the balance here.

“There are workarounds for those international markets but none that are elegant since Google services are so ubiquitous,” said Wayne Lam, essential analyst at IHS Markit. “One thought is that Huawei can sever the boot loader unlocked and provide tools for point to of sales person/techs to re-flashing of the ROM to circumvent the Google effect, but that has challenges on its own.”


The Huawei P30 Pro has stronger camera tools than Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus.

Angela Lang

If global buyers of future Huawei phones would have to side-load apps and games from US affairs rather than download them directly from any app tend, even Huawei’s, there’s little doubt that would turn off customers who ultimately left Windows Phone and BlackBerry OS because they couldn’t supply the apps and services that Android and iOS could.

“There are so many hoops to jump and so much uncertainty for a consumer who, at the end of the day, has alternatives,” Milanesi said.

It’s probable that without Google’s app store and services, Huawei customers outside of China would move on.

Read: Huawei’s troubles are good for Samsung

Will we even get to this point?

There’s a chance China and the US government will settle the issue before it comes to a head. President Trump has already said he’d consider comic Huawei as leverage in a trade deal with China, which means that Huawei could be allowed to reunite with its old company pals.

The US government has already softened its stance to defensive consumers who own Huawei phones. Chinese brand ZTE was similarly cut off from its US suppliers in 2018, only to get bailed out by Trump in a tweet when its company ground to a halt.

“The objective of the Trump management is to exact concessions from China on trade — especially their coping of IP,” Lam said. “Whether or not the Trump management can pull this off is suspect but given that next year is an movement year, I would anticipate this trade conflict to be resolved within the near future.”

“Huawei is doubtless hoping for a swiftly return to business as usual,” Wood said.

Huawei didn’t comment for this story.

Originally posted May 23 at 9:28 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:29 p.m. PT: Adds that Huawei and Samsung declined to comment.
Update May 24 at 6:21 a.m. PT: Adds narrate about the Hongmeng trademark.
Update, May 24 at 11:24 a.m. PT: Adds narrate about being removed from the Wi-Fi Alliance and SD Association.
Update, May 25 at 4 a.m. PT: Adds report throughout leverage in the China trade deal.