Some Huawei phones won't be able to use NHS coronavirus app

(Image credit: Karlis Dambrans / Shutterstock)

Some of the top Huawei devices on the market today won't be able to download and use the coronavirus contact-tracing app being developed by the NHS.

NHSX, the body behind the contact-tracing app, currently being trialled in the Isle of Wight in preparation for a nationwide rollout, has admitted that only "the majority" of Huawei devices users will be able to use the tool due to incompatible software.

This includes the Huawei P40 Pro, the company's newest flagship device launched earlier this year, but the first such device to not run on Google's Mobile Services like the Google Play Store.

Huawei ban

"The majority of those with a Huawei phone will be able to download and use the app given most devices are running Android and can use Google Playstore," NHSX said in a tweet

"For the small number of Huawei devices that use the AppGallery, NHSX is working to provide support."

Following a number of bitter recent disputes with the US Government, Huawei had its access to Google's Mobile Services blocked in 2019, with new launches and existing devices both affected.

The Huawei P40 and P40 Pro devices, released earlier this year, were the first flagship devices affected by this ban, running the Chinese firm's in-house AppGallery marketplace. This has meant that many popular Google apps, including YouTube, Gmail and the G Suite selection of services are unavailable on these devices.

NHSX says that it is working with Huawei to provide support to the app, which is hoped to roll out across UK soon. NHSX released the code behind the NHS Covid-19 app last week, making the beta version of the app open-source for developers around the world.

The app is also thought to not run properly on "some older" mobile phones, although it's not yet been revealed what exact devices this includes. 

BBC Solent reported that compatible devices would need to be able to run Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), and to be running either Apple iOS 11 upwards or Android 8 upwards. 

This has raised concerns about the elderly or at risk members of the population, many of whom do not update or buy new devices regularly.

“We are working with relevant partners to make sure the app works on all Huawei devices," Huawei told TechRadar Pro in a statement.

"Huawei smartphones have been on sale in the UK for nearly a decade. During that time we have sold millions of devices and have become a market leader across Europe. All Huawei smartphone devices in the UK are based on the Android operating system.  The majority have access to the Google Playstore where the NHS Covid 19 app can be downloaded. We are also working with the NHSX team to make the NHS Covid 19 app available in the Huawei AppGallery.”

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.