What do you lose when your Android phone is not supported by Google? A lot...

What do you lose when your Android phone is not supported by Google? A lot...
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.

As far as Huawei's custom operating system — Android is an open source software product, which means it’s free for use and modification by anyone in the world. Google has control over its build of Android that comes with the Google Services Framework baked in, but any manufacturer can just grab the latest open source build and run with it.

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?



1. ijuanp03

Posts: 616; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Great article, PA! Appreciate it

9. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

It's all the API's as well, for things like AI, and all the backend services related to ML, Tensorflow, ARCore, Daydream, Google Assistant, and much more. The camera apps that decided to use AI will not work. Any apps that decided to use any ML, sound processing , or any of Google's image services will not work. A big one for me is all of Google's Cloud services, which is a ton of things. Even simple things like Google Drive won't work. Any developers that make their apps using Android Studio or Unity will not work, period. It's one thing to not support any of Google's apps and services in China, which from day one China never allowed Google in their country because of freedom of information. That's well before Android was even a thought. But if Huawei wants to be make a smartphone in the west, that has absolutely nothing from Google, then it will fail. Look what happened to Microsoft back in 2014 when they released the Nokia X. An Android smartphone that had nothing but Microsoft apps and services on it. It was a flop.

41. Cat97

Posts: 1936; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

And yet, it's incredible how many people I see walking out of stores with Huawei phones.

2. Feanor

Posts: 1389; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Also I suspect that all usual apps that we use will not be available as well, because they are all American. I believe you won't be able to have, not only Google apps (like Maps Translate, YouTube etc), but also no Facebook, WhatsApp and what not.

4. paul.k

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

If any of these apps don't work, it won't be due to legal issues but due to a lack of Google Services to support them. Facebook just builds an app for Android. It doesn't enter a partnership with any company — the end user just chooses whether to download this app on their device or not. Google Android is different because a manufacturer needs to enter into a business relationship and sign a contract with Google in order to get Gapps on its phones.

10. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

It's also the tools that are out their, like Android Studio, Unity, Unreal, and a few others that base their development kits off of Android and Google's API's. So Huawei in the west will not make it without Google's support, period. Remember the Nokia X from Microsoft? Have people forgot about that? It's not like Microsoft didn't have the money.

3. japkoslav

Posts: 1520; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

6. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Thanks for that japkoslav. This article is misleading in so many ways. One glaring example is the use and updating of apps. You can download and update automatically using the APK Pure app. You can use modded versions of WhatsApp and YouTube, access Facebook via the browser, use a filter app to modify and upload to Instagram etc etc etc. Of course Huawei can't do all of this (but they could pre-install the APK pure app as their stock app store) without getting into further trouble but Google is not the be all and end all. P.S. I had to do something similar with my Chinese Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 by manually installing the full gapps suite so I know it's easily done.

11. Feanor

Posts: 1389; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

But normal customers will not bother with APK Pure apps and Facebook through browser. Why should they? It's not like the have no other choice than Huawei.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7456; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

No body including Huawei cannot sell a smartphone with those apps pre-installed on their devices. Especially if they want to sell their devices in the western world. The laws in the western world prevent that from happening. So users will have to install it manually themselves.

17. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

But I thought EVERYONE wanted phone manufacturers to stop preinstalling any apps?!? And seriously, which user of facebook/instagram/whatsapp/youtube doesn't know how to download it from an app store?

28. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

@sgodsell You're just repeating exactly what I said. My point was that you really don't lose anything if you know what to do, contrary to the title of this article.

13. Cyberchum

Posts: 1095; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

You expect regular customers (who virtually make up the entire customer base) to flash opengapps??? They wouldn't put up with that. That's for techies/enthusiasts. Even if for me, the phone has to represent a lot in value for me to do that. Or else, why would I? You'd very easily find out that customers would quickly turn to alternatives when the ease of use is threatened.

18. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

why do you need to flash opengapps? it's actually free, and it's actually open source, not sure what's stopping Huawei from including it in their ROM? hmm Not that this is the only way to get gapps working..

24. Mirwin

Posts: 5; Member since: Jun 16, 2019

Opengapps existence is the most trivial of the many things one would need to get continued support. The device would need an unlocked bootloader to flash gapps to begin with. There would also need to be a strong independent development community to put out custom ROMs such as a compatible version of lineageOS to be able to receive all Android security updates as the aforementioned framework is not the only source of Android security updates or the Galaxy S7 from T-Mobile wouldn't still be a year behind on the security patch version. All Android updates, security and OS, (excluding Google devices and devices running custom ROMs) first get sent from Google to the manufacturer then to the carriers to release OTA. Some minor updates can be done through the play framework, but they are certainly not all of the security updates that are necessary for a secure device. Then again, I'm certain no one who's truly concerned about security would use a device with a backdoor in its hardware...

30. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

You don't need root or an unlocked bootloader to install gapps. You're confusing all sorts of scenarios like carrier phones with unlocked, custom roms and bootloaders. I've done it before on an unlocked Chinese rom Xiaomi.

5. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3109; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

What about security updates for the current phones? Do they still get them or are they gone for good?

8. paul.k

Posts: 297; Member since: Jul 17, 2014

Current phones will get security patches.

19. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

If you look at the android's distribution table, you will see that 90% of the world doesn't really care for the latest patches, updates, OS.

7. bucknassty

Posts: 1353; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

man, i had the axon 7 and that camera api is NEEDED!!!!

14. oldskool50 unregistered

But anyone can create a fine my phone capability. You think Huawei can't create the capability to be able to GPS locate a device they manufactured? I mean, Apple figured out how to. Even Samsung offers this too. Huawei has money and they have access to the same capabilities as any other phone manufacturer. GPS location is not some new science. Just liek now, if you loose your phone, you need to get to a PC so you can find and try to wipe the device. You don't need Google services for this, if you make yoru own. Apple doesn't use Google services for find my iPhone. They created their own software. Remember Huawei has all the details of every phone they make.

20. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

Actually Huawei phone's tracking/location capabilities is way superior in the sense that it supports even more capabilities than other manufacturers. It supports GPS, GLONASS, and BDS.

15. oldskool50 unregistered

All of what Google offers can be replaced, even if they don't have an option right now. This is what happens when you use someone else platform. Huawei could have made their own Android OS years ago, that doesn't depend on Google services. And theer are ways to easily still access Google services, because Huawei phones are not carrier locked and you can change the device ID and you can VPN block your IP and still access Google Services Google Services can still be accessed via a web browser. Yes millions won't do this, but Chinese are very industrious people. They always have found a way to work around problems

16. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1138; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Great article, Preslav. Lately I've been noticing an increase in quality here on PA. It's a refreshing change. Keep it up.

21. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

Poor article, Preslav. Very American (close) minded. Sounds like a propaganda piece. I guess this must be a sponsored post by Google to strike fear into people. In reality, I don't think most of the issues you point out, are actually issues because, uh, they had long been resolved and solutions are readily available in public domain for free? A couple of other things: 1. GPS: GPS is not the only satellite location system out there. Huawei phones actually support much more (GLONASS, BDS), hence they would have already create a layer to provide location services. 2. There are lots of 1-step solutions to getting google apps and APIs working on degoogled phones. You have "trouble" now because you're technically disinclined. That's why the less technically inclined people depend on cooks at XDA to come up with new ROMs for them - install and go, worry free. Not sure if there's any reason that part-time developers can do it, and Huawei can't. 3. I have to admit I'm not sure how Camera2 API works, or how many apps depend on it to work. However, I understand that Camera2 API isn't supported on most phones anyway. In most phones, you have to be techie enough to force Camera2 to work. 4. Huawei + Chinese phone manufacturers = 50% of the android space. Samsung accounts for 23%. Balance are the manufacturers that do not matter (cue: HTC, Nokia, Blackberry, Sony, LG, ASUS, etc) - people who buy these phones aren't probably going to be doing gaming. I think the game developers are going to follow and abandon Google Play Games platform. Their allegiance lies with gamers, not a platform. In fact, if i'm not wrong, 10 games out of top 10 games on the play store doesn't not require the google play games platform.

25. Mirwin

Posts: 5; Member since: Jun 16, 2019

The issue with Huawei has nothing to do with them being Chinese. It has to do with them having a hardware backdoor in the devices which iirc was even nation state sponsored.

26. mootu

Posts: 1530; Member since: Mar 16, 2017

You don't recall correctly as no hardware backdoor has ever been found on Huawei devices apart from the NSA planted one which was revealed in the Snowden leaks.

37. MartinR

Posts: 67; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

What about my Dad and Mom who uses all those apps... You're thinking this out of your POV, But most consumers are not even bothered to find a solution, they just want it to work out of the box..

22. mooox

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 17, 2019

Oh ya... just 1 more thing that might trivialise this article. Google Play Services is available as a free APK. From Google. I understand it was actually started as a push for non-google approved phones to access google services. for Huawei cases, Google Services Framework may not be baked into a rom, but access to the APK can be arranged in a million different ways.

23. pogba

Posts: 112; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

Ok. Now I'm confused. All these facts in the comment section debunking the article and the author fails to respond? I'm honestly disappointed. Remind me not to take any of your articles seriously ever again.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.