Close to one in every ten phones sold in Kenya during the last 12 months was a Huawei. The only other manufacturers that managed to beat this number were Tecno, Samsung, and Infinix. So clearly, the China-based firm commands a huge portion of the Kenyan mobile phone market. If you think Huawei is only strong in Kenya and China alone, then you’ll be surprised. In 2018, the firm overtook Apple to become the second largest phone manufacturer in the world, falling right behind Samsung. In fact, while other manufacturers, Apple included, were facing a drop in sales, Huawei did the opposite. They grew their sales by an impressive 21% to 200 million devices shipped out in 2018.
By now, you get the idea. Huawei is a super-huge company, with lots of money and growing popularity.  It, therefore, came as a surprise to many when early this month, Huawei users woke up to the news that their devices were not going to be receiving any further updates from Google.
And why is this a big deal? Well, because that would render the phone boring and pretty much unusable for most people. To put it into perspective, Android the ubiquitous operating system used by Huawei, Samsung, Infinix Tecno and pretty much every other smartphone manufacturer on the planet, is a product from Google. The manufacturers bring all the latest tech hardware to the table, you know, the trendsetting cameras and blazingly fast processors, while Google brings the operating system needed to run all these components in tandem.
A phone without Google support or access to its services could theoretically run a very basic Android OS, but would not have other Google services like Gmail (a big deal since most people have their contacts, photos, messages and passwords linked to the app), Youtube, and most importantly, Google Play Store. This is the most commonly used app store in the world. If you’re not using an iPhone, every app you have downloaded to your device, games, Snapchat, Uber – every single one of them, came from the Google Play Store.
But why would Google do this to Huawei? You’ll remember it’s only a few years ago that Google had “Don’t Be Evil” in its code of conduct. Refusing to work with a company that has helped you push your OS through its products across the globe seems to fit the very definition of evil.
Problem is, it’s not Google doing this. It’s Trump. *facepalm*
We’re sort of going through something called a Trade ‘war’.
Not we Kenyans, but the world, by virtue of both its strongest economies being unable to agree on how they will do business. A trade war happens when economies that normally buy stuff from each other, start feeling ‘sucrose’ or like they’re being taken advantage of, to the point that their trade negotiations start breaking down.
This is exactly what is happening. The tough-talking, iPhone-tweeting Trump feels like the USA has been getting a bad deal from the business they do with China and therefore, his government has increased tariffs and initiated some other complex economic stuff, including banning some Chinese companies in order to retain the upper hand in their ongoing trade negotiations.
That’s where Huawei comes in.
In May 2019, the US Congress (what they call their Parliament over there) blacklisted Huawei and banned all American companies from doing business with them only a few months after the same government, had ordered the arrest of the company’s CFO. Clearly, the US government isn’t a very big fan of the company despite the fantastic cameras on Huawei’s flagship device, the P30.
The ramifications of this ban, as stated earlier are huge, with the Google situation being just one of them. First, they have left Huawei with a ghost of an OS. Second, they have limited their access to the lucrative North American market and thirdly, have rendered the Huawei’s devices archaic without access to certain tech. You see quite a number of the inventions we enjoy today have American origins and ties. Case in point, Bluetooth. For you to have Bluetooth connectivity installed on your device, the manufacturer needs the blessing of Bluetooth SIG a company straight outta Washington, that holds the trademark to the wireless connectivity tech. The same applies to WiFi, Expandable Memory, GPRS and a lot more tech with American roots. The internet itself is an American invention from the ’50s if you want to consider just how far reaching their inventions are.
Even if the upcoming Huawei P40 could sing you lullabies before you sleep, brush your teeth and tie your shoelaces, I just don’t see users warming up to a phone that can’t perform simple tasks like connect to WiFi or Bluetooth. The US might as well have dropped a nuke over the Huawei Campus in Shenzhen.
But why is the USA being so extra about this?
Well, a few reasons. Some have been explicitly stated while others, like the 5G theory, have been featuring in almost every conversation around the topic without any official confirmation. The most explicit reason the US had given for the ban is that… *drumrolls*…Huawei devices could be used to spy on their users. Yep. Apparently, there’s a profound fear that Huawei’s phones come installed with secret ‘panya routes’ that can be used to send the user’s data to the powers that be in China (following a directive that all Chinese people/companies can be requested to voluntarily give up information as needed by their government).

The tough-talking, iPhone-tweeting Trump feels like the USA has been getting a bad deal from the business they do with China...

— Regarding Ongoing Trade War

As a Huawei user, this is bad for you since it means that some government agent in Beijing might be spying on you at this very moment as you read this on your Huawei Y7. They probably know where you were last night and every single person you talked to. They might even be watching you later this evening as you make love to your partner, especially considering just how good the Huawei P30’s cameras are in the dark.
If this is true then it is an invasion of privacy and should, by all means, be enough grounds for a ban. But rarely are things that black and white. The US government, on the other hand, has on numerous occasions been accused of spying on its citizens as well as any other person they feel like. The Edward Snowden whistleblowing exposed rampant espionage and eavesdropping by the NSA, CIA and other top-secret US agencies. If you don’t believe me, just google the ‘PRISM program’. In addition, I wouldn’t be too surprised if back in Kenya, Kinoti or even perhaps, the deep state had access to such tech. Enough said.
With this context, it seems both the accuser and the accused have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Whatsmore, the US has been exposed in the past of having broken into Huawei servers to a point where a senior ranking officer was caught saying: “We have gathered so much data, that we don’t know what to do with it.”
Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?
Probably. Pretty much every tech company whose services/products you use today, spies on you. As long as you have the location switched on (and probably even when it is off) your phone is actively sending data to Google, Facebook, Uber and a myriad of other apps that you use about where you were. Every time you sign up, view a product online or even search for something on google, someone collects your data. Point is, everyone spies. Why then rein in on Huawei as if they are an isolated case?
The 5G theory
 Winter is coming. At least for 4G, 3G and another mobile network infrastructures currently in use. You’ve probably seen Safcom adverts that use a racing car to show just how fast 4G is. Blazing speeds and uninterrupted connection. That’s what 4G is all about. This would be impressive until you get to learn that 5G is 20 times faster. You think the 50Mbps speed advertised is a lot? 5G can do speeds of up to 1Gb per second. Those are like insane speeds even by modern standards. Blows the current fiber connections to smithereens. It doesn’t end there. 5G makes better use of the signal spectrum allocated, at lower latency meaning that more devices can have an internet connection without consuming a lot of power.
Your fridge, TV, home theatre, toilet and even the bulbs in your house can all have a 5G connection. Your whole house could be seamlessly connected and operated from one device because 5G has the capacity to handle it. Pretty cool right? What’s more, 5G is speculated to be the final stepping stone before we usher in the age of Artificial Intelligence aka AI. If you’re a government or a serious tech company, then you need to be at the forefront of ushering in AI because it is expected to change the very nature of society as we know it.
Now here’s the interesting bit. The company currently at the forefront of the rollout of the 5G infrastructure is…you guessed it… Huawei. In fact, during an interview, the Huawei founder and CEO stated that his company was way ahead of the rest in the rollout of  5G infrastructure. He said that given another two years of the same inventiveness, no other tech company on the planet could possibly catch up with Huawei. I have no reason to doubt this based solely on the work ethic of Chinese engineers/inventors. Those fellas have a work routine called 996 – they work 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week. Clearly, their laboriousness and sacrifice might have started to bear fruit.
Could this be the reason the US government had to intervene with an unusual tackle? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Point is, everyone spies. Why then rein in on Huawei as if they are an isolated case?

— Huawei Accused of Spying on Users

So, what does this mean for Huawei users?
 For the next 90 days, all existing users will continue to receive updates from Google as well as access to other Android services. Meanwhile, it is expected that Huawei will use whatever means it can to have this decision overturned. And then things can go back to a semblance of normalcy.
Assuming they won’t be able to do that, then they might be forced to create their own OS, a move that is not only extremely difficult to pull off but also risky and expensive. Quick facts: like 80 percent of all mobile users are on Android and if not, they’re likely on IOS or using a feature phone. Almost all mobile operating systems that have tried to compete with Android have seen the proverbial dust, Windows included.
Alternatively, Huawei can use its very basic access to Android (which is an open source OS) to create a Huawei version of the operating system so that they don’t end up falling too far from the tree. It would be strenuous but manageable considering that Huawei has a few billion dollars to spare. If they are successful, this would put them in the same lucrative position as Apple which uses its own proprietary OS.
For other manufacturers, the Huawei situation is a fair warning about what can go wrong when you depend on 3rd party OS to run your own devices. Depending on how this goes down, we can expect to have manufacturers developing their own operating systems or at least, forked versions of Android in the near future. Going back to the trade war, this would be bad for both economies since it’s very hard to do long-term business in a shifty environment.