Huawei confirms most of its phones will get Google's contact-tracing update

Huawei P30 Pro
(Image credit: Future)

Most Huawei phones will be able to run the contact-tracing system that Google is developing, TechRadar learned at an online media briefing.

It's consistently among the most frequent questions we get: will my Huawei phone that runs Android get Google's future updates? The answer is yes, despite the fact that the Chinese brand's recently-released handsets are banned from using Android.

Eligible Huawei phones getting access to Google's contract-tracing update include those that launched before the split between the two companies – specifically when Huawei was put on the US entity list in May 2019. 

Or, in other words, any recent Huawei smartphone that launched with the Android operating system. That includes the Huawei P30 and Huawei P30 Pro, for example, but not the Huawei Mate 30 series, which launched in the latter half of 2019. 

Huawei hasn't confirmed how far back compatibility with Google's Covid-19-focused software update will extend, but we've reached out for additional comment. We've also asked if phones under the Honor brand, a Huawei sub-brand, are included.

Google is building the contact-tracing system baked into the Android software, and, uniquely, partnering with longtime rival Apple to push the update to most phones. A framework will launch in May, followed by the full contact-tracing system going live in 'the coming months,' according to Google and Apple's joint statement.

Older phones won't get the update

We do have an idea which phones won’t get the update: Apple and Google’s new system relies on wireless chips that aren’t available in some older phones. Certain handsets can’t connect to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a version of Bluetooth that consumes less power, reportedly won’t be able to link up to the upcoming system.

This could, unfortunately, account for up to two billion phones around the world, according to a report from The Financial Times.

Sensibly, Huawei phones will at least need BLE in order to work with the contact-tracing system. While most handsets released in the last few years have had BLE by default, it’s not always clear which older Huawei phones support that connectivity tech (though we know that Android 4.3 and above supports BLE), but there are apps like BLE Checker that can inform you.

David Lumb

David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.