This simple tweak fixes the most infuriating thing about Huawei's EMUI

Using the Huawei P9 over the past week has made me appreciate the progress the Chinese firm has made in fixing up its EMUI software layer to the point where basically nothing is overtly broken. But I've also become reacquainted with the more overbearing parts of Huawei's UI — its... unique... way of handling Android notifications, its paranoid power consumption notifications and, of course, its insistence on being all up in your icons.

As you'll know if you use a Huawei (or Honor) phone, the icons used for its built-in apps, Google's apps and many popular third-party apps are controlled by EMUI's theming system. Here's an example of how it looks out of the box:

Most third-party app icons in Huawei's themes are either out-of-date or just plain look bad.

Most themes unify the look of your home screen by placing them on rounded rectangles or squared-off circles ("squircles"). In some cases that looks fine. In others, you get the white Google Play Store icon on a white rectangle, or a green Hangouts icon on a green squricle. It just doesn't look great.

More annoyingly, because these icons are built into the theme, they're almost never up-to-date. The Huawei P9 still has the old Google Chrome icon. And good luck seeing the updated Google Play icons loaded on a Huawei phone anytime soon. (A custom launcher with its own icon pack is a way to sidestep this problem, however Huawei's app icons would still show outside the launcher.)

In any case, it's an annoying bit of visual dissonance that's impossible to unsee. But fortunately, there's a simple fix.

XDA forums user MrAdny has created a tiny, barebones Huawei theme file to reverse most of this terribleness. His "PureIcons" pack leaves the rest of EMUI untouched, but replaces all the weird customized versions of popular app icons with their proper versions. And because of the way the skin is configured, other third-party apps not explicitly customized will just display their regular icons, without any rectangular background.

Installing PureIcons is pretty simple — it just involves downloading a .hwt file, then placing it in the "HWThemes" folder on your internal storage, then applying it from within the Themes app.

The result? Something much more palatable:

Because of the way Huawei themes work, PureIcons will need to be updated with newer icons for Google apps as they become available, however the author has already been updating his work with new icons over the past couple of months. (And in any case, it's pretty easy to hack open Huawei's theme files, which are basically just ZIP archives.)

Huawei users, be sure to hit the comments let us know if you're using this or any other UI tweaks on your device — and whether you'll be happily living a squircle-free existence from now on.

Source: PureIcons on XDA

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.

  • I heard it's also quite difficult, near impossible to install and use a third party launcher and use it as a main launcher on Huawei's phones. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Absolutely untrue, I use Nova Launcher Pro with a custom set of icons to make my own look!
  • Not sure where they got that from, but I agree with you!
  • for some reason, when i try to install nova launcher on my p9, it would never stick (it'd revert back to huawei's own launcher after a couple of minutes). is there anything you did to make yours stick? i tried going into settings and putting "nova" as default launcher, but i couldn't even find that option.
  • go to settings---apps---settings on lower left of the screen---find default theme---select nova launcher. works for me
  • Is there any reasonable explanation as to why they would take a perfectly functional OS like pure Android and bork it down in this way? They are not adding value by removing basic features everyone has grown to expect. They take a perfectly good phone and hobble it because they want to meddle with something that isn't broken? So frustrating.
  • Totally right, choice is the worst.... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Pure Android just isn't functional enough for most people. Add to it that Android was designed to be taken and molded into whatever "x" company or individual wanted and you get a miriad of choices in terms of OS's on different devices. Posted
  • Because China.
    And how they want everything to look as much as an iPhone as they can get away with. Which is almost always a mistake. Fortunately, Android lets you customize and personalize the hell out of a smartphone. Good thing.
  • They make this OS skin just like other chinese brands because the people buying them (majority being chinese) like iphone esque skins.
  • Look forward to checking this out when my pre-order arrives. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I've been using this theme on my Honor 5x. It's much like an Android N theme. Even the settings menu and quick settings look really good! On top of the Theme I'm using Nova Launcher. So it just might be the closest to stock we'll get for now.
  • Thank you, I tried it and it sure looks good Posted via the Android Central App
  • Great man! I had some guys tell me about it a few weeks ago and It would be cool if EMUI went in this direction in the future.
  • This is a great theme. I was just using it for the past 2 weeks.
  • Is squirclization a word or am I missing an inside joke? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well squircle has been in use for a while. And to make something into a squircle must surely be to squirclize it, so... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Maybe they could ship product for U.S./European consumption without a garbage ui for an even easier fix. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Here's the thing. Skins like these are one of the more polarizing ones in the Android world. Whether it's due to the lack of an app drawer in the stock launcher, or their heavy resemblance to the UI on another phone made by a company with a bitten fruit as its logo, or maybe both, it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea. As far as I know, skins like Xiaomi's MIUI and Huawei's EMUI are designed that way because apparently, that's how their home market of China likes it. Though for people like us who reside in the West, it's largely a love it-or-hate it thing. Personally, I don't mind the overall look of EMUI. Though I would change the icons and slap Nova Prime on it (as I do with all my other phones). But for the rest, I actually don't mind it as much as I like to experience different flavors of Android to get a feel for them. Android is open, and for me, experiencing all these skins is embracing the open-nature of Android. That said, EMUI could definitely still use some polish, like some annoying notifications about power usage that come on from time to time, but overall, I kinda like it, as it's different from your usual Android experience.
  • Didn't Huawei say that they would load stock Android on their U.S phones back when first started releasing their devices in the west? I could of swore I read that in an article. I actually found the article. Near the end of the article.
  • the P9 doesnt even have an official launch date in the US yet. the author isnt using a phone made for the US market
  • This was an old article. They said that future devices for the U.S would have stock Android. So if that was true, the Honor 5X and G8X or whatever it's called should have had stock Android. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Clickbait title? Really?
  • I've been using a similar kind of theme on my Honor 7 - Spectrum Pure, which is basically the stock Marshmallow theme (Spectrum) of Honor 7 with the squircles removed from icons.
  • Hi, how will I get the gold theme (mainly interested in system icons) on the left of the picture ?