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Huawei has been coasting on fumes lately, but that was enough for it to finally edge past Samsung to become the world’s top smartphone maker. However, tightening US sanctions threaten to bring the company’s growth to a halt. A temporary license that allowed US firms to support existing Huawei products has expired, and that means an end to Android updates on many Huawei phones.
Things changed instantly for Huawei when the Commerce Department added the company to its “Entity List” last year. Its distinction as an organization working against US interests meant no US company could forge any new partnerships with Huawei, and existing projects were heavily restricted. In the smartphone world, Huawei could no longer release new Android phones with Google services. It could, however, update existing phones—until now.
Huawei’s temporary license expired last week, meaning no US company can cooperate with or provide resources to the Chinese company any longer. That includes Google. When the Commerce Department went after Huawei, citing surveillance fears, Huawei offered numerous Android smartphones running Google’s services. It couldn’t make any new Googley phones, but it re-released the P30 Pro several times to provide an option for those who wanted Gmail, Maps, and so on.
Through it all, Huawei has sought to assuage fears that its phones would stop working. While the older Google-powered Android devices will continue to work, they probably won’t be getting any more updates. Even though it released a revamped P30 just a few months ago, the phone will never get Android 11 and will soon fall behind on security patches. If you’re still clinging to a non-Chinese Huawei phone, it might be time to look at a replacement. Huawei is expected to unveil the Mate 40 family of smartphones in the next few weeks. These devices will not have a Google-enabled option, so you can expect updates to continue normally.
This is only the latest setback for Huawei. It recently announced that more aggressive US trade restrictions have blocked the purchase of the semiconductors it needs to manufacture the custom Kirin ARM chips. That will make Huawei’s phones less competitive, even in the Chinese market where Google services are not available.
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