Huawei's expired US license is bad news for phone owners

You might not get software updates again.


After more than a year, the Commerce Department has stopped giving Huawei temporary licenses to keep supporting customers — and it’s not great news if you happen to have one of the company’s phones. The Washington Post has confirmed that the exceptions quietly expired on August 13th, making it illegal for Google and other software developers to send updates to Huawei (and, of course, to Huawei’s customers). If you have a P30 Pro or another Huawei phone with full Google services, you probably won’t get Android 11 or any other updates going forward.

A Google spokesperson told the Post that the temporary license was key to delivering Android updates through official means. Phones without Google services, such as the P40 Pro and many sold inside China, should still get updates as Huawei can use the open source version of Android while delivering updates itself.

The license was originally meant to help rural carriers phase out Chinese networking equipment over surveillance fears. They could theoretically replace hardware gradually. However, it also gave Huawei’s consumer devices a brief lease on life by keeping them secure and current. Now, you’ll have no easy way to keep them updated. You might not have much choice but to replace your phone if you’re concerned about up-to-date software.

The expiry comes at a dark moment for Huawei. Tougher US trade restrictions have left Huawei without a way to make high-end Kirin chips past September, at least until alternative suppliers are available. It not only can’t support many of its existing phones, but will have a limited ability to produce new flagships. While the company isn’t in deep financial trouble at this stage, its future is murky.