Following orders from the United States government in an attempt to curb technology trade with China, Google has revoked Huawei’s Android licence.
This move could have serious implications for the manufacturer’s smartphone business, as its upcoming handsets will not run licensed versions of Android.
Google said that existing Huawei device owners will still be able to use Google Play and Google Play Protect – however, it is expected that handsets will not receive official Android platform updates in the future.
Huawei smartphones released in the future may be forced to use the open-source Android licence or drop the OS altogether for their own proprietary software.
While the inability to install Google apps such as Chrome, YouTube, and Gmail would be a major problem for many users, there are workarounds – depending on which solution is implemented by the companies.
Android licensing explained
It may be odd to think that Huawei could continue to manufacture Android smartphones after losing their official Android licence, but the operating system’s code is actually open source.
This means anybody can build it into a product and use it. Problems come in when dealing with the official Google licence that has been stripped from Huawei, though.
Only the base Android operating system is open source and most Android devices ship with a substantial amount of Google-owned software.
These include applications such as the Google Play Store, Google Search, YouTube, and Chrome, in addition to the all-important Google Play Services which provides APIs for integration with a host of Google-provided services.
All of this is licensed from Google by manufacturers, and this means that Huawei will not have access to these applications when developing new Android devices.
Potential workarounds for this lack of Google app integration may be open to the company, however.
If Huawei were to develop a version of Android based on the open-source licence without Google integration, this would be similar to a custom ROM installed on a rooted device.
In both cases, there are no Google apps installed on the device: including the Google Play Store and Google Play Services.
However, users are still able to download APK files (Android Package files) from various sources online. There is also a popular “GApps” APK available online which includes all standard Google apps as well as Google Play Services and the company’s app store.
This may restore standard Google apps and functionality to Huawei devices post-purchase, although it should be noted there may be numerous compatibility issues with the APKs and they will not be officially supported.
Additionally, if Google decides to revoke Google Play Certification (Huawei was still listed as a Play Protect partner at the time of writing), then users may be unable to get Google apps running at all.
It may be possible for users to submit their Google Service Framework ID through a Device Registration page to get the apps running on their phone, although Google may limit this functionality.
Some of these workarounds may be possible, some may not be necessary. Either way, it is important to realise that even if Huawei implements an Android-based operating system, Google has the final say on whether device owners will be able to install its suite of applications.