Huawei’s problems dealing with President Trump aren’t getting any easier. But the company continues to produce astonishingly good smartphone hardware, really knocking it out of the park when it comes to innovations, attractive design, great build quality and outstanding battery life. There are few companies that can match Huawei for all those factors.
The latest handset, the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, has been announced and is now on sale in the company’s home market of China, though it has yet to be released in Europe, where no firm date has been set for it to reach the shops. It looks like it could be the most advanced smartphone released in 2019 which, since phones just keep getting better, means it has the potential to earn the title of the best phone ever. Until something better comes along.
But the U.S. trade war with China has put Huawei on the Entity List which clips a company’s wings when it comes to doing business with America. This meant that when the Mate 30 Pro was revealed, it came with basic, open-source Android and not the more advanced Google Mobile Services to which we’ve become accustomed, including Google Play Store, Gmail and Google Maps.
A few days ago, a Huawei insider told me that adding these apps was a piece of cake, a quick, reliable and straightforward operation that led to a wholly successful and feature-rich smartphone. So simple that almost anyone could do it.
But now, in various reports picked up by the estimable 9to5Google, it seems things may not be quite so simple.
Until now, the installation was made possible thanks to an app, called LZPlay, available from a Chinese website, but LZPlay.net has now been taken offline and those who have downloaded it are finding it behaving differently, suddenly. So those Google services are suddenly not going to be easily added any more.
Does this mean it’s game over for Huawei?
Far from it.
This is such a fast-moving situation, that there will be, I predict, another development in a matter of days. And, let’s remember, the phone is not yet available in the West, so Huawei can take its time to get things working properly, even if they are not there yet.
It seems that those users who have sideloaded the apps are now having mixed results. Many apps are working just fine, thank you, but some are reporting issues. Some of the users are members of the tech press, like Damien Wilde, for instance, from 9to5Google.
He has tweeted that Google Pay is no longer working, saying, “Considering this was working less than 2 days ago, this is not good.”
So, what’s happened?
John Wu, an Android security researcher, reckons the most plausible explanation is that “Huawei had remotely revoked their signature.” You can read his full thoughts at Medium.
What Wu writes suggests to me that Huawei has other plans.
Who knows what this means? Maybe Huawei wants something better than the LZPlay option offered – and the company has said it’s not working with LZPlay, having told Android Central: “Huawei has had no involvement with www.lzplay.net.”
Perhaps Huawei is biding its time – after all, no definite release date has yet been announced.
And some commentators, including John Wu, believe that the LZPlay solution could have proved insecure if other security vulnerabilities arose further down the line. In which case, Huawei may well be waiting for a better solution.
Steve Jobs often used to talk about hackers trying to jailbreak the iPhone as being part of a cat-and-mouse game.
Things have changed since then, but I suspect this story has a long way to go, with ups and downs, forward steps and reversals along the way. The door may be shut, but could as easily spring wide open again. Huawei may yet find a workaround, perhaps a more solid one than LZPlay offered.
This is a very fast-moving story, so please check back for details of further developments.
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