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The past week proves that tech enthusiasts are their own worst enemy

I'm a cynical person. I don't say that as if its some sort of badge of honor or anything, because it's most definitely not and has caused more trouble than I care to think about. Other cynical people can relate, I'm sure. Things get weird when you think everything will end badly and every bit of good news is just a mental cushioning for the inevitable worst case scenario that is definitely going to happen, and that goes super-double when it comes to words — written or spoken — from government "people." Thankfully, I'm also happy to realize when I'm wrong and enjoy what's good in life when I can finally trust it.

No, this isn't another rehash of the whole Huawei thing so you can relax now.

The past week, and by that I mean the whole Huawei thing, has shown me that I have plenty of people ready and able to help further my cynicism; with a few exceptions, the world of consumer tech enthusiasts is cynical as hell.

Don't worry, this isn't going to rehash the ban/not a ban on Huawei phones. There are plenty of other well-written posts and endless cynical discussions about it all over the tech side of the internet and I can't really add anything to it that hasn't been said. It's more of a look at and commentary about just how much we all assume the worst, expect the worst, and act the worst when something happens that might be the worst. And yes, that 100% includes me.

It ain't over 'till it's over

We all assume that this is a done deal and Huawei is dead as far as a successful Android phone maker in the west. I know, some of you reading this don't feel that way, but indulge my figure of speech here (there will be more). Huawei is a bad actor or an innocent player that was treated unfairly by a bad actor, Google will try to do whatever it can to make as much money from existing Huawei products then bail on them, and your awesome new P30 Pro will transform into a gloriously expensive paperweight in the near future. Also, we should have seen this coming and it's our own fault for buying the best ever phone (or backdoor-ridden Chinese spying tech depending on your point of view) because Google/The President/America hates something.

Keyboards were on fire when the news first hit because writers love what we do and readers love to discuss it.

On day one, I fell into this trap and said to myself, "Whelp, Huawei is dead in Canada and the E.U., now, too, unless they can send some bribe money to D.C." because I'm a cynical tech lover before I'm a paid writer of Android and tech things. It's in my D.N.A. just like yours. I made sure to not let that creep into anything I wrote, because I've also done this long enough to know savvy readers would crucify me if I did. Tech writers need to leave opinion out of articles that aren't an opinion. I had planned to wait until today when I get time to write a bunch of blatantly opinionated words to proclaim the end is near for Huawei and "open" Android can't save it.

That's an easy trap to fall into, and a good bit of it is our — meaning people who write about tech for a living — fault. We don't bother to write that "company X isn't involved in anything controversial and everything is wonderful" often enough. Usually, because there is always something controversial happening but also because that's a pretty boring read. Our job is to tell readers about news and developments, good and bad, and showcase great new products so we can find everything that's wrong with them. And every once in a while we're allowed to step to the podium and opine about something and hope people will read it. This job is stressful, y'all, and if you weren't a cynic when you came in, well I dunno, because you were a cynic just like the rest of us.

We're tech lovers first and tech writers second. Otherwise, we'd be pretty bad at this job.

Every now and then we get to talk about a bit of bad news that's a big deal. Galaxy Note 7 battery type of big. That happened this week with Huawei. The number two phone manufacturer in the world, which also happens to be a media darling because its stuff is so freaking good, is now in real trouble with an administration in Washington that everyone has an opinion about. Lots of keyboards went into overdrive because we (the tech media we) wanted to find out as much as we could, then tell you. Our bosses love the attention articles of this type can garner, but to those of us writing them, job numero uno is to do a damn good job covering the story from all angles. Then, tech enthusiasts, ourselves included, can proceed to disagree, agree, or ignore as we see fit. Man, we kicked ass this time — both as tech media and as cynical tech enthusiasts.

Déjà vu

Huawei is in almost the exact situation ZTE was in during 2018. Really. All the talk of backdoors and spying we've heard about weren't really the focus here and not when Huawei was placed on the bad actor's Entity List. Huawei is suspected of and indicted for selling products to Iran without proper authorization. This gets it placed on the list. And it should. (Pardon me while I duck the rotten fruit.) We do not make the rules, we do not get to decide if the U.S. thinks Iran is a country that should be treated as an enemy state, and we don't get to decide if Huawei sold anything to Iran. We are free to disagree, but that doesn't matter. Huawei knew the rules, and if it broke them, it knew the penalties. If it did not break them, it should do everything it can to show it's innocence.

Huawei and Google want this even less than you do.

Google has no say in what it can and cannot do in regard to Huawei. Google has to comply with U.S. law or risk being punished by the U.S. government. That means no more supplying Huawei with software or access to software after the U.S. says it has to stop. That doesn't mean "no more Android", just no more of the Google stuff that works with and inside of Android, because Android's source code is posted for anyone to use.

The way these two truths blossomed into the death of any company, the talk of how a company owes us something because it happened, or even that another company is secretly behind it all and convinced the Department of Commerce to do it was, in a word, amazing. A true sight to behold. It also proves that collectively, tech lovers who frequent the internet are smart as all get-out, and we also know without a doubt that the worst possible thing is going to happen. I loved seeing it and I hated seeing it all at once, but most of all, I was part of it just like many of you were. Was the worst kind of fun, wasn't it?

I blame foldable phones for it all. Be careful, Samsung.

I'm done this time, though. I'm pulling out and watching, and knowing that this could also end in a fine that Huawei can easily afford and things go back to "normal" just like they did with ZTE. Huawei would also be better equipped to handle the blowback than ZTE was, and the new Mate or P series phone will come out on schedule — and so will the one after that.

Yes, I know that some of you had that mindset since the beginning and I'll politely ask you not to do the whole I-told-you-so thing, thank you very much. Besides, what any of us think doesn't really matter anyway, so I might as well relax with a book and a beer.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

28 Comments
  • Thank You for this article. It seems perspective is something that has been lost this week. A good grounding article is always appreciated.
  • I second the "Thank You!". A good read during my morning coffee it was.
  • I always enjoy your articles and thoughts Jerry. Appreciate the article.
  • Huawei will be ok in the end, and I hope they come back a better and healthier company. They make some cool stuff. Ironically, Saturday IS the day I usually go to a local Tim Hortons with a book and take a LONG lunch.
    Debating on which book... quantum physics, or Roman history? I'm still disappointed that quantum tunneling is no faster than the speed of light :(
  • I'll suggest a guilty pleasure read great for the environment. Handling Sin by Michael Malone. What's great is it looks for all the world like a self-help book and not an amazingly well crafted farce.
  • I just hopt we get a fire sale. Could root a whole but of there phones.
  • In your particular statement it should be "their"(ownership) not there(place). :-)
  • That was a freaking fair-minded article. 👍👍👍
  • I'm also cynical, and this was a great article. But, I don't see Huawei coming back (outside of the huge fine mentioned near the end of the article). My case:
    Nail 1: No Google services. This isn't insurmountable, but it is an uphill battle.
    Nail 2: No ARM or Intel chipsets (their Kirin chip was developed off of ARM). The companies can't sell to them, even if they want to.
    Nail 3: No wireless/radios/modems/etc. Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung are players here, and all sell in the U.S. No way in hell they'll risk multi-billion dollar businesses to sell to a company on "the list".
    Huawei could overcome Nails 1 and 2, but there's no phone in the world that exists without wireless, GPS, etc. Not arguing the quality of their products, but I don't see a way out of this for them.
  • The same way ZTE did. Cut a deal.
  • They can pull the 95% of the manufacturers (who are not US) and tell them: What the US did to us, they can do to you. Sure, you want to sell in US, but do you want to sell in China? Then, you need to join the China WIFI association, China Radio/modem/anything standard. You want goods manufactured in China? You need it approved by China XXXXXXX. Then, the chinese government will spend 1 billion subsidizing each country in the world to adopt their standard. Then, US will no longer have any say in any technology. As it is, US is already behind 5G. Imagine US getting shut out from 5G, Wifi, modems, radios.....
  • How bout a Cubs game and bourbon?
  • Great article, looked at all sides and was able to push personal bias out of the equation. Lots of sites and people on social media are unable to push aside their view. It's a shame cause Huawei does make some amazing devices but rules are rules.
  • Genius article Jerry, so well written and expressed!
  • The height of hilarity was the folks pretending TSMC is a US entity, or that they won't immediately do what mainland China tells them. When TSMC said that the shipments of processors to Huawei would not even slow down, invalidating 99 percent of the ridiculous stories in the US media, I checked out at that point. Because now, it's just keep claiming the same thing and twist words instead of admitting you were wrong. That's how it is now and I wasn't going to watch grown adults in the tech media act like children. Again.
  • The other scenario is that a middle ground is reached between China and the US and they are taken off the list.
  • I don't see how a fine could fix or change anything, if Huawei is actually controlled by the communist government of China.
    What, they pay a fine and promise to stop spying on customers for political gain?
  • Everyone keeps writing about how bad this will be for Huawei, but nobody seems to see or understand how bad things could turn out for Google or The USA.
  • Why should anyone care about a company that spies on others and steals intellectual property..screw them...
  • It would be safe advice to never reccomend a phone made by a Chinese Communist Party ownership group.
  • That would include all phones made in China.
  • No it would not.... Huawei is literally Owned by the Chinese Communist Party. Other manufacturers, like Apple, assemble their phones in China.... Big difference.
  • You say "literally" but you're purely speculating. Where's your evidence to back this up? Like real evidence not going through Google search results til you find one that suits
  • But... Google steals lots of my data. Even when I tell them not to..
  • --- --- ---
  • Just musing... By banning Huawei from doing business, I think Trump just rung Google's Android death knell. Samsung should be terrified that they may be the next in line should Trump think justified. They already have Tizen, but an equally good plan is for Samsung to team up with Huawei and the other China manufacturers to build a new OS. Samsung + Huawei + China Manufacturers = 75% of the Android market. When android is left with LG, Alcatel, Tecno and HTC producing phones... I'm sure as hell not going to buy a cheapo phone from them just to use Google services. I'm also sure app developers are not going to target the low end market "dominated" by these left-over brands. When everyone sees that life without Google isn't that bad.... going back should be difficult... Not sure why everyone thinks that Android is essential. If all manufacturers shun building android phones, not sure why anyone would build any apps for android anymore... Right now... i think like 0.1% of the android phones are manufactured by US companies? hmmmmm....
  • My problem with the term "rules" is that who made the US the rule maker? If China wants to sell to Iran then they have the right to do so. If Iran turns around and stabs China in the back then so be it. Does anyone really believe that the US is innocent when it comes to selling bad things to bad players? Does anyone, anywhere, have any real proof that Huawei is spying on those who buy their products? No? I didn't think so! This is all politics for the sake of money, plain and simple. If the US wants to compete in 2019 then maybe they should design and build a cell phone that can compete in the world market. Who's fault is it that ALL cell phones (as well as most all other tech products) are made in China, or Korea? Leave it to Trump to cut off his nose to spite his stupid face, and hurt many others in the process.
  • « Tech writers need to leave opinion out of articles that aren't an opinion » I really don’t think so. Every tech journalist has its opinion and it shows on their article. I am not saying it is bad, but everybody is biased and judge a tech product with their own expectations.
    Proof in this article: saying that the p30 pro is the « best phone ever » is definitely an opinion