Buying Huawei phones a ‘real risk’ after Google block

Buying a new Huawei phone poses a “real risk” to people in the wake of Google’s restrictions on the Chinese firm using its Android software, industry experts have said.

The Chinese phone giant has been blocked by Google from receiving updates for the Android operating system it uses to power its devices, as Google complies with a US executive order restricting access to American technology.

The order, from President Donald Trump last week, prevents “foreign adversaries” from accessing US technology without government approval.

Industry expert Tristan Rayner, senior editor with the Android Authority news website, said the block means security updates to Huawei phones from Google will stop, and, as a result, future devices may lack the reliability of other Android phones.

“Future Huawei devices will be significantly affected. We now know that future devices cannot be loaded with the Google Play Store, or those Google apps like Gmail or Google Maps,” he said.

“Play Services will also not be available, which is a core set of features responsible for many underlying operations on modern Android devices. That makes buying a Huawei phone today a real risk.”

He warned that current Huawei device owners could also face some issues.

“Existing Huawei device owners will be significantly impacted,” he said.

“Whether it’s someone with a brand new Huawei P30 Pro, which was unveiled last month, or the owner of an older Huawei Mate device that’s a few years old, it’s now clear that their Android operating system will no longer receive important security updates.”

Huawei is currently the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, behind Samsung.

Kate Bevan, editor of Which? Computing, suggested that some recent purchasers of Huawei devices could consider returning their phones.

“It’s unacceptable for consumers to be left without adequate security on their mobiles and Huawei owners will be seeking urgent reassurance that the safety of their devices will not be compromised,” she said.

“In this situation, your consumer rights are limited as there’s currently nothing faulty with these phones. However, if you purchased a phone in recent weeks it may be worth checking the retailer’s returns policy.”

On Monday, Google said it was “complying with the order and reviewing the implications”, but assured Huawei users that their current phones would continue to work.

“For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices,” a Google spokesman said.

In response to the restrictions, Huawei said it would “continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those which have been sold or are still in stock globally”.

The Chinese company also remains at the centre of a security debate in the UK over its involvement in forthcoming 5G networks.

Critics of the company have said using Huawei equipment in key communications infrastructure poses a risk to national security because of alleged links between the firm and the Chinese state.

Huawei has always denied the claims.

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