Huawei’s Latest Smartphones, Network Gear are “America-Free”

Posted on December 2, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 54 Comments

Here’s one thing the U.S. government might not have considered when it banned Huawei from doing business in the country: The Chinese networking and smartphone giant doesn’t necessarily need the U.S. to thrive. In fact, its latest smartphones and 5G networking equipment are now “America-free.”

According to an analysis by UBS and Fomalhaut Techno Solutions and cited first by The Wall Street Journal, the Huawei Mate 30 series of handsets are made entirely without any U.S. parts, a first. The expectation is that all 2020 Huawei smartphones will be made similarly.

And it’s not just handsets.

“All of our 5G [hardware] is now America-free,” Huawei cybersecurity official John Suffolk told the Journal. “We would like to continue using American components. It’s good for American industry. It’s good for Huawei. That has been taken out of our hands.”

The net result is harmful to U.S. component makers, of course: Huawei is the world leader in the networking hardware market and is number two in smartphones. And this change mirrors the effect of Huawei not using software made by U.S. corporations like Google and Microsoft, a situation these tech giants warned the U.S. government about when it blacklisted Huawei: This action will make the U.S. weaker, not stronger, because Huawei and other Chinese tech firms will no longer rely on products and services that originate here.

What this change signifies, of course, replacing hardware components is simpler than replacing core software platforms like Android and Windows. But it’s only a matter of time before China catches up in the software arena. The clock is ticking.

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Comments (55)

55 responses to “Huawei’s Latest Smartphones, Network Gear are “America-Free””

  1. 02nz

    The hysteria over Huawei is so overblown and ridiculous. The reality is all the big Chinese IT manufacturers are pretty tied to the government. Real cybersecurity is a lot more complicated than not buying X or Y brand. (To me it's kind of the equivalent of taping over the webcam on your laptop - it makes you feel like you're doing something but in reality it's only a tiny piece of a complex issue.) And let's not pretend after the NSA spying stuff that the U.S. has much credibility on this (other than to say "surely Huawei is doing with the Chinese gov't what we got AT&T et al to do with ours."

  2. Todd Northrop

    So I guess the fact that Huawei is forced to build stuff without US parts is somehow viewed as a threat now? As if we should help Huawei spy on ourselves? Or are we just going to kid ourselves and pretend that Huawei is a good company and we are somehow losing out by banning them? Huawei, and to a larger extent China, is certainly a big threat, but not because Huawei is being forced to source from outside the USA. They are a treat because of timid people worrying about what will happen if we actually confront bad actors in the world.

    • Thom77

      In reply to Speednet:


      US tech companies are WAY more a threat to the US citizenry then Huawei.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Speednet:

      As a non-US resident, the whole thing has shown me that I shouldn't depend on US based services or products, because they could suddenly disappear at a whim from the US President.

      Likewise, Huawei has been accused of spying, but no proof given, yet Cisco were caught with their pants down and have been bricking up backdoors in their product ranges for the last 2 years, HP kit bound for NATO partners was intercepted by the NSA and root-kitted, before being delivered... US companies are bound by the same rules as Chinese firms, in that they have to cooperate with the US legal and spying apparatus upon request, as do most companies in most countries around the world.

      I find it incredible that Americans are shocked that Huawei might be asked to spy on them, yet turn a blind eye to all the American companies that have been proven to spy on them.

      • Daekar

        In reply to wright_is:

        I think this is almost the whole lesson. The lesson I have taken out of all this, and other recent events, is not just that folks shouldn't depend on US-based services, but that it's risky to depend too heavily on services/products from any country, including one's own. Do not put too many eggs in one basket.

        This isn't new information. For all the benefit of a relatively open global economy (there is no such thing as truly free trade and hasn't been for about a century), it comes with an amazing amount of risk as well. When the system is so interdependent it only takes a tiny disruption to cause significant ripples across the entire edifice. We got an object lesson in this problem during both World Wars, but folks seem to forget so quickly.

        I think you might be interpreting the American response a bit wrong - although I haven't taken a poll, so you should salt my feedback appropriately before taking it. I don't think Americans are shocked that Huawei might be asked to spy on them. I think it's practically a forgone conclusion, unfortunate but unsurprising, and not at all as interesting as the tech press makes it seem. The average person doesn't take privacy that seriously except in very specific circumstances - I would be surprised if many normal people really cared which giant multi-national company was sniffing their internet traffic until they were told they should care by the talking heads on the news outlets. They've been told for years that nothing they do on the internet is safe, and they've accepted that version of reality.

      • Stooks

        In reply to wright_is:

        "As a non-US resident"


        That is all I needed to know.

  3. terry jones

    "But it’s only a matter of time before China catches up in the software arena"

    They're stealing our IP as fast as they can! Give them a chance.

  4. HoloLensman

    Just because Huawei is supposedly building their products free of American-made parts doesn't mean that their products are free of stolen American intellectual properties.

  5. wright_is

    Quelle surprise! I don't think anyone saw that coming. /sarcasm

    This was obvious from the first moment that the US announced its sanctions that Hauwei would simply do everything internally or use parts sourced elsewhere.

    All the action by the US Government has shown is that anybody outside America should be very wary about buying or using any products or services that have any ties to the USA.

  6. wright_is

    In reply to Stooks:

    And how many ex-US Generals/Admirals run big companies in the USA, especially in the defence sector. What is your point?

    • Stooks

      In reply to wright_is:

      Are you really comparing the two???


      Yes US Generals/Admirals often take jobs in the defense sector after retirement. They do so to help the company they are working for be successful by using their knowledge of the military and over all government contract/procurement system.


      They are NOT still working for the US government and its goals......like Huawei and its founder are for the Chinese government.



  7. jackyflyer

    America or rather those who have used and exploited the country for their own goals are clashing with the Great Wall of China.

    I tell you this, America is at its end. Oh and China is not Iraq they can't invade it. So what to do? You can get the hell out of Japan now. They hate you there for a very good reason. You nuked them when you already won the war and killed civilians, men, women and children.

    • thegroundbelowme

      In reply to jackyflyer:


      Wow, dude, are you really bringing up WW2-era-complaints? For one thing, your comment about having "already won the war" completely ignores that "winning the war" would have required Japan to have surrendered. They hadn't. Our only alternative to the Nuke was island-hopping all the way to Nippon, which would have resulted in the loss of at least tens of thousands more allied soldiers, if not more. And the fact is that in war, your main goal is to win in a way that results in the least number of casualties to your own side. And let's not forget that Japan was the aggressor in WW2 - remember Pearl Harbor? I think the historical consensus is strictly against you in this case.


      Secondly, you are aware that Japan is one of America's strongest allies, right? They may have wound up in that position through a weird and roundabout road, but the American and Japanese economies are heavily linked. I've never met a Japanese person who claimed to hate America, and I've met a LOT of Japanese people through my job and education. True, they don't want them living in Japan itself, but that's true for pretty much any non-Japanese ethnicity. Japan is unapologetically racist when it comes foreigners wanting to live in their country.


      Third, what even is your actual argument here? Do you think that America just has a list of countries it wants to invade, and is just waiting for the right time? Or do you think Americans are going to need to flee North America by the tens of millions? I honestly don't understand what your point is. You literally went from "you can't solve the China problem by invading it, so what can you do? GET OUT OF JAPAN." That's not exactly a coherent argument.

  8. Greg Green

    Funny phrase. Got to give them credit for marketing skills.

  9. brduffy

    That's good news. Those handsets should continue to do well in China.

  10. roho

    Paul, I suggest you read the article in Forbes titled "Has Huawei's darkest secret just been exposed by this new surveillance report?" by Zak Doffman.

  11. conan007

    "replacing hardware components is simpler than replacing core software platforms like Android and Windows. But it’s only a matter of time before China catches up in the software arena."

    Looks like North Korea is more advanced in this aspect than China as it is already American-free hardware and software (e.g. Red Star OS) for years.

  12. james_rainey

    "America-free" is a tag line that's not just being adopted by Chinese firms. I'm seeing it in the America's as well as other parts of Asia.

  13. StevenLayton

    Sounds like the US government might have made a bigly mistake with the way they handled the Huawei situation ;)

  14. Vladimir Carli

    The reality is that Huawei phones today are by far the best existing smartphones. They come above everyone else in everything and the fact that the us government is trying to make them fail in any possible way is rather suspicious. American consumers are missing out on great tech. This kind of unfair competition will hurt the us market first. Fortunately everywhere alse in the world people are still able to choose to buy the best smartphones

    • MachineGunJohn

      In reply to Vladimir:

      the us government doesn't give a crap about Huawei cellphones, it's the carrier network equipment that's the problem right now. The cellphones themselves could soon become a problem also though if the ban is successful and they can't get access to the data in a more centralized way and have to fall back to collecting from the end devices directly when they establish unmetered WiFi connections. We're already starting to see that with Chinese made drones and 3d printers. If you're company is printing any proprietary ip you better get in the habit of doing it offline if you're not blocking all outbound traffic from it

      • wright_is

        In reply to MachineGunJohn:

        That is one of the reasons why most companies over here have policies banning the use of cloud based services and attaching kit to the Internet that doesn't strictly need it.

        All industrial equipment here is networked to a controller, but they are all on an isolated segment with no Internet access. The support engineers have to actually come here and work directly on the controllers.

    • Todd Northrop

      In reply to Vladimir:

      OK Vladimir, great story. I suppose Russia is great too, right?

      • Vladimir Carli

        In reply to Speednet:


        no Russia doesn’t make smartphones. I don’t care at all about the politics. From the rest of the world perspective China and the US are both bad and spying on us. I care about tech. Huawei produces hardware that is on top of everything else. I understand that’s difficult to accept but it’s a reality. What Americans should realize is that the us are a tiny bit of the world geographically and population wise but with a huge GDP. This GDP depends vastly on trade with the rest of the world. These policies seem frankly a bit suicidal

        • Todd Northrop

          In reply to Vladimir:

          No, what is suicidal is allowing the Chinese to spy on us through proxy companies like Huawei. I also don't draw a moral equivalency between China and the US like you do. To state that they are "both bad" is very child-like and demonstrates an inability to evaluate intentions. Perhaps you should care more about politics so that you can form more complete opinions on complex adult matters like this.

          • john chaloner

            In reply to Speednet:

            China is a demand economy, companies had to be funded by the government because China had no investment banks. They stole western technology to catch up, as they improve on US/western technology they will want to protect their own products as we do. Overreacting as Trump has done will backfire, how long will it take and at what cost to get back to selling US farm products. I understand that China holds an enormous amount of US bonds that if dropped on the marlet could severely damage the world economy. 30's style depression?


            From this side of the Atlantic it looks like Russia is a far bigger threat to the stability of the US, aided by the an imbecile President. Trump has done untold damage to the US reputation across the world. Retreating within your borders will end in isolation, loss of international partners and poor export sales.

          • Vladimir Carli

            In reply to Speednet:


            Is there any proof of Huawei spying? It sounds exactly as the weapons of mass destruction that were supposed to be kept in Iraq. It may certainly be childish to think that everyone is bad. But claiming moral superiority of the US over China is absurd. A bit like exporting democracy by waging war

  15. PeterC

    Yup, way to go USA. In a few short years your erstwhile president has created what China had been trying to do for ages which is encourage its own citizens to consume the products manufactured in China instead of “ perceived” better from the US product. the irony and naivety of it all is hilarious.

  16. warren

    In reply to Stooks:


    The chair of the FCC used to work at Verizon as General Counsel.

    The former chair of the SBA used to be the CEO of the WWE, which ran multiple major events in Trump facilities.

    Stuxnet was an American-created virus that attacked Iranian nuclear facilities.


    Don't pretend the side you've chosen isn't full of the kind of bullshit you're criticizing the other side for.

  17. rm

    In reply to Stooks:

    Smart people in the US and in other countries actually do examine the code and test them out to make sure they are safe . . . Meanwhile the Chinese government does really have hacking groups working on attacking the US through the internet successfully and without including Huawei hardware and software; that would just hurt sales. So, basically, China does not need to include government companies like Huawei to be successful in both. The US government (Trump) has never even said there is proof of wrong doing by Huawei and is willing to destroy the US tech industry in China to help other industries with Chinese trade.

    • Stooks

      In reply to RM:

      "does really have hacking groups working on attacking the US through the internet successfully and without including Huawei hardware and software"


      Right because "RM" from the Internet knows exactly how the Chinese cyber warfare is run? Do they give you weekly briefings? Even more so than the FBI, CIA and NSA and other top Intel chiefs that recommended not using Huawei or ZTE. Oh and Paul knows better as well.


      I think most people on the side of Huawei are just anti-trump. Obama's administrator recommended the same thing.


      Go read the recent Forbes article on Huawei and then GUESS again.

      • Todd Northrop

        In reply to Stooks:

        Thank you Stooks, best comment here. 100%.

      • wright_is

        In reply to Stooks:

        No, most people who are "on the side of Hauwei" have common sense and can analyse the situation for themselves, and aren't necessarily pro-Huawei, they just see the inconsistency and stupidity of the US actions. I'm not American and I'm not Republican or Democrat, that is irrelevant to me. What is important are the actions of the USA.

        And they are demonstrating that we should all be avoiding US products and services, if we don't want to suffer interruption to our business and personal lives. The best bet is to buy locally sourced products only.

        As to attacking RM, yes, there is a lot of proof out there - especially if you work in or are interested in infosec.

        The best advice, for example, if you are going to China, is to use a burner phone and laptop, don't store any information on them and destroy them and leave them in the rubbish at the Chinese airport on the way back.

        Going by the violations going on by customs and immigration in the USA, that policy is also probably good advice to those visiting the USA at the moment. Certainly I wouldn't take my own phone or laptop with me, if I visited the USA.

    • MachineGunJohn

      In reply to RM:
      1) Chinese products being America-free will in no way destroy the American tech industry.
      2) China has been on their master plan of having everything made in China be everywhere-outside-of-china free for decades although arguably it really accelerated during the Clinton administration with all the military technology theft from the US. This is well known and was old news back when Trump was still a Democrat. The EU is just a little bit slower catching on and is still too distracted by the drains put on it by it's financially failing members to effectively deal with it. Once China puts airbus and Daimler and Volkswagen out of business they may make it a priority but it will likely be too late.
      • wright_is

        In reply to MachineGunJohn:
        1) Chinese products being America-free will in no way destroy the American tech industry.

        Probably not straight away and this is just a causal-effect. It isn't the Chinese going US-free, it is the US Government demonstrating to the rest of the world that they shouldn't be using anything tainted by US influences, if they don't want their work or personal lives disrupted at a moments notice.

  18. gregsedwards

    Sort of like how any company can build their own Chromium-based browser or build their own version of Android without all the Google stuff?

  19. tsclark1122

    I guess I would not mind the reverse, an all US phones and network gear with no parts from Asia. Lets get on this. ;)


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