LONDON/MUMBAI—Time to abandon the Huawei phone? That was what some owners asked after U.S. tech giant Google said it would suspend its business with China’s top mobile maker, threatening future access to Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome.
Google said on May 20 it would comply with an order by President Donald Trump to stop supplying Huawei, meaning it would no longer be able to offer its popular Android apps to buyers of new Huawei phones.
The order to U.S. companies could affect tens of millions of consumers in Europe, its biggest market outside mainland China.
Trump’s move, said to be motivated by spying concerns amid a trade war with China, in a single blow could derail Huawei’s ambitions to overtake Samsung as the world’s biggest phone maker.
Late on May 20, the U.S. Commerce Department announced that it would grant a 90-day exemption, temporarily allowing Huawei to continue purchasing U.S.-made goods for maintaining existing networks and providing software updates to existing Huawei handsets.
Google said on May 21 that it would provide software updates for existing Huawei models until August 19.
Huawei is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without license approvals that likely will be denied.
Emerging economies such as Kenya are key to Huawei’s ambitions as it seeks to sell more low- to mid-priced handsets outside China. India, where Huawei now has only single-figure market share, is also potentially vital.
Manish Khatri, the owner of a smartphone shop in Mumbai, India’s financial hub, said some customers had been looking for Huawei phones. “Now with Google deciding to have a limited relationship with Huawei I will direct customers to other smartphones brands such as Samsung or Apple,” he said.
Google’s team working on the Android operating system told Huawei users on its Twitter @Android account it would comply with U.S. requirements while ensuring “services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”
Operators, who tie phones into their networks with mobile line contracts for calls and data, also were racing to determine the impact on their businesses from Google’s decision.
“We are reviewing the details of the executive order to understand any potential implications for our customers,” Spain’s Telefonica, Europe’s third-largest mobile operator.
Hutchison’s British network operator Three told customers that Huawei’s routers and devices would continue working, but also said it was seeking further information.
“We are in discussions with Huawei and will provide a further update as soon as we can,” the firm said in a statement.
Huawei is embroiled in a long-running row with the United States over the security of its systems and devices.
The U.S. administration has said Huawei equipment could be used by China for espionage and Washington has pressed its allies to use other suppliers. Huawei denies the U.S charges.
By Hazel Baker & Sankalp Phartiyal. The Epoch Times contributed to this report.