Enterprise

Huawei vs the US: A timeline

An FAQ on Huawei’s problems

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Who’s afraid of Huawei? Right now, everyone is. Does anyone really know why?

Since 2017, the US has dealt continuous blows against the Chinese company. More than two years later, the war is still in full swing. Both sides have fired multiple salvos against the other. Still, despite the conflict’s longevity, most people are not really sure what’s happening.

Why are they fighting? Should we stay away from Huawei? Is it time to get rid of our Huawei devices as soon as possible? Should we really fear for our cybersecurity?

For ordinary consumers, the entire Huawei debacle is mired in political lingo and endless controversy. It’s time to clear the air. What’s up, Huawei?

How did this all begin?

Let’s go back to where it all started. In late 2017, American lawmakers reviewed the businesses of ZTE, another Chinese tech company. Soon after, the investigation unveiled a flurry of shady business deals involving Iran. By law, companies operating in the US are not allowed to communicate with blacklisted countries including North Korea and Iran. Naturally, the violation caused monumental sanctions against ZTE. The US banned ZTE from American soil — effectively, the same ban on Huawei today.

At this time, Huawei was just a moderately innocent passerby stuck between two fighting giants. At most, Huawei was accused of spying on its customers. American lawmakers proposed a boycott of Huawei’s products. The proposal drew from the emerging rise of Sinophobia. Still, at the time, the US government’s eyes were firmly on ZTE.

Current restrictions prevent Huawei from providing 5G technologies to American consumers

In its infancy, the Huawei-ZTE issue was a product of a small fear. It still hadn’t affected everyone. In fact, US President Donald Trump even tried to save both companies from utter destruction. Both companies enjoyed a reprieve from America’s ire. However, this was short-lived.

In a surprising about-face, Trump started his controversial trade war against China. The American leader abandoned his salvific efforts. Instead, he adopted an incredibly aggressive push against Chinese companies. Unsurprisingly, ZTE already crumbled from the initial push, leaving Trump without a company to make an example out of.

Trump set his sights on Huawei, the world’s second largest smartphone maker. His weapon: the same ban meant for ZTE. His motive: potential cybersecurity issues. This time, America means business. Recently, Trump finally pulled the trigger, enacting a total ban against Huawei on American soil. However, instead of just the US, Trump has been lobbying for a similar ban on other countries. Since then, Huawei has suffered a world of hurt.

What does the ban mean?

Naturally, a “total ban” sounds daunting. Banning Huawei smells like certain doom for the tech giant but what does the ban really mean?

When enforced, Huawei can no longer deal with American companies. To Huawei’s dismay, the tech maker uses a fair number of American components in its products. Most notably, Huawei’s smartphones come with Google’s Android. The ban will prevent Huawei from using the operating system going forward. On paper, this is a huge deal. Android remains the world’s biggest operating system. A lot of consumers trust Android. Huawei is losing a massive chunk of its package with the loss.

As if that wasn’t enough, Facebook — and its slew of apps — have withdrawn from Huawei’s products. The company’s smartphones will no longer have Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp installed out of the box. The threat is becoming real.

Huawei makes its own chipsets but relies on several American companies for other components

Additionally, Intel, Broadcom, and Qualcomm have blacklisted Huawei after Google’s announcement. Huawei has also lost the support of the ubiquitous ARM chip architecture.

It’s not looking good for the Chinese company. Huawei is slowly being dismembered. Faced with an army of bans, it’s natural to worry about Huawei. Worst case scenario, Huawei will become a mere shadow of its former self, devoid of the components that helped its recent success.

Should we really worry, though?

Not just yet. Right now, Huawei is enjoying a temporary reprieve. Soon after the initial ban, the American government granted the company a three-month extension. Until around the end of August, Huawei can still operate with its current partnerships. Except Facebook, its devices will still ship with the same components we love. At least for the near future, Huawei is safe.

In the meantime, Huawei is hunting for adequate alternatives for its failing parts. This means a new operating system, new chips, and likely an entirely new package. To its credit, Huawei’s development team is working around the clock. Only a month removed from ground zero, they are already promising optimistic developments for the future. Huawei remains confident in their future, launching a bevy of new phones amidst the controversy.

Likewise, some American companies are also lamenting the loss of business. Before the ban, Huawei was a loyal customer, delivering American components to a massive global audience. They aren’t happy with Trump’s ban. For one, Google has publicly defended Huawei. According to them, Huawei’s — and subsequently, the world’s — cybersecurity standards will collapse without a collaboration between international companies. With Android, Google can act as Huawei’s checks and balances against potential cybersecurity threats from malicious forces. If anything, Huawei still has its share of public defenders.

The US ban will prevent Huawei from using Android as its operating system moving forward

Most importantly, Trump still has the power to reverse the ban before the 90-day extension runs out. If China and the US reach a meeting point, all might go back to normal. Though uncertain, it’s too early to give up on Huawei just yet.

What will Huawei 2.0 look like?

Unfortunately, Huawei’s future is muddled with uncertainty. This includes any potential iterations in the future. As far as we know, Huawei isn’t bleeding from the multitude of losses. The company has reinforced its Kirin chipsets. Further, they are developing their own dedicated operating system codenamed Ark OS.

Other than that, there’s not much to go on. Speculatively, the biggest changes will come from its app supports. If Google leaves, Huawei will be left without the Play Store’s support and security. The Chinese company will have to rely on its own native software to power their phones. Unfortunately, an all-Chinese ecosystem is less than ideal for most. In fact, having one might even justify the American Sinophobia. But again, it’s all up in the air.

I have a Huawei phone. Should I just sell it?

No, you still shouldn’t. The grey market is already doubling down against the onslaught of Huawei returns. If you don’t know a willing contact, finding a buyer will be difficult. If you do find one, you’ll receive only a mere fraction of what you paid for.

At its current iteration, Huawei’s phones are still on top. They are a delight to hold and use, and if anything, have challenged its competitors to offer better value to consumers over the years. Right now, it’s best to play the long game. Wait and see what happens. If anything, Huawei — and its official partners — already has an insurance policy in place. Several retailers have declared a 100 percent refund policy in countries like Singapore. If Google cuts the cord, Huawei users can get their money back.

Similarly, Google has promised Android Q support for existing Huawei handsets. Just this week Huawei also announced the rollout of Android-based EMUI 9.1 to older models. If you already own one, a Huawei phone shouldn’t be an immediate cause for panic.

So, should we really be worried about Huawei?

Understandably, uncertainty isn’t an ideal for everyone. Huawei’s troubles are an excruciating thorn for both businesses and consumers alike. Switching to another brand is a natural solution against the company’s shaky future. However, if you’re looking at the silver lining, worrying is likely a premature reaction. If you’re not a Huawei user, the controversies shouldn’t affect you. If you’re already a Huawei user or looking to buy a Huawei device, it will likely pay off to play a longer strategy. After all, Huawei devices are still some of the best smartphones you can buy on the market.

Editor’s Note: Looks like we really shouldn’t worry after all. Not even an entire day has passed since this article was originally published but Huawei no longer banned in the US. Rejoice, Huawei users!

Enterprise

Essential shuts down, ending the Essential Phone

Rest in peace

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Years ago, the Essential Phone earned its bit of the limelight. Going up against a downpour of identical phones, Andy Rubin’s smartphone promised a refreshing change for a disenchanted market. On launch, it delivered on its grand promise, outing a powerful, edge-to-edge display for a workable price.

Unfortunately, Essential, the company, never developed a promising follow-up for the Essential Phone. In fact, Essential’s history has been tumultuous since the Essential Phone’s launch. Since then, Essential has downsized the company, repeatedly reduced the original phone’s price, and failed to deliver on promised devices. Most recently, the company stopped further production of the Essential Phone.

Now, the inevitable has finally happened. In an official blog post, Essential is closing shop, ending operations as a company.

In its final exit, Essential is leaving behind an unfinished Project GEM. After shutting the Essential Phone 2 down, the company hinted at an extra-long smartphone, a new mobile experience unlike any other. Because of today’s announcement, Project GEM will never see the light of day. “Despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers,” Essential said.

Further, Essential has also released its final update for the Essential Phone, rolled out on February 3. Though still functional indefinitely, Essential Phone users will not receive any support from the company anymore. When it was still operation, the company outed consistent updates for its fans, including one of the earliest accesses to Android Pie. If anything, Essential will provide development resources to the public, ensuring crowd-sourced support, at the very least.

Regardless, Essential is officially dead. For real this time.

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Google Station winds down, bids goodbye to free Wi-Fi

Passing the torch to Smart Communications

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More than 400 venues offering free Wi-Fi will wind down through 2020, as Google Station bids goodbye. In a report by Manila Bulletin, an anonymous source stated how partners are losing money due to a lack of sustaining advertising revenue ultimately leading to Google shutting down the service.

Google responds

However, Google denied the claims that Google has not provided support to partners resulting in revenue loss. In a statement, Google expounds on how the change in landscape and scalability is the reason why Google Station is winding down.

“4G is getting prevalent in a number of markets and data prices are dropping globally. This, combined with the complex and varying technical requirements across partners and countries, makes it a challenge to scale and sustain Station.”

“This has made us re-evaluate our plans and we have decided to wind down the program through 2020. We are working with our partners to support our users and them to gradually transition. We remain committed to look for ways to make the internet more accessible for users around the world,” a representative from Google added.

Passing the torch

Google’s current installations for the Google Station project will be taken over by Smart Communications, its local partner. Passing the torch, Smart Communications will be rebranding the current project, continuing Google’s promise of fast, free, and reliable connectivity in its current locations — only with Smart on its name.

Google Station will wind down through 2020 in the Philippines, alongside India, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Nigeria, Brazil, and Vietnam.

Source: Manila Bulletin

 

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Enterprise

France punishes Apple for slowing down iPhones

Specifically for not notifying users

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Apple’s planned obsolescence is a well-known controversy by now. The iPhone maker notoriously slows down old phones after their respective life cycles. In Apple’s defense, the obsolescence apparently prolongs the device’s life. Consumers, however, are angry over being forced to upgrade.

Since then, lawmakers have tried to sue companies for purposefully slowing down their phones. For example, the Italian government successfully challenged Samsung for similarly doing the same thing.

Now, France is suing Apple for the same controversy. Sort of.

France’s case doesn’t explicitly deal with Apple’s practice. Instead, the French are suing Apple for not notifying users of the practice. According to the case, Apple did not do wrong by slowing down phones. Apple did wrong through “deceptive commercial practice by omission.”

Regardless, Apple’s fine is quite hefty, even for a global corporation. Because of the case, Apple must pay EUR 25 million in fines (or around US$ 27 million).

Of course, the fine is ultimately just a minor fender bender in Apple’s cash-making machine. However, it is still enough to institute some form of change, especially in France. As part of the punishment, Apple is required to display notices on its French website.

Since the initial controversy, Apple has practiced better transparency in explaining the need for the slowdown. Still, no one likes slow phones. Even in 2020, Apple’s planned obsolescence is still a hot topic.

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