However, there is one killer restriction to the open-source version of Android – it cannot access Google Play services. This includes the Google Play Store and access to Google apps including Google Assistant, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Photos and others.

Dr Wang Chenglu, Huawei President of Consumer Business Software said

We will not install Harmony OS if we have the Google Android option.

While not officially confirmed, I expect that Huawei’s solution would include filling in the gaps with its upcoming EMUI 10 user interface [not to be confused with Android 10].

EMUI 10 is sort of like a layer of icing on Android’s cake, with performance improvements and customizations to the stock-standard build.

EMUI 10 is coming soon as an update to existing Huawei phones and the Mate 30.

So, what about the missing Google Play apps?

Huawei’s Dr Wang confirmed that alternative apps from other companies would be provided instead.

For example, in place of Google Maps, Huawei would include Baidu maps or TomTom Maps. Wang said that Huawei was “…not preparing Google solutions and consumers will need to explore possibilities…”. This suggests that consumers will need to figure out how to work around other missing apps.

Huawei’s plan B

For now, it appears that future Huawei phones will run an open-source version of Android, with the rougher edges polished by Huawei’s EMUI interface.

There will need to be some alternatives to missing Google Play apps. Western markets will not react well but it will help to keep Huawei’s name there as a stop-gap until either the trade restrictions drop, or Huawei can ready its own HarmonyOS to take over.

Alternatively, Huawei could sell phones to Western markets running Android Open Source with EMUI 10 and HarmonyOS to the East.

Under the media spotlight at the IFA show in Berlin, Huawei’s spokespeople consistently said the company remains committed to Android, as well as driving innovation in its future products.

However, it was also clear that the company still simply doesn’t know the answers to how things will play out with the US-China trade war – but at least the company has a plan for the upcoming Mate 30 launch and future phones.