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How to download apps on Huawei phones without the Play Store

There's more than just one option available.
July 27, 2021
P40 Pro Plus

Huawei has been making do without the Google Play Store or Services for more than a year now. It’s not set to change in the foreseeable future, so Huawei users have to download their apps via other means. Luckily, there is a handful of options including Huawei’s App Gallery. Today we’ll be showing you how to install applications without the Play Store!

Related: The Huawei ban explained: A complete timeline and everything you need to know

Before you begin: Update your Huawei smartphone

Make sure you update your phone to the latest software version before you begin, just to avoid headaches.

  1. Pull up the app drawer from the home screen and tap the Settings app to open it. Scroll down and tap the “System & updates” menu to open it.
  2. From here, tap “Software update” where you’ll find an automatic update page.
  3. The phone will then check for an update. If there’s an available update, let the phone download and install it. If your software is up to date, go back to the home screen via navigation gestures or the home button at the bottom of the display.
  4. You’re now ready for the following installation options.

Related: Huawei Mate 40 Pro review

Huawei App Gallery icon in a Huawei app drawer
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Option 1: Use Huawei App Gallery

Huawei App Gallery is already installed on your Huawei device. This is Huawei’s own application market and is the primary way to download apps on your Huawei smartphone.

  1. To find it, open the phone’s app drawer and look for the red bag logo. Tap on this and you should be in App Gallery.
  2. You’ll land on the Featured page. Search for the app you want by tapping the search bar at the top. Once your app comes up, click its list entry. This should then load up the app page.
  3. At the bottom of the display should be a blue “Install” button. Tap this. Wait for the application to install.
  4. The blue button should now say “Open”. Tap this and you should be in your newly installed app.

Continue reading: Huawei App Gallery review

Petal Search icon
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Option 2: Use Huawei Petal Search

Huawei Petal Search is the company’s all-in-one hub for search, news, images, and apps. It’s very much like Google’s all-in-one system. If you have a Huawei P40-series device or the Mate 40 Pro, Petal Search will be pre-installed. If you’re on an older device like our Mate 30 Pro, you will have to install the app via Huawei App Gallery. Hint: We walk you through this process in option 4!

Here’s how to get your apps through Petal Search.

  1. Upon opening the app, you’ll be met with the “For you” page. Tap the search bar and type the app that you’d like to install and hit enter.
  2. When the search results pop up, tap the “Apps” tab to narrow down the listings to just applications.
  3. Tap your desired app. This will then display the app page either from App Gallery or a third party.
  4. Find and tap “Install”. If applicable, then tap “Download”. Wait for the phone to install the app.
  5. Then there will be an “Open” button. Tap this to open your newly installed app.
OnePlus Home screen
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Option 3: Using Huawei Phone Clone

Huawei’s Phone Clone app is a great way of porting applications from a Google Play-enabled device. This won’t work for 100% of apps, but it’s mostly effective. All Huawei smartphones have this pre-installed, so no need for the App Gallery. You will need a separate, Google-Play-enabled device for this to work. Here’s how to use it!

  1. Find “Phone Clone” on your Huawei device in the app drawer and tap to open it.
  2. The app will ask for file storage permissions. Accept these to allow the phone to transfer and receive data from another device.
  3. Select “This is a new device” to allow the phone to receive data. Allow the permissions for this too.
  4. You’ll then be given the option to pick which platform your separate device is. For this, we’ll select “Other Android device”.
  5. On your separate device, open up the Google Play Store and search for Phone Clone. Hit install and let the phone do its thing. Once installed, click open.
  6. Once open, allow the required permissions and scan the Huawei device’s QR code with the separate device.
  7. Make sure the details on the displays match up and if so, hit “Connect”.
  8. On the separate device, you should see a list of applications and tools. Select your desired items with the checkboxes and hit the “OK” button at the bottom of the screen. Then hit Transfer at the bottom of the display.
  9. Let the phones transfer and receive data. Once complete, the separate device will say “Sent”, while the Huawei device will say “Transfer complete”. Hit “OK” and “Finish” on the respective devices and you’re done!

Related: Switching phones like a pro — How our reviewers do it

Huawei USB file transfer widget with the Mate 30 Pro
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Option 4: Use a standalone APK

Installing applications via a standalone APK can be daunting. However, it’s often the most effective way to download exactly what you want. There are two ways of going about this: Downloading via your phone’s browser, and also through a Windows PC. We’ll be covering both today.

We’ll be downloading and installing the apps in separate parts.

Downloading via the browser

  1. Open your phone’s browser and go to your APK website of choice. From here, you should be able to search for your desired application.
  2. Tap the APK’s page and hit the download button to start downloading. Accept the storage permissions to enable the download.
  3. The APK for your application will now be in the Downloads folder.

Downloading via a Windows PC

For this, you’ll need a Windows PC with an internet connection, a USB cable to go from your phone to the computer, and the Huawei phone itself.

  1. On your PC, open your internet browser and navigate to your APK website of choice. Find your desired application using the site’s search bar. Hit download and select the desktop as your download destination.
  2. Plug your Huawei device into the computer via the USB cable. Once plugged in, select “File Transfer” on the pop-up menu on the Huawei phone.
  3. On the Windows PC, open up “This PC” via the Start menu and double click the Huawei device. Click through until you get to a page with a Downloads folder.
  4. Open this folder and then drag and drop the downloaded APK file from the desktop to the phone.
  5. Once completed, close all file explorer windows on your computer.
  6. Now disconnect the USB cable from both the phone and the computer. Your file has successfully transferred.

Installing the APK

  1. From the home screen, open the app drawer and find the Files app. If you’re opening this for the first time, accept permissions.
  2. Tap “Internal Storage” and then “Download”. You should now see your “.apk” file in there.
  3. Tap the file, then tap “install” at the bottom of the screen. Let it install.
  4. Once complete, you have two options. You can close out, or open the application. Either way, your app has been successfully installed.
Huawei P40 Pro

Now you know how to download and install applications without the need for Google’s Play Store. Some methods, like the App Gallery, will be better than others — it depends on where each app is available to download. There are solutions out there to install the Google Play Store, however, that’s another topic for another day.

See also: How to install third party apps without the Google Play Store