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Huawei crackdown

Huawei eyes spring release of Google-free smartphone

Homegrown software still needs more time before debut, exec says at Berlin expo

Huawei Technologies is expected to retain access to the open-source Android platform under the U.S. ban, but without access to key apps like Gmail.   © Getty Images

GUANGZHOU -- Huawei Technologies looks to roll out a smartphone featuring its self-developed operating system as early as spring 2020, as U.S. sanctions endanger its access to Google's Android OS.

If Huawei cannot continue using Google services, it may introduce the smartphone version of its HarmonyOS with the flagship P40 due to be announced next March, Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei's consumer business, told Chinese media at the IFA 2019 electronics expo in Berlin.

Huawei's access to Android has remained uncertain since the U.S. Commerce Department put the Chinese telecommunications company on a trade blacklist in May, essentially banning American suppliers from selling it parts or software.

Huawei still needs time to prepare HarmonyOS for smartphone use, Yu said. He added that the company is laying the groundwork for outside app developers, an indication that the Shenzhen-based group is eager to build an ecosystem that does not rely on Android.

The premium Mate 30 smartphone, slated to be unveiled this month, is expected to run on Android. But it will likely lack key apps, including Gmail and Google Maps, that are subject to the U.S. ban.

Google offers a free, open-source version of the Android platform that, strictly speaking, is not covered by the blacklist.

But Huawei has been developing a replacement OS so it can make the switch if the worst-case scenario comes to pass. HarmonyOS, known as Hongmeng in Chinese, is already used in such devices as smart TVs.

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