The next step in the US-China trade war is imminent. The US government confirmed its plans this week to take action against so-called “untrustworthy” Chinese manufacturers and apps.
The Trump administration has not said exact actions will be taken other than announcing it will prevent these anonymous manufacturers from providing US-made apps to download or pre-install them.
The term “unreliable” is extremely broad, but it would be a warning to all Chinese smartphone manufacturers taking backup measures now.
All the rhetoric so far is strangely reminiscent of the language the US government used before it took action against another famous Chinese brand not long ago.
The US versus Huawei bans became famous around the world behind in mid-2019. In a shocking incident, Huawei got on the US Entity List.
That means some US companies and companies with US-sourced technology are not allowed to freely do business with the Shenzhen giant.
The same series of sanctions restrictions can easily affect other Android brands from China, and they need to be prepared to face the same challenges, or possibly much worse.
US-China trade war: Bad for Huawei, much worse for others
One of the most important companies forced to cut ties with Huawei is Google. The subsequent loss of Google Play Services was certainly a blow to the Chinese brand.
None of its recent phones and tablets offer pre-installed Google apps, the Play Store, or a critical set of Play Services used by first-party and third-party apps.
The company’s position in the global market remains solid but largely held up by homegrown sales in China, where Google is not a factor.
This same fate will likely await many Chinese smartphone manufacturers if the US decides that all Chinese brands are “unreliable”.
From OnePlus and TCL to Oppo and Xiaomi, the vague language used by the Trump administration means no brand is safe.
One way to minimize the potential impact of losing Google is to submit devices for Google certification as soon as possible. This is not a sure way to beat US sanctions and it is essentially delaying the inevitable.
But that means Chinese OEMs could establish a solid portfolio of new and upcoming devices with Google services in anticipation of being banned.
Another solution that may be less desirable is for affected manufacturers to rebrand their existing devices.
However, this option is more like repainting a house than renovating it. Sure, the new paint looks great, but the house is still the same. The end consumer will become wiser.
However, the U.S. trade ban on Chinese smartphone makers isn’t simply losing Google’s version of Android. It’s also that access to the kind of hardware that forms the basis of a lot of Android devices is also at risk.