United States President Donald Trump recently eased trade restrictions which prevented United States companies from doing business with Huawei.
Before these restrictions were lifted, Huawei and ZTE were barred from selling their equipment in the US and they lost support from chip manufacturers and future access to Android.
The ban sent shockwaves through the mobile industry, as Huawei is the biggest telecoms equipment providers and the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.
So significant was the Huawei ban that the CEOs of Cell C, MTN, Vodacom, and Telkom asked for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s help to deal with the potential repercussions.
Ramaphosa has subsequently thrown South Africa’s weight behind China in its ongoing trade war with the United States.
Impact on South African users
While the trade restrictions have been lifted for the time being, there are still risks to Huawei if a lasting truce between China and the United States cannot be reached.
Huawei Technologies South Africa CTO Akhram Mohamed has, however, downplayed these risks and said South African users can feel safe buying Huawei smartphones and equipment.
Speaking to Radio 702, Mohamed said any smartphones which were manufactured and launched before the mid-May ban were not affected.
“That means every device Huawei has launched up to the P30 and P30 Pro would continue to work as per normal and receive Android updates,” he said.
Impact on future phones
Mohamed said potential US trade restrictions would only impact future phones which Huawei is planning to launch.
The big question is whether Huawei will still be able to use the Android platform or resort to its own operating system (OS).
“We have been working on our own OS for many years, which includes designing a system which constantly improves the customer experience,” said Mohamed.
“We do have something ready, but we always look at it as collaboration driving innovation. We have been a key role player in the ongoing development of the Android ecosystem.”
“We would love to continue using that, and the consumer is the big winner when you have collaboration in the industry.”
What happens when the ban kicks in again?
Mohamed said from a hardware perspective, Huawei has been building its capability to design and manufacture chipsets for many years.
He said only around 1% of the components in the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro smartphones are American-made, which shows their capability on the hardware side.
The software side is more relevant, but even if they lose access to Android the impact on their users will be minimal.
Mohamed explained that while they are using Android, Huawei has an overlay called EMUI – a custom mobile operating system that is used on most of its smartphones.
“Because we have been improving Huawei EMUI over many years, it has evolved into almost an operating system of its own,” Mohamed said.
Even if they lose access to Android, Huawei will still be able to offer smartphones to consumers without compromising user experience.
“Most Huawei fans will not even notice the difference,” said Mohamed.
He highlighted that while Huawei can go it alone, it would prefer to continue to collaborate with US companies for its products.