Huawei developed a 'plan B' operating system for smartphones in case it was banned by the US government from using Google products. Here's what we know about it so far.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderHuawei is said to be developing its own mobile operating system to run on its smartphones.
  • Huawei is developing its own mobile operating system, which the company previously said is a “plan B” if relations with Google were ever to sour.
  • Now that Huawei has been banned from accessing parts of Google’sAndroid mobile operating system after the US government placed the company on a trade blacklist (albeit with a 90 day grace period), it’s as good a time as any for Huawei to speed up development toward its own mobile operating system.
  • Little is known about Huawei’s home-grown OS, but Huawei reportedly calls it “Project Z,” internally.
  • Even if Huawei can develop an amazing mobile operating system of its own, it would still need to convince app developers to bring popular apps to Huawei’s own mobile app store.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Chinese telecoms company Huawei has been banned from accessing parts of Google’s Android mobile operating system after the US government placed the company on a trade blacklist.

While it’s not an all-out ban of Huawei devices, the blacklisting would affect future Huawei devices and could mean that current Huawei phones will stop getting Android updates.

Without Android, Huawei phones could be nothing more than doorstops made of glass and silicon chips. The Android operating system is not only the functional foundation of all Android smartphones, but it also brings the Google Play app store, which contains all of Google’s popular apps, like Gmail, YouTube, and Google Maps, as well as the ever-growing list of popular third-party apps.

In order to prepare for a potentially Android-less future, Huawei is developing its own mobile operating system to run on its smartphones, Huawei head of consumer electronics Richard Yu told The Information.

Check out everything we know so far:


Huawei’s own home-grown mobile operating system is codenamed “Project Z.”

Huawei’s homegrown mobile operating system is reportedly known as “Project Z” internally, according to The Information.

It was previously rumoured that Huawei’s homegrown mobile operating system is called “HongMeng OS,” according to a tweet from the Global Times, a Chinese national English-language news outlet, that cited Chinese media reports.


Project Z is likely the “plan B” operating system Huawei mentioned previously.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Project Z could be Huawei’s “plan B” operating system that Richard Yu, head of consumer electronics at Huawei, mentioned during an interview with the German news site Die Welt in March 2019.

Read more: Chinese tech giant Huawei has developed its own operating system as a ‘plan B’ in case it’s barred by the US government from using Google and Microsoft products


Huawei has reportedly been developing Project Z for several years.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Project Z has supposedly been under development for seven years – since 2012 – the Huawei news site Huawei Central reported, citing sources from China. That jibes with The Informatoin report, which cited anonymous sources who said Huawei’s OS has been in development for several years.


Whether Huawei is building its own operating system or not, the company has a huge roadblock to deal with.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Wang Chenglu, the president of Huawei’s consumer business software engineering, told Chinese media in September 2018 that while developing an operating system itself wasn’t difficult, it’s the ecosystem and app support that would be the biggest roadblock for a Huawei-made mobile operating system.

Mobile platforms absolutely need a healthy ecosystem, especially when it comes to apps. Lack of app support will almost certainly foretell the death of any newcomer to mobile platforms. It was always the biggest problem with Microsoft’s Windows mobile platform.

For Microsoft, it was a never-ending cycle of doom: Windows Phones had the lowest market share, so app developers didn’t want to spend the time and money to develop apps for Windows phones. And since popular apps were slow to become available on the Windows mobile platform – if at all – the Windows Phone had significant issues gaining any market share.

Samsung also tried its hand in 2015 at offering phones that ran on the company’s own homegrown operating system, called Tizen. Needless to say, Samsung Tizen phones aren’t exactly popular. In a Samsung Tizen phone review, Ars Technica wrote “We weren’t impressed. It felt like a hollow copy of Android without any apps.” And that’s exactly what a Huawei operating system would likely feel like, too.


Huawei’s operating system might actually be fine in China, but Google’s Android ban will make Huawei phones less appealing elsewhere.

Chinese smartphone users are already accustomed to handling Android phones that don’t come with Google Play, including Google’s own apps and all the popular third-party apps available from the Play Store. That’s because Google Play and Google’s apps are banned in China.

Elsewhere, however, where access to Google Play, Google apps, and popular third-party apps are plentiful, consumers aren’t very likely at all to adopt Huawei smartphones if the devices don’t have access to the apps they want.

Google’s lack of support could have massive implications for Huawei’s global smartphone business, and its standing as the second- or third-biggest smartphone maker is in jeopardy.


Reports suggest Huawei phones could still run on a basic version of Android with Huawei’s own EMUI interface running on top, but that wouldn’t change much for Huawei.

Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

It’s possible that Huawei could adopt the open-source and bare-bones version of Android. Huawei’s own interface that runs on top of Android on its smartphones, called EMUI, could potentially make Google’s ban unnoticeable to the typical smartphone user. Huawei could resume as normal, at least for the consumer in China.

Still, without active support from Google for new features, future updates, and future versions of Android, Huawei would be under more strain to bring high-end features to its future smartphones.


And it’s still unclear how recent developments with Google and Android will affect Huawei’s highly anticipated foldable Mate X smartphone.

Google’s support would have been important for Huawei to develop a version of Android that runs on Huawei’s highly anticipated foldable Mate X smartphone.

Now Huawei is on its own. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out, not just for Huawei’s regular smartphones but also its foldable smartphones.

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