For those not in the know, the US trade restrictions with China include placing Huawei on its ‘Entity List’. This stops Huawei from trading with US companies including Google, the maker of the world’s most popular Android operating system.

Huawei uses Google Android on all of its phones. Until the US restriction lifts it cannot put Google Android on any future smartphone models.

Without Google Android, Huawei’s global position as the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer isn’t looking so certain.

Huawei’s next flagship phone, the Mate 30 is due on 19 September. The big question is what operating system and applications software will it run? (For more on the Mate 30, click our link here.)

While attending the annual IFA technology show in Berlin (as a guest of Huawei) I had the opportunity to speak to some of their executives to get a take on how the brand plans to navigate the tricky waters ahead.

Given the circumstances, Huawei has a couple of options:

  1. If the US trade restrictions lift the Mate 30 will come with Google Android 10
  2. If not, the Mate 30 will ship without Google Android but an alternative OS.

1. US Trade Restrictions

The first option would be the most ideal. In a recent interview, Huawei’s Walter Ji, President of Huawei Consumer Group stated that “…we commit to [the Google] Android ecosystem and have always been a strong partner of [Google] Android.” 

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the restrictions will lift by the Mate 30s 19 September launch date. As a result, Huawei can not commit to selling the Mate 30 in Australia and other Western markets. When and if the restrictions lift, Huawei will likely sell it here.

2. No Google Android

The second option is by far the more difficult path, but may pay off in dividends down the track.

Hot off the heels of the Huawei Developer Conference last month, there has been a lot of talk that Huawei will use its own operating software on the Mate 30, called HarmonyOS. It supports apps made specifically for it. However, HarmonyOS phones would likely only sell in its home market. 

Android

We don’t know if HarmonyOS is even ready to use yet. It’s a ‘micro-kernel’ operating system designed to run across a wide range of devices including computers, TVs, smartwatches and in-car consoles. Creating it is no small undertaking and analysts say it could be years before its ready and secure enough to use on a smartphone.

So, it would be surprising, OK very unlikely, to see it up and running for the 19 September Mate 30 launch.

Android Open Source to the rescue

This leaves Huawei in a bit of a pickle. However, given Huawei’s commitment to Android, as well as Western markets predilection for using it, there is another option – use open-source Android.

Huawei’s Dr Wang Chenglu, President of Consumer Business Software told me that this is what Huawei will do.

Android

Android’s Open Source Project is ‘free’. It is a ‘production quality’ version of Android customisable for use on any ARM processor device. Huawei, could access this source code and customise it for its phones.