I tried to use a Huawei phone without Google’s apps — and it did not go well

I tried to use a Huawei phone without Google's apps — and it did not go well

By now you’re in all probability acquainted with the Huawei ban. Again in Might, as a part of the US authorities’s pointless commerce conflict with China, Huawei was placed on an “entity checklist” stopping American firms from doing enterprise with the Chinese language big. Because of this, Huawei misplaced entry to Intel and Qualcomm’s chips, Microsoft and Google’s software program — like Home windows and Google Cellular Companies (GMS) — and far more US tech.

Huawei largely makes telephones utilizing its personal Kirin processors, so dropping entry to Qualcomm’s {hardware} isn’t an enormous problem. The corporate can even proceed utilizing Android because it’s open supply. However dropping entry to GMS means new Huawei telephones can not run Google’s apps or providers, or third get together apps that use Google’s APIs — a deal breaker in lots of markets, together with Europe, the place Huawei handsets are extraordinarily common.

The primary two telephones from the Chinese language firm to launch with out GMS help are the Huawei Mate 30 Professional and the Honor 9x Professional (Honor is a sub-brand of Huawei). I lately obtained a Chinese language-market Honor 9x Professional assessment unit from the PR workforce, and so started my first critical expertise utilizing an Android cellphone with out GMS. I’m writing this text to share my trials and tribulations on this mad journey, from the angle of somebody who depends extensively on Google’s apps/providers.

The problem

My objective right here is to share which apps work, which don’t, and what options exist. And sure, I’m conscious of no less than two workarounds to revive GMS help on these two handsets, however that’s apart from the purpose. First, this isn’t as trivial as downloading and putting in just a few APKs and second, I’d prefer to discover what’s potential and what’s not earlier than having to achieve for the nuclear choice — enabling GMS help.

Beneath are the apps I chosen and examined on the Honor 9x Professional, together with any challenges I encountered alongside the best way. For every class, I began by putting in my most popular app, then settled on another provided that completely vital. To be clear, the apps listed beneath are my private picks, and also you may not agree with my decisions. Be at liberty to recommend higher apps for every class within the feedback beneath.

App retailer

For the reason that Google Play Retailer was undoubtedly out the window, and Huawei’s built-in AppGallery largely options Chinese language apps I don’t care about, my first concept was to obtain and set up the Amazon App Retailer APK. This didn’t finish nicely. Whereas I used to be capable of run the app and efficiently login to my Amazon account, I systematically acquired a community error past this level, whether or not I used to be related by way of LTE or WiFi — as if the cellphone was blocking entry to Amazon’s servers.

I‘d just about resigned to utilizing APK Mirror to get all my apps — a time-consuming course of — when one among my podcast listeners steered I attempt the Aurora Retailer. And that, pricey readers, was a stroke of genius. The Aurora Retailer is an unofficial Play Retailer consumer that provides any Android gadget nameless entry to each app in Google’s retailer. It’s completely superior, and I extremely advocate it. From right here on, downloading, putting in, and updating apps was a breeze!


Since I’m not an enormous fan of the default Huawei/Honor launcher, I put in Nova launcher. No issues right here, till I attempted making it the default launcher. Seems you may’t change the launcher on Huawei and Honor telephones bought in China. Apparently, there are clones of the inventory launcher with malware on the market, so the corporate’s locked it down. Main bummer.


I like Google’s Gboard, and surprisingly, I used to be capable of set up and run it with none points. This was a fairly uncommon occasion of full success with a Google app, although, as a result of most of the others depend on a linked account for sure options to work.


My most popular SMS app is Google Messages, however surprisingly, it didn’t work, so I simply used Honor’s built-in app — appropriately referred to as Messaging. I’m positive there are higher SMS apps on the market, however texting isn’t crucial once I’m testing a cellphone. Recommendations?

I don’t typically want WhatsApp, WeChat, or Telegram on handsets I assessment, so I didn’t attempt these apps, however I put in Fb Messenger since my family and friends use it (for higher or worse). As you’d anticipate, it labored simply advantageous with out GMS.

Social media

Twitter, Fb, and Instagram put in and ran like a allure. No surprises right here!

E mail, calendar, and contacts

I’m lumping these collectively as a result of I discovered a single app that conveniently syncs with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. As you in all probability guessed, this app is Microsoft Outlook, and it’s incredible. My solely gripe is that it lacks help for Gmail labels, which I exploit extensively. However actually, that’s a minor problem when you think about how nicely this app integrates with Google’s providers.

I did run into one snag, although. Outlook makes use of an internet view to login to Google’s providers, and that didn’t work out of the field. I’m undecided if this a limitation with Honor’s built-in browser or one thing else, however the resolution was to put in Google Chrome and make it the default browser. Talking of which…

Net browser

I get pleasure from utilizing Google Chrome on most of my gadgets, and I’m blissful to report that Google’s glorious internet browser installs and runs simply advantageous with out GMS. Clearly, you may’t join it to a Google account to sync bookmarks and shopping historical past, but it surely works and even helps kind and password autocompletion.


Google Maps is my go-to navigation app, and it really works with none points right here. Truthfully, this was a nice shock. Like with Chrome, you may’t join the app to a Google account to sync search and placement historical past, however that’s not an enormous deal. I didn’t attempt Waze since I don’t use it.

Cloud storage

As you’d anticipate, Google Drive and the corporate’s Paperwork, Sheets, and Slides apps put in advantageous however didn’t run. That being mentioned, you should utilize Google Drive on the internet as an alternative. It’s not very best, but it surely’s OK in a pinch. I determine that Dropbox in all probability works with out GMS, however I didn’t attempt it.


My most popular music app is Google Play Music, and clearly, that didn’t work. Like Google Drive, although, it may be accessed by way of the online — not the perfect resolution, however potential. I additionally put in Spotify, and it ran completely advantageous.

Picture and video

Google Images was a no-go, disappointingly. I actually like utilizing it to edit photographs, so I anticipated it to behave like Google Chrome and Google Maps and run advantageous with out being logged right into a Google account. The app installs OK however crashes at launch. It’s actually unlucky because it does a lot extra than simply backup photographs. At the least Snapseed works with none points.

I didn’t attempt Google Play Films, however I put in Netflix, and it doesn’t run. It complains about needing Google Play providers, which looks as if an odd dependency for a non-Google app, however might be associated to the app’s notoriously fickle DRM.

Different apps

Whereas I don’t often use Lyft and Uber on my assessment models, I made a decision to attempt them out — largely as a result of each use the Google Maps APIs, and Google Maps works advantageous. The apps put in OK, however didn’t run with out Google Play Companies, similar to Netflix. That makes them successfully ineffective.

The takeaway

At this level I gave up. Certain, you would possibly have the ability to substitute Google Drive and even Google Images with Dropbox for backups, and Snapseed for modifying. And Spotify is certainly extra common than Google Play Music. However with out Netflix, Lyft, or Uber, you’re just about DoA — and that’s not even counting the handfuls of different apps I didn’t attempt that most individuals use daily, a lot of which in all probability depend on Google’s Play Companies for issues as fundamental as notifications and as crucial as in-app mapping and gadget authentication.

Finally then, it’s simply not sensible (and even affordable) for anybody who has entry to the unrestricted Web to reside with an Android cellphone that lacks GMS — Google consumer or not. It’s a silly and quixotic endeavor, finest left to those that prefer to tinker and experiment. To place it one other approach: good luck with that. I ended up enabling GMS on my Honor 9x Professional assessment models, and I haven’t regarded again.

Hopefully, this would possibly all be moot very quickly, because the US authorities is predicted to partially raise the Huawei ban someday within the subsequent few weeks.

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