Huawei was one of Google’s biggest mobile partners until last year. The government action that cut Huawei off from US businesses meant Google could no longer license its services to the Chinese megacorporation. Huawei has been trudging onward without Google services, but that might change soon. Google has filed a formal application with the US government for an exemption to continue working with Huawei.
The US government under Trump began targeting Huawei in 2018 when it pressured carriers to drop plans to sell the company’s Mate 10 Pro smartphone. In spring 2019, the Commerce Department dropped the hammer, adding Huawei to the “Entity List.” That barred US firms from doing business with Huawei, unless they could get a special exemption. The government refused to process any of those applications for many months, but Microsoft eventually got one to continue licensing Windows to Huawei.
Huawei was close to overtaking Samsung to become the largest smartphone maker in the world before the ban took effect. Since then, Huawei has been forced to launch several phones without Google services. Its own store and app suite have filled in the gaps, but many Android users won’t consider buying a phone without Google services. Still, Huawei has remained afloat thanks to booming sales in China. Devices like the Mate 30 had such compelling hardware that some people were willing to overlook the software situation.
Most companies wouldn’t have had any hope of making smartphones without US technology, but Huawei makes most of its own hardware, and Android itself is open source. Google services don’t work in China, so the company already had many of the pieces it needed to roll out non-Google phones in other countries. Huawei has even announced its own Android alternative called Harmony OS, which it could begin using in the future to make itself even less dependent on US technology.
If granted, the exemption would again allow Google to license its mobile services to Huawei. A company executive recently said that Huawei wouldn’t come back to Google even if it could. Huawei’s management team pushed back against that statement, but not very hard. It’s unlikely Google would go to the trouble of applying for an exemption if it didn’t think Huawei would be willing to become a partner again.
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