Huawei’s general license for Android expired and hasn’t been renewed: here’s what that means for you

Since the start of the year, Huawei has released several smartphones in the local market.

These devices have included the Huawei Nova 5T (it recently got a new paint job), which kickstarted the Chinese device maker’s smartphone releases in the country in 2020. It was soon followed by a budget device, the Huawei Y6s in March, the Huawei Y7p in April and another Nova smartphone, the Huawei Nova 7i, in May. 2 months ago, the Huawei Y6p and Y8p also became available locally.

With the exception of the entry-level Huawei Y6s and the mid-range Huawei Nova 5T, all the smartphones that Huawei has made available in the local market this year arrive without out of the box support for Google apps and services, a key omission for users of Android devices who have been used to the same.

Instead, they arrive with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), the Chinese company’s own suite of products and services meant to provide users a seamless experience similar to the one by Google. In place of YouTube, there’s Huawei’s own video player app that has a partner video handling the video-sharing side of things, in place of the Google Play Store there is Huawei’s AppGallery where users can access apps and games. In place of Google Maps, users have access to HERE WeGo maps as Huawei explores its own solution.

All of this stems from the clash between the United States and China which, in May last year, resulted in Chinese companies such as Huawei being forbidden from trading with their US counterparts except in circumstances where their US partners have received prior authorization from the country’s Department of Commerce, to do so. These authorizations have, since then, come in the form of temporary 90-day extensions for various US tech companies like Google to continue doing business with Huawei.

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What that has meant is that despite there being a blanket blockage on Huawei accessing and using American technology, the company has been able to do things like supporting its existing device lineup. Huawei devices that had been released or approved for release prior to the effective date in May 2019, have been able to continue receiving much-needed security software updates from Google. They have also continued to access Google apps and services like Search, YouTube, Maps and others.

Given that Android is available as an open source product, Huawei has been able to release new smartphones and tablets powered by Android but without any of the Google apps and services it requires licensing from Google (which it can’t get) in order to be able to preload on devices. That is where HMS has come in.

A recent expiry of the general license that allowed the continuity of the Google-Huawei relationship as far as software support for existing devices went and the subsequent failure to immediately renew it has put all plans for future security patches in the said devices in limbo.

“The expiration of the license also means that Google won’t be able to send software updates to Huawei cell phones, which run on Google’s Android operating system,” the Washington Post reported on August 14th.

In essence, that means that for users of the Huawei Y6s and Nova 5T, the only smartphones released in the Kenyan market this year from Huawei that still had Google’s nod, that might spell doom. Unless, of course, matters are resolved soon.

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The same applies to users of all Huawei smartphones that had Google apps and services and access to monthly security patches.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com