What is going to replace Google

Huawei smartphones without Google: what you have to do without (and what not)

That's a dilemma: Huawei and Honor are releasing magnificent smartphones at attractive prices, but: Despite the Android operating system, there are no Google Mobile Services. Therefore, you will not get a PlayStore to download apps, no Google Maps and no YouTube. Is this a problem? Not necessarily.

That's what happened: Huawei smartphones without Google

For over a year now, there has been an escalating trade dispute between the USA and China that directly affects Huawei. This is because the Chinese electronics company installs its own processors and components in smartphones, while US hardware is not used or is insufficiently used. The US government does not want to accept that. The US giant Google is also prohibited from working with Huawei - for example on the Android operating system and Google services such as YouTube.

Huawei had to react to this: The smartphones are still based on Android, but on an open source variant that is not licensed by Google and is ultimately also subtly limited in terms of functionality. For example, the offers developed by Google such as the integration of Google Mobile Services, the Google Play Store, Google Drive, YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Lens and the Office package are missing.

Small tricks that have a big impact

And now? So aren't there any apps for Huawei smartphones that are important to you? Don't worry - this is not the case! Huawei has found solutions. The result is called Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and is a counterpart to Google Mobile Services. The Google Play Store is missing, for example you get the Huawei App Gallery. This is now an enormously extensive store with countless apps that you know, love and can therefore continue to use in the future.

In addition, you are able to install apps via third-party stores, for example via Amazon with Amazon AppStore. And: You can still manually install the pure apps, provided you have the necessary APK files. Developers of various applications offer these on their websites.

But: The installation of Google Mobile Services and thus also a large number of Google apps is either not possible, time-consuming or associated with difficulties that also affect the normal operation of the programs. As a normal mortal user, you should avoid it.

Similar apps, different names

So the question arises: Are you restricted in everyday life with a smartphone from Huawei or Honor? Admittedly, it feels a bit strange not to find any typical apps when you switch on a Huawei phone for the first time. Instead you get ...

  • Huawei ID as an alternative to the Google account that you set up at the beginning.
  • Huawei Music as an alternative to Google Play Music or, in future, YouTube Music
  • Huawei Video as an alternative to Google Play Movies
  • Huawei email as the standard mail program
  • Huawei Cloud as an alternative to Google Drive; 5GB cloud storage is included.
  • Petal Search as an alternative to Google or Google News in combination with an app search
  • Huawei Gallery: With connection to Huawei Cloud, comparable to Google Photos
  • Huawei browser as an alternative to Google Chrome
  • Huawei App Gallery as an alternative to the Google Play Store

Personally, Huawei Music and Huawei Video surprised me positively with a very solid range of films, series and music. Should you prefer Amazon Prime, Netflix or Spotify - you can also download them to your (future) Huawei smartphone (more on this later). You will also find basic applications such as calendars, calculators, memos, voice recorders and the like either pre-installed on your smartphone or in the app gallery. And this is exactly your number 1 contact point when it comes to apps - if you have a device from the Chinese company.

This is what the Huawei App Gallery offers

Which apps do you need? Chances are you'll find them in the App Gallery. Huawei is not a small company, it sells millions of smartphones every year - and you can see that clearly in the AppStore. Because the cooperation with providers of well-known apps also seems to work. And should something be missing, you can add apps to a wish list. If there is great interest, Huawei seems to be particularly keen to bring the program into its own store.

What I personally find regrettable: The App Gallery looks a bit confused and confusing. Since Huawei had to completely rebuild the store, I would have welcomed curating the content consistently and preferring to keep the offer low, but of high quality.

It is also a bit irritating for laypeople when they search for apps and find them, but cannot download them because they are STILL not available. For me, it's all a bit unstructured and chaotic.

But: The offer is varied and should satisfy most people. And that alone is a positive finding. Nevertheless, many apps are missing that you can only get indirectly.

What about apps that are not available for my Huawei smartphone?

While researching and trying things out, I noticed that you just can't get some apps. The official Philips Hue app, for example. Programs for controlling special smart home devices are few and far between. Here I see room for improvement, but: Here, too, you will discover alternatives. In the case of Philips Hue, for example, this is Hue Essentials, which even offers a greater range of functions.

It is more difficult with online banking apps. If the offer from your house bank is not there, solutions such as those from finanzblick and Co. help better than nothing, but here the problem with the lack of licenses for Android is revealed. They are probably necessary for many banking apps.

If you really want to use voice assistants on your Huawei smartphone, for example to control your apartment remotely, that is not entirely uncomplicated either. Alexa can be installed, the Google Assistant completely refused to work for me. I expected that.

One finding: If you don't get the original app, an alternative app or even a copy will almost always do. But you should say goodbye to some things, especially Google apps like the Assistant. So, depending on your preferences, you might either miss nothing or hardly anything ... or a lot.

Many apps are missing, but there are solutions

If you only look at the Huawei App Gallery, you will not even discover popular apps such as Netflix, Spotify or Amazon Prime Video. This is where two apps come into play that should probably not be missing on any Huawei phone. I really like it Petal Searchwith which you can search not only for websites, but also for apps. The mixture of news feed and versatile search is a practical helper and quickly locates apps and download options for you.

The application App search is focused on apps and allows you to install Instagram, eBay classifieds, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and the like within seconds. You will probably find what you are looking for in the App Gallery here at the latest. What is useful about AppSearch is that the tool searches all kinds of sources or scans several APK app archives. Are these also reputable providers? I hope so of course.

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Does it have to be Google Maps? Here, too, I have a tip ready: Use the browser-based version of the map service. This also applies to many other services, including YouTube. Online banking worked without any problems in my attempts on a Huawei P40 Lite, for example. Since mobile websites are designed for smartphones anyway, there is usually no lack of convenience. I think this is a good "stopgap".

Corona warning app? Not with Huawei!

The Corona warning app was also offered to me during my search, and the installation went smoothly at first. But you cannot use it on a Huawei or Honor smartphone because it needs components from Google services. Very annoying. The suggestions on the app website didn't help me.

The Corona warning app is certainly a prominent example of the fact that not all apps work as you would like. Sometimes it's a bit bumpy, a couple of times the app you want isn't there. And the range of games, especially with blockbusters, is definitely larger in the Google Play Store. So you have to "come to terms" with the fact that there are fewer apps for the Huawei smartphone and that customization according to your preferences is somewhat different and takes longer than with a regular smartphone from Samsung, Sony and Co.

What about updates?

Normally, you will receive app updates on an Android smartphone automatically from the Google Play Store. It's a little different with Huawei: software that you downloaded from the App Gallery will also be updated on your phone - provided the developers make it available quickly in the App Gallery. This should be the case with the well-known and popular programs.

It is more difficult if you install apps manually as APK files (also via AppSearch or Petal Search), also known as sideload. Then you have to download and install the latest APK for a new version. Yes, that is more time-consuming, but after a little getting used to it, it is really not rocket science. But with many apps on the smartphone you will quickly lose track of things. So this is not the best solution.

By the way: You cannot easily take apps that were previously purchased on an Android smartphone with you onto a Huawei phone. A new purchase may be necessary here - provided the app is also available in the App Gallery. Otherwise the only thing that helps is to switch to an alternative.

Conclusion: Huawei smartphones without Google are still fun!

Does that all sound complicated and exhausting? I want to reassure you: When you set up your new Huawei smartphone for the first time and browse the App Gallery Store, you won't notice any differences at first. You can also use the pre-installed Phone Clone app to transfer a lot of content from your old Android phone. If you limit yourself to typical apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook or YouTube, you can easily get by with the original applications or equivalent copies.

Only if you need more specific apps, a Huawei smartphone might not be the optimal choice, because in the worst case they will not work at all. Predicting this in advance is simply not possible. The fact that the Corona warning app does not work is sobering, but fortunately by no means the standard. It looks a lot better than you might have guessed.

Huawei P40 and P40 Pro: Top smartphones without Google

For example, missing out on an exciting Huawei P40 because of this limitation that actually exists - I don't see any reason for this, especially if you don't need too many apps in everyday life. The “power users”, who place the highest value on the latest apps, games and Google services, should - you have to be honest - use smartphones from other manufacturers.

What the future brings? Huawei certainly hopes for an end to the embargo. Until then, the Chinese will find clever loopholes, as the new Huawei P Smart Pro shows, which comes back with Google services.

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