Google Warns Huawei Users Not to Sideload Its Apps

Posted on February 24, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google, Mobile with 8 Comments

In an interesting twist in Huawei’s legal drama, Google this past week warned users not to sideload its app on their Huawei handsets.

“Due to [U.S.] government restrictions, Google’s apps and services are not available for preload or sideload on new Huawei devices,” a Google support document explains. “Because of the government restrictions … new Huawei device models made available to the public after May 16, 2019 … are considered ‘uncertified,’ and will not be able to utilize Google’s apps and services.”

What Google is referring to here is its Google Play Protect program, which certifies Android devices using what Google calls “a rigorous security review and compatibility testing process … to ensure user data and app information are kept safe.” Google Play Protect-certified devices ship from the factory with protection that helps prevent them from compromised by hackers and malicious software.

Because Huawei’s most recent handsets and devices cannot be certified with Google Play Protect and cannot ship with popular Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube, customers who purchase those devices have resorted to sideloading them manually. But this, Google says, is potentially dangerous.

“Sideloaded Google apps will not work reliably because we do not allow these services to run on uncertified devices where security may be compromised,” the support note continues. “Sideloading Google’s apps also carries a high risk of installing an app that has been altered or tampered with in ways that can compromise user security.”

Interestingly, the support document is credited to Google legal director Tristan Ostrowski. I have to assume that he doesn’t write a lot of support documents, and that the real point of attaching his name to it is to demonstrate to the U.S. government that it is following the letter of law with regards to Huawei’s placement on the so-called entity list. After all, only a tiny number of U.S. consumers purchase Huawei handsets, especially since the blacklisting.

That said, Huawei’s blacklisting also means that customers purchasing recent Huawei handsets outside the U.S. must also sideload Google apps. And there are plenty of those: At this point, Huawei sells more smartphones than any company in the world besides Samsung.

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