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Huawei smartphone owners: Here’s what the Google ban means to you

All your burning questions answered following US ban on Huawei

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Last week, the Trump administration barred Huawei and dozens of its affiliates from buying US technology. We’ve since learned that Google, among other American companies, will comply with the order. And given that Huawei’s phones outside China use Google’s flavor of Android, what does this mean for those devices? What happens to Gmail, YouTube or the Google Play Store?

If you’ve got a Huawei or Honor phone, or if you’re thinking about buying one, here’s what you need to know:

1) I’m using a Huawei smartphone -- what happens now?

Let’s bring you the good news first: There’s no need to dump your phone right away. Existing devices will continue to have access to Google Play, along with all the Android apps carried on the store. Google Play Protect, which scans apps for malware before you download them, stays as well.
You’ll also continue to receive Android security updates. Before a temporary reprieve from the US government expires on August 20, Huawei will still receive early bird notifications about Android vulnerabilities from Google as usual. After that, Huawei can get security patches through the Android Open Source Project.

As for system updates, Google is expected to release the final version of Android Q in August, hopefully just in time for Huawei.

But here’s the bad news: As it stands, after August, Huawei will no longer be able to get system updates in advance from Google. Instead, it will have to wait until they become available on open source Android, which means your phone may receive updates later than other handsets.

2) I’ve been wanting to get a Huawei smartphone -- should I still buy one?

Maybe you were impressed by the camera zoom on Huawei’s P30. Or perhaps you were really looking forward to Huawei’s new foldable handset. In any case, there are plenty of reasons to want to get your hands on a device from the world’s second best-selling smartphone brand.

Before you part with your hard-earned money though, you should know that your new Huawei phone won’t come with pre-installed Google services. That includes Google Play, which is typically where Android users download all their apps. Also, be aware that there’s a high chance you’ll experience delayed system updates for your handset.

3) Alright, I get it but I still really want a Huawei phone -- what should I do?

Granted, you can still manually install Google Play as long as your device is supported by Google. You can find the app store on trusted sites such as APKMirror, where you can also download individual apps one by one. If you download apps from APKMirror though, remember you’ll need to manually update them from time to time because there’s no auto-update.
Alternatively, you can use Amazon Appstore or Huawei’s very own AppGallery. Both of them currently host popular apps like Facebook and Instagram, although it’s unclear if the Trump ban will affect the presence of US apps on Huawei’s store. (We’ve reached out to Facebook and will update if we hear back.)

4) Maybe I should consider other Android phones, too. What else is out there?

You have plenty of choices. We’ve wrapped up some of the best Huawei alternatives on the market -- you can read that story here.

The 5 best Android flagships that aren’t Huawei or Honor

If you were really looking forward to getting your hands on the foldable Mate X though, there aren’t really that many alternatives to choose from. You may consider ZTE’s Nubia Alpha, a smartphone/smartwatch combo that is already selling in China. Or you can wait for Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, though it still doesn’t have a release date after complaints from early reviewers.

5) What about Huawei laptops?

Huawei has some of the best reviewed laptops out there. But if you already own a Huawei computer, you’ll know that they ship with Windows, which may be a problem under the Trump ban.

Microsoft has yet to say if it will follow Google’s footsteps and suspend Windows licensing to Huawei, so we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll update this story when we get more details. In the meantime, it’s probably best to hold off on buying a new Huawei laptop.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.