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Leonid Bershidsky

How Huawei Could End Up Challenging Google’s Dominance

The Chinese smartphone maker might be forced to develop the Android rival the EU is hoping for.

The future Google-killer?

The future Google-killer?

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

By imposing restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co., the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump may force the Chinese company to do something that no one in tech has dared to do for a long time: Challenge Google’s control of the Android universe, which earned the U.S. company a huge European fine last year.

Huawei faces two big threats from U.S. technology export restrictions. One is the loss of American components for its products, a blow it cannot parry immediately if it wants to keep making top-flight smartphones. The other is the potential withdrawal of its Android license, which would stop Huawei from preinstalling the latest Google-approved version of the operating system and some key services Western users see as necessary — above all Google’s Play Store, the biggest repository of Android apps. This particular obstacle could, under the right conditions, turn into a Huawei strength in Europe, a market that accounts for almost a third of the company’s smartphone unit sales, according to market analytics company IDC.