Can I Still Use a Huawei Cell Phone in the USA?

If you’re a Huawei user in the US, or just a follower of tech news, you may be aware of the ban that was implemented in 2019.

Below, we look into exactly what that ban means for people who currently use a Huawei phone or are interested in purchasing one, and what the future might hold for this tech giant.

The Huawei-US ban – what’s happened so far?

In 2019, Huawei was poised to become the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, overtaking Samsung. However, a ban by the US put a stop to this.

The then-President Donald Trump announced that certain Chinese companies, including Huawei, were to be put on an ‘Entity List’. This would mean that they would not be able to do business with any organization that operates in the US.

The reasoning behind the ban was related to risks to national security and sabotage to communications and critical infrastructure. Huawei has been accused of using their products to spy on other nations, although there has been no hard proof found for this.

The ban was implemented in 2019, meaning that Huawei could no longer work with companies based in the US, such as Google, Intel, Qualcomm and Microsoft.

What does the ban mean for Huawei users in the USA?

Huawei phones that were released prior to the ban in May 2019 have not been affected. These models will still be able to access and use Google products, such as the Google Play Store, YouTube and Google Drive. Any new Huawei phone released after May 2019 will not have these features, due to the ban preventing Huawei from working with Google.

Huawei phones all run on Android and Huawei is able to continue using Android as its operating system, even with the ban in place. The problem is that, typically, Android phones depend on Google apps to operate. Alternative apps will need to be found for anyone wanting to use a Huawei phone released after May 2019.

Is it illegal to buy a Huawei phone in the US?

It is not illegal to buy a Huawei phone anywhere in the world, including the US. The ban relates to the creation of the phone itself, including the hardware and the software. It prevents any US company from being involved with Huawei in any capacity for the manufacture and operation of the phones, but not the use of them.

Individuals in the US can buy, sell and use a Huawei phone if they wish to. As mentioned, older phones released before the ban will not see any change. If you buy a new Huawei phone, you will find that you won’t be able to use Google features that you might be used to, such as the Google Play Store where apps are available to download.

Can I still use normal smartphone features on a new Huawei phone?

In the wake of the ban and restriction on using Google’s Play Store, Huawei has developed its own version of an app store – the App Gallery. Huawei has worked with developers to encourage them to use the App Gallery for their apps, to ensure a full suite is available for Huawei users.

Huawei phones can also still be used to browse the web, send texts, make calls, record videos, take photos and all the usual things you would expect from a modern smartphone. The difference will be the apps you use to do these things. For example, if you usually use Chrome to browse the web, this won’t be available on a new Huawei phone. However, an alternative web browser will be used instead.

Does Huawei’s App Gallery have all the apps?

Huawei has worked hard to raise the App Gallery to the same standard as Google’s Play Store. However, the App Gallery has only been operating for a short period of time and, while more apps are being added to the App Gallery all the time, not every app is available just yet.

If you’re currently using a phone that accesses the Google Play Store, you can use it to download the App Gallery and check which apps are available. This way you can make sure it has what you need before you upgrade to a new Huawei phone.

Can I use Bluetooth and other accessories with a Huawei phone?

Yes, Huawei can still operate with Android and Bluetooth supported accessories. Most extra devices that connect to your Huawei phone should continue to work as usual.

There may be some exceptions to this. Some devices might not work exactly as they should, especially if they depend on a US-based company that has been banned from working with Huawei for support.

Will my Huawei phone stop working?

Obviously, no smartphone will last forever. But those in the US who are currently using a Huawei phone should be able to continue using it as normal. Neither Huawei nor the US Government will do anything to stop your phone from working while you’re in the US.

New Huawei phones will receive security updates and patches as usual from Huawei and Android. If your Huawei phone was released before May 2019 and uses Google services, there is some ambiguity over updates. Huawei will not be able to issue any patches from Google, due to the ban.

This could mean that, eventually, Google features will stop working, even if your phone was released before the ban. However, Huawei has stated it is committed to delivering updates and patches for as long as possible for all Huawei users and services.

What will happen with Huawei in the future?

Huawei has faced challenges in recent years, but it has been bolstered by the loyalty of its China-based customers. The US ban will not affect its Chinese business but, judging from the company’s past, it will not be content to remain successful in just one country. We are already seeing the steps Huawei has taken to return to being a world leader in tech.

Will the US lift the ban on Huawei?

At the moment, it doesn’t appear as though the US has any plans to lift the ban on Huawei. The executive order remains in place, even with new president Joe Biden elected in 2020.

Licensing for US-based companies

In 2020, US companies were able to apply for licenses if they wished to work with Huawei. Around 130 applications were initially submitted to the US Government, but none was approved, including Google. The Government stated that only companies that didn’t pose a security risk by working with Huawei would be granted a license.

Near the end of the year, some companies were partially approved. For example, Sony and Samsung were both approved to sell specific manufacturing parts to Huawei for their phones’ construction. While this was a small improvement for Huawei, the company still hasn’t been able to return to its usual operation.

Huawei’s operating system

Huawei could continue to use the Android operating system – just without the Google features – indefinitely. However, ever the innovator, Huawei has developed its own operating system, in an effort to work independently without the ban affecting its running.

Harmony OS is Huawei’s new operating system, which has been designed to work compatibly with Android. This means that app developers only need to make their app work on Android in order for it to also work with Harmony, making it easier for Harmony and new Huawei phones to adopt more features.

Harmony is based on Linux, an open-source operating system. This means that other companies could also adopt Harmony for their smartphones’ operating systems, putting Harmony on a stead alongside Android.

Huawei has already launched new tablets on the Harmony operating system and there are plans for new smartphone models to be launched with the new OS. Eventually, older models will also be moved over to Harmony, removing all Google-powered Android services from Huawei phones.

Huawei’s phones without Google

The first smartphone Huawei launched after the ban was the Mate 30 series. It was released without any Google apps or features at the end of 2019. At first, it was only available in China but, eventually, it was released around the world.

The phone received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with the caveat that some features were no longer available. The Mate 30 series still saw exceptional sales, with over 12 million units shipped in the first year of release.

The Huawei 40 followed, released in 2020. Once again, the phone received positive reviews for hardware and design, but consumers were advised against purchasing due to the lack of Google features. The Huawei Mate 50 series has been the most recent smartphone release but, once again, reviews have cited the lack of Google applications as a huge downside.

Time will tell if Huawei can withstand the US ban and whether its Harmony OS and App Gallery can fight against the giants of Google, Android and Apple.

Huawei and MAGFAST

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