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ARM Suspends Business With Huawei, Putting Future Phones in Doubt

Another shoe has dropped in the Huawei-U.S. spat. Chip designer ARM has told its staffers that it can no longer work with the Chinese tech giant, according to the BBC.

Huawei phones like the Mate 20 Pro rely on ARM technology. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: Huawei phones like the Mate 20 Pro rely on ARM technology. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

The U.K. news service reports that ARM issued a memo to employees last week instructing them to stop “all active contracts, support entitlements and any pending engagements” with Huawei because ARM’s designs contain “U.S. origin technology.” That means ARM believes it has to abide by the Trump administration’s blacklist of Huawei.

ARM's memo would have been prompted by the U.S. government's move last week to bar U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment from Huawei. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Commerce now requires U.S. companies to ask permission before they provide Huawei with hardware or software. That seemingly wouldn't apply to ARM, which is a British company (now owned by Japan's SoftBank), but ARM's chip designs are apparently affected, the company says.

Huawei’s Kirin processors, found in all of the company’s Android smartphones, as well as those from its Honor subsidiary, rely on ARM’s chip designs.

"We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognize the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions," the company said in a statement to the BBC. "We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world."

ARM's decision could end Huawei's attempt to create its own fork of Android, as the operating system runs only on the Intel and ARM chip architectures. Earlier this week, Google said it would stop working with Huawei, though a stay in the Commerce Department's order allows Google to keep providing Huawei with software and security updates for the next 90 days.

Huawei has been working on its own version of Android, though reports suggest the OS isn't close to being ready. And ARM's decision throws up another obstacle.

ARM chip designs power almost all Android and iOS-based smartphones and tablets, as well as some low-powered laptops. ARM does not build the chips itself, but licenses the technology to chip makers including Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and Huawei itself, whose Kirin systems-on-a-chip use ARM designs.