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Got a Huawei phone? Your rights as Google prepares to restrict its use of Android

Got a Huawei phone? Your rights as Google prepares to restrict its use of Android

If you've a Huawei smartphone you may struggle to download some future versions of the Android operating system, and there are questions over how quickly you'll get some security updates, after Google announced it is to restrict the Chinese tech giant's access to the software. 

Here's what we know so far about what's happening.

See below for info on your consumer rights, including MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis' view. And for full help on cutting the cost of your mobile phone, see our 30 Cheap Mobile Tips.

I have a Huawei device – what does this mean for me?

Huawei is the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, and uses Google's Android operating system to power its devices.

But Google said this week it is to restrict Huawei's access to the software in order to comply with an executive order issued by US President Donald Trump last week. The order means companies considered to be "foreign adversaries" can't access US technology without government approval. Huawei insists it always abides by the laws of each country it is present in, and has argued the dispute is about trade, not security.

After Google's announcement, the US Commerce Department said it will give Huawei a 90-day grace period, so Huawei will be able to carry on working with Google until mid-August. But after that, there's some uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the full implications of Google's announcement still aren't clear, and Google and Huawei have so far only released limited info. Here at MoneySavingExpert we know more about saving money than tech, but here's the latest based on reports from the Press Association and experts we've spoken to at tech sites TechRadar and XDA-developers.com:

  • Google and Huawei both say they will continue to provide some support for existing Huawei devices, as well as devices from Huawei's sub-brand Honor. So in theory, if you have or buy an existing Huawei model, it should carry on working as usual – for now at least – and you won't suddenly find you can't install new apps or get updates.

    Google says users of existing Huawei devices will still be able to use Google Play, and will get security protections from Google Play Protect. And Huawei insists: "The products we have sold and currently sell will not be affected."

  • However, Huawei users may struggle to download some future versions of the Android operating system. Experts have said that while users probably will be able to download the next version of Android, which will be released later this year, it may be harder for them to access future updates.

    Gareth Beavis, UK editor-in-chief of leading tech website TechRadar, told MoneySavingExpert that problems could be seen with the roll-out of the 'Android R' update in 2020. "I firmly think users will get Android Q [the update released later this year] at the same speed," he said. "It's Android R that could be the issue."

    Huawei says it will continue to release updates to its operating system. Asked if its phones will support Android Q, Huawei says it will release "more details" in future system upgrade notifications.

  • There are questions over how quickly Huawei users will get important security updates in future. The questions focus mainly on what will happen for future Huawei devices, but experts say there are still unknowns about how users of existing models could be affected too.

    This is because Huawei could be given access to security updates later than other tech firms who are allowed to use Android, meaning there might be delays in fixing security flaws. Beavis said: "We're still yet to understand what access current Huawei users will have to security updates, but future phones could only have access to security fixes [at] general release."

    Huawei says phones already in circulation will still receive Google security patches, although it hasn't commented on future devices. 

  • Future Huawei devices may not be able to load some Google apps, for example Google Maps and YouTube. Again, this hasn't been confirmed, but some experts have warned it may be an issue – Huawei haven't commented on this.

Again, there's still a lot that's uncertain and the current situation could change.

What are my consumer rights?

It's important to remember that Huawei devices are operating as normal for now. So while some users may be worried by Google's announcement, you're unlikely to be able to use your consumer rights to ask for a refund for a Huawei device at the moment – after all, they're still functioning entirely normally.

However, if you have only just bought a Huawei phone or tablet and you're worried about how it will function in the future, it's worth checking whether you're still in the returns period for your device. See our Consumer Rights guide for more info.

Longer-term, if you were to struggle to update your Huawei phone, it remains unclear what comeback you might have.

Martin: 'It will be difficult to challenge – but that doesn't mean you shouldn't complain'

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "My gut instinct is it will be very difficult to challenge the purchase of a Huawei under consumer rights laws.

"There are a few stumbling blocks. Even if we take the unlikely scenario that current phones will be impacted, to be a fault it has to be a fault at the point of purchase (though not being built to last a reasonable length of time falls within that) and so it is questionable whether not getting upgrades fits into that.

"There's also an issue over whether the individual software is a core part of the phone and the problem is of enough substance to cause a refund. If it is only new phones that will be affected, then it is likely that will be public information and you will be given information about the phone when you buy it – so it will be 'as described'.

"Ultimately though, the only way to find out is for someone to take it to court, and for a judge to decide. None of that means that if you are unhappy with your phone if something changes, you shouldn't complain though. We don't just have rights, we have consumer expectations too. So if something is substandard, complain to the firm you paid and tell them, ask them to put it right. You never know."

We'll continue to follow this issue and provide updates when we know more.

What do Google and Huawei say?

A Google spokesperson said: "We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications.

"For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices."

Responding to the restrictions, Huawei said it would "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."

What about Huawei laptops?

Huawei also produces a range of laptops which run on Microsoft's Windows 10.

Microsoft is also a US company – but so far, there hasn't been any indication of whether restrictions will be put in place.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.