Google warns Huawei smartphone users against 'sideloading' apps such as Gmail and YouTube

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The ongoing US-Huawei battle has taken yet another turn with the US tech giant Google now warning Huawei smartphone users against sideloading its apps such as Gmail and YouTube onto their devices, citing security risks.

Huawei, the world's largest telecom equipment manufacturer and the second largest smartphone maker, was put on the "Entity List" by the United States, effectively banning the Chinese company from procuring tech support from US-based companies. Among these is Google which supplies the world's most popular mobile operating system Android and Google Mobile Services (GMS) that include popular apps such as Gmail, YouTube, Play Store and Google Maps.

Following the "blacklisting", Google stopped offering support for the Chinese company, potentially blocking the use of Android and GMS on Huawei phones.

Sideloading Google apps on Huawei phones

After being deprived of using Android and GMS, Huawei developed its own OS in the form of Hongmeng aka Harmony OS and its own app suite called Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) which consists of replacement or alternative apps for GMS. However, many users found ways of sideloading some popular Google apps such as YouTube and Gmail on their Huawei smartphones.

This has prompted Google to warn users of the inherent security dangers of sideloading its apps and services on the Chinese manufacturer's devices.

Google warning to Huawei users

In a blog post, Google writes: "Sideloaded Google apps will not work reliably because we do not allow these services to run on uncertified devices where security may be compromised. Sideloading Google's apps also carried a high risk of installing an app that has been altered or tampered with in ways that can compromise user security."

Google also clarifies that it has been prohibited from working with Huawei on its new models and from providing its applications including Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Play Store and others for preload of download on the devices.

Google adds that it has "continued to receive a number of questions about new Huawei devices (i.e. models that are launched after May 2019) and whether Google's apps and services can be used on these devices". This is the reason it has decided to "provide clear guidance to those asking these important questions".

Older Huawei phone users need not worry

Google says it has continued to work with Huawei in compliance with government regulations to provide security updates and updates to Google's apps and services on the existing devices. It will continue to do so in the future.

Google is only allowed to work with Huawei smartphones and tablets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019 or before the sanctions were imposed. Any devices launched after this date are prohibited from using Android or Google apps and services according to the government sanctions.

Google Play Protection certification

According to Google, any Huawei device released after the aforementioned date has not received "Play Protect certification" which means that any sideloaded Google app will not work reliably on it because it is uncertified and the security of the device gets compromised.

However, all existing Huawei devices released before May 2019 are in full compliance with Google's Protect certification process. Therefore, they will continue to receive support and security for as long as it is permitted.

If you own a Huawei phone or tablet, or any other Android device for that matter, and want to know whether your device has Play Protection certification, you can find out in the Play Store app setting's "About" section.

Huawei's HMS and upcoming launches

Huawei is pumping billions of dollars for developing its Huawei Mobile Services app catalogue. The company had also planned to unveil new smartphones, PCs and tablets and IoT devices at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, but the annual tech event was cancelled after several major exhibitors including Google, Amazon, LG and Sony withdrew from the event over coronavirus concerns.

The Chinese company has instead scheduled a webcast on Monday, February 24, where it will announce its sun-brand Honor's V30 smartphone series, along with an updated model of its foldable Mate X phablet, as well as some wearable devices.

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