Huawei has been in some hot waters lately. The company has been added to the dreaded US entity list and, as a result, all USA-based businesses are forbidden to work with it. So, Google pulled out, saying “Sorry, but future Huawei phones will not be getting our Android”.
This, of course, has thrown us all in confusion. What does this mean for current phones? Is Huawei really developing its own OS? Is it just based on Android? Can we just use Android without Google Services on it?
Well, yeah, fair questions. As for all current devices — Google has confirmed that they will continue to function with the Play Store and Google apps left intact. They will most probably stop getting Android updates, but security patches will keep coming through Google Play Protect.
How viable is this? Or, in other words…
What do we lose when we don’t have the Google Framework on our phone?
Google’s Services Framework is a package of apps and APIs, which are very tightly integrated with the Android operating system and the Google account syncing. So, even if you don’t care about the Google apps, you have the APIs to worry about.
For example, there’s this thing called Firebase Cloud Messaging. It’s a free platform, which works exclusively on the Google Framework and is used in a ton of apps that need push notifications. Basically, it’s the go-to for developers that want to make chat apps, email apps, or other notification-heavy software.
Any account data synchronisation capabilities are lost — contacts, calendars, backups. You’ll need to find alternative apps for each of these features.
The Google Play Games platform is also tied to the Framework. Without it, you can’t log into games that have been developed to work with player accounts and you can’t run multiplayer titles, period.
The Camera2 API is also a big one. The phone manufacturers themselves are free to make their own camera app without depending on it. However, developers of apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, et cetera rely solely on the Camera2 API for the performance of their in-app cameras. So, all these cool Augmented Reality effects and filter-based apps will lose a lot of their flair.
Location Services — the tool that apps use to successfully pinpoint your location through the use of the phone’s GPS and cell tower information will also get crippled. This means that and navigation or location sharing will be severely crippled or may not work right at all.
And, of course, you get no access to the Google Play Store, which means no new apps to download and no automatic updates.
Are there any alternatives?
There are some alternative options out there on the Web for those that have devices free of Google’s services. Things like the Yalp Store or APKMirror, which allow you to download apps in their .apk form and manually install them, or projects like microG, which tries to restore or replace some of the APIs you need to get your full phone functionality back.
In China, there are multiple platforms like Baidu, Tencent QQ, and others, which provide their own account-syncing APIs, messengers, and their own app stores to Android owners. So, technically, Huawei is probably not that bothered about its Google ban when it comes to its home turf market.
But, in the West, if you plan on running a de-Googled Android phone, prepare to care for it as if it’s your part-time job. You’ll need to seek out multiple solutions for your growing problems, manually update your apps, and even give up on some apps entirely.
So, this is basically what you have to look forward to if you are planning on importing Huawei phones in the future. But hey, there’s always the chance that this could all be a big bluff and Huawei might get its access to Google Android back in a couple of months. Who knows?