Navigating Huawei smart devices without Google apps

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Huawei has over the past few months been unveiling their new class of smart devices. The most conspicuous thing about the new series which include the Huawei Y8p and Y6p is that they are not pre-loaded with Google Apps nor can you access them from the new AppGallery.

This means no Google Maps, YouTube, Google Play Store and definitely not Google Assistant. This was as result of the US trading ban against Chinese firms.

The only link that the Y8p — the device I have been using — has with Google is that it is running on the latest version of Android. Google mobile services have however been replaced by Huawei Mobile services which features a new browser, a Microsoft Swift Keyboard and the Huawei AppGallery.

The AppGallery is part of the measures that the Chinese mobility maker has put in to fill the large shoes left by Google Mobile Services.

Now, moving from an Android One device— the Pure Android experience which means the device operates purely on Google services with no other interface from the phone manufacturer — to one with no access to any of the Google suite of apps, it is challenging to say the least.

Since you cannot just sign in to Gmail to load all your data, one needs a phone clone app that will port all data including SMS, call logs, phonebook, app data, photos and all other details to the new Huawei device.

Huawei have managed to on-board some popular apps including DSTV Now, Aliexpress, Truecaller, TikTok, Snapchat and local apps such as MyPower by KPLC.

The Whatsapp experience has not been quite as seamless with the slight issue that the backups for the version I was using were stored on Google’s Cloud, which Huawei has no access to, meaning you start on a blank slate.

Good for de-cluttering? Yes but not if you have important messages backed up. This is however something that the device maker has been working on sorting out. Facebook and Instagram are available through third party websites — with the added risk of getting a fake app.

Other messaging apps such as Telegram were originally not available but have since been on-boarded onto Huawei’s AppGallery. The new version of ePaper’s from the various media houses have not been updated neither have local shopping apps including Jumia and Kilimall and Uber and its food version Uber Eats is also absent. MySafaricom is also missing from the list of available apps.

One cannot access Chrome as an app. However, the Huawei browser does directly send you to Google’s landing page, and you can switch to Microsoft’s Bing if you please. It has similar functionalities to Chrome.

The Google apps can be accessed through back-door routes (referred to as sideloading), which for security purposes is really not a worthwhile process. It is also a cumbersome process .

Verdict: If you are not heavy on the use of Google apps, the new app store has everything you might need and the option to request the app of you need to be added though you will need to open a Huawei account. Huawei have managed to provide a good replacement to the Google’s Playstore, and you can still access maps and YouTube from the browser. They do fall short in app alternatives for the same.

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