We reported last week that owners of Huawei smartphones in mostly European countries had suddenly started seeing ads for Booking.com popping up on their lock screens. The company's initial statement denied any involvement, and fingered third-party apps for being responsible:
“The ads are not initiated by Huawei. We encourage individuals to check app settings, or follow publicly available directions on how to remove lock screen ads.”
However, Huawei representatives reached out to Neowin earlier today and admitted the ads being propagated by the Magazine unlock rotating gallery on its phones were being propagated by the company's own servers. The company's new statement takes responsibility for the development and gives users instructions on how to remove the ads from phones that were already affected:
We thank you for your candid comments, we are sorry for the inconvenience caused to your experience. Please kindly be informed that we have taken down those lock-screen images from our servers, as they should not be appearing on lock-screen interfaces. For the image/s already downloaded to your phone, you may delete as per following:
1) When the image appears on the screen, slide up from the bottom edge of the screen, and the operation toolbar appears;
2) Click the "Delete" button and click "Remove" in the confirmation box which pops up.
We will continue to improve our services and brings you an excellent user experience."
The statement did not clarify why this had happened in the first place. Huawei's statement to Digital Trends sheds a little more light on the matter. It suggests that its cloud teams were internally testing ads via the Magazine unlock feature, and that the images were pushed to end users by mistake.
At a time when U.S. sanctions could possibly cost Huawei billions in revenue, the Chinese giant is increasingly dependent on the goodwill of European customers to keep its hopes of staying relevant outside China afloat. Mishaps like this erode users' trust in the already embattled brand, and the company simply cannot afford too many more of them.