If you want to know whether you can still buy an Android phone or Windows laptop made by Huawei, the simple fact is that 'yes you can'.
But the situation is different for phones that are yet to launch versus those that were already announced before Huawei's US trade ban came into place.
Current phones will continue to get security updates and current devices that would have got the forthcoming Android 10 will still get it. Laptops will get all the Windows updates in the traditional manner. Many current Huawei phones will get the new EMUI 10 user interface on top of Android 10.
These Huawei phones don't have Google services
These phones do come with Android 10 (with Huawei's EMUI 10 user interface on top). But they don't come with Google apps and you can only install them via a relatively convoluted and dodgy process.
We're expecting the upcoming Huawei P40 and P40 Pro to be in the same boat. Ridiculous as it sounds given the success of other recent Huawei handsets, we're not sure whether networks will stock them due to the lack of Google apps.
The story so far
In May 2019 it was announced that Google and other businesses that trade in the US have to change the way they deal with Huawei. The Chinese giant was blacklisted by the US in the latest skirmish of the ongoing trade war.
Subsequently, in a speech on 29 June, President Trump said he had agreed to allow US tech companies like Google and Qualcomm to once again start selling to Huawei following the restart of trade talks between the US and China. The caveat is that it's only for goods not connected to national security. Trump made the comments at a press conference at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The move seemed to be a reaction to the fact US companies were also feeling the effect of the ban.
Google was particularly vociferous that preventing Huawei using its version of Android could potentially result in national security issues through people using a Huawei-developed replacement OS - now revealed to be HarmonyOS. In reality, it's probably because non-Android phones would hit Google profits.
On 1 August Trump appeared to contradict his earlier statement (for a change), "we're not allowing Huawei into our country, we're not changed on that". This would have shown a stronger stance had he not immediately clarified it with "we can do business on non-security things with Huawei, we can do that".
On 5 September Trump stated again that "Huawei is a big concern of our military, of our intelligence agencies, and we are not doing business with Huawei".
Around this time, Huawei and Honor devices were added back onto the Android Enterprise Recommended website. That's significant as Google is actively recommending them to businesses for long-term use.
On 4 November US Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross told Bloomberg that licenses to allow Huawei to trade with US companies "will be forthcoming very shortly" and indeed, a further 90 day reprieve was granted in mid-November.
Huawei has also now filed a lawsuit against the US telecoms regulator (the FCC) as it has banned US carriers from buying Huawei gear with subsidies paid by the FCC to carries to guarantee access to telco services continue to be available right across the US.
In January 2020 the Trump administration signed a trade agreement with China which saw a thawing of the trade war, but there was no provision for Huawei in the agreement. It's thought that a second deal is on the table but there isn't consensus on whether this will help or hinder Huawei.
How does Huawei feel about the situation?
At the Mate 30 launch, Huawei CEO Richard Yu told Pocket-lint that Huawei could push Google apps to affected devices "overnight" if the ban was lifted but said that he felt the phone will still sell well in many territories, especially China of course (we've been led to believe this is the case).
He also opened up on his feelings about the ban. "It’s not good for US companies, it’s not good [for us]…in the past we [made] a big contribution to US companies. And now it’s not allowed to use…it's damaging to US companies' business.
"We are very open and transparent. We are a globalised company. In the US-China trade war we have become a bargaining chip.
"We didn’t want to do this…we were forced to do this. We have a good partnership with Google but the US Government forced us to do this. I hope you guys [journalists] can understand this."
What other countries think
As for other countries, it's true that Australia and Japan have blocked Huawei from involvement in 5G networks, but the UK Government has so far seen no reason to do the same (it did identify some problems in Huawei's software which the company is working to fix). None of these countries has banned Huawei from trading there.
Debate still rages about whether the UK Government will change its mind to introduce a ban on Huawei equipment being part of UK 5G networks. The US Government is lobbying hard for a ban. But even if the UK doesn't see the risks with Huawei that the US seems to, it may be backed into a corner. The UK needs a US trade deal in the post-Brexit world and it might have to introduce a ban on Huawei equipment to get that deal over the line.
The practicality in introducing a ban in the UK is extremely difficult. All the UK networks use Huawei tech in their networks although increasingly not in the core network, presumably in case future issues are identified. However, in terms of antenna gear, Huawei remains a big player.
What the trade ban means
The order from the US Government originally issued in May 2019 meant Huawei couldn't buy tech from US firms without its endorsement. However, a reprieve was in place - now extended, meaning that US firms can trade with Huawei for goods that don't affect security issues.
The reprieve enabled Huawei to announce that it will be bringing Android 10 to the P30, P20 and Mate 20 (plus more) as - presumably - it was able to use the extra time to get the updates approved by Google.
The ruling was particularly problematic for the Google-Huawei partnership, which means that Huawei can't preload future phones with Google apps like Maps and YouTube, the Play Store or Google Assistant.
As a contingency, Huawei has developed its own operating system HarmonyOS but it is not based on Android at all. Initially, it has not come to smartphones, but this may change in the future.
Since the Google situation became apparent other suppliers such as ARM, the SD Card Association, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm said they would have to suspend trading with the Chinese giant, so there was hurried work behind the scenes trying to get partnerships signed off before the reprieve ends - companies are probably still pressing ahead with this work in case of a change of heart by the Trump administration.
HiSilicon is Huawei's subsidiary that makes phone chipsets. The withdrawal of ARM cooperation would be massive since all of Huawei's smartphone platforms use ARM-based designs (as do almost all smartphones and tablets everywhere). Huawei's ARM-based Kirin 990 platform, destined for the Mate 30 and P40, was presumably already signed off at that point, but there could be implications for late 2020 hardware.
US chipmaker Intel supplies the chips for Huawei’s laptop line, a market that it was hoping to make an impression on in the UK and Europe as well. It's highly possible that Huawei has been stockpiling these chips.
What does it mean for existing Huawei devices?
Existing Huawei devices like the P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro are unaffected in their current form. No apps will disappear and they can continue to use Google apps and get security updates. Because Honor is a subsidiary of Huawei, the same implications would apply to its handsets, too.
Google is clear on this point: "For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices".
For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.— Android (@Android) May 20, 2019
For its part, Huawei says it “will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products covering those which have been sold or are still in stock globally.”
Even if the trade ban does continue, Huawei can "provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing Huawei handsets". This basically means Huawei can continue to trade in the US for these purposes.
What wasn't clearer for a time was whether Huawei and Honor handsets would get feature updates. But we now know that the following devices will get the upgrade to Android 10 during 2020 and they'll also get EMUI 10, Huawei's user interface, on top too.
- P30 Pro
- P30 Huawei
- Mate 20 Huawei
- Mate 20 Pro
- Mate 20 RS
- P30 lite
- P smart 2019
- P smart+ 2019
- P smart Z
- Mate 20 X
- Mate 20 X 5G
- P20 Pro
- Mate 10 Pro
- Porsche Design Mate 10
- Mate 10
- Mate 20 Lite
- Honor 8X
- Honor 10
- Honor 20
- Honor 20i/20 Lite
- Honor 20 Pro
We also think this probably applies to the Mate X foldable phone, which hasn't yet launched properly. It's running Android 9 Pie at present.
Our commitment to you, our UK fans. pic.twitter.com/gqVohZVLGz— Huawei Mobile UK (@HuaweiMobileUK) June 20, 2019
The company has also launched a website to answer regular queries and tweeted about its "commitment to fans".
What does it mean for future devices?
The Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro and Honor V30 do not have access to the Google Play Store and other Google apps and so haven't been launched in the UK and Europe. We're expecting the same situation with the upcoming P40 and P40 Pro. Huawei has its own App Gallery, but many established apps are not yet in there.
There isn't a way to offer a first-party way to get Google Play Services installed on the Mate 30, but there is a slightly complicated workaround that involves downloading an APK installer package directly onto the handset. It isn't recommended at all, however.
After you have Play Services and the Play Store installed, you can install any Android app from the store just as you would otherwise.
30 May update: Added extra links and context about the ongoing situation.
11 June update: Added new developments from Google and UK operators.
20 June update: Added information about devices getting Android Q update
1 July update: Added information on Trump's G20 statement and new Huawei statement
9 August update: Major rework after the announcement of HarmonyOS
12 August update: Android Enterprise information added
30 August update: Added latest info from Reuters
9 September update: Added Mate 30 information from IFA 2019
18 September update: Added latest Mate 30 information
20 September update: Added Mate 30 launch information and Richard Yu quotes
11 November update: Added latest situation on US-China trade talks
6 December update: Added latest information
20 January update 2020: Added latest information including trade deal developments