We don’t want to drop you in the deep end, which is why we’re here to help anyone with a Google-less Huawei phone figure out how to make the most of it. Fair warning that there are quite a few workarounds, especially if you’re very attached to your apps. So it might not be for anyone.
Huawei is pushing the ‘check out the specs on this one, and make do without Google’ narrative. Which is fair, considering the company continuously brings out monstrous phones in terms of hardware. The new lineup includes the P40, P40 Pro and the P40 Lite — all of ‘em are great phones in their own rights, but how do you manage your apps on a phone that doesn’t have access to fan-favourites like Gmail, Google Maps and Google Play Store.
Replacing the Play Store is Huawei’s own AppGallery. Don’t freak out — it’s not like downloading apps from an unsecured service. Apps loaded on the AppGallery undergo a stringent process in getting verified and being allowed on the store. It’s just when you need an app not available on the AppGallery that you’ll enter the internet’s grey area.
Find your apps
That’s a reasonable request. All we want to know is whether we’ll have access to all our favourite apps, and to a degree, you absolutely will.
Huawei has been grinding to get all of the South African apps on its AppGallery, so it can comfortably launch Huawei devices running HMS into the country. And since its Developer Day last year, it has made incredible headway, with the store currently hosting a majority of South African-made apps already.
We’ve been using a Google-less Huawei phone for months now. And you know what? We really don’t miss Google yet.
Attack of the Clones
If you’re switching from an Android device to your new P40, all you gotta do is clone your old device onto the new one using an app called Phone Clone. It’s natively loaded on most Android phones, otherwise, you can download it in the Play Store.
This method will allow you to physically copy all the content (including apps) from the previous phone to your Huawei device. This will pull over everything (including your Google apps), even if they’re not available in the AppGallery. We were concerned about the AppGallery not yet having the FNB mobile app, but using phone clone easily transferred the FNB app to the Huawei device. And it works.
You’ll find that some cloned apps won’t run without GMS, in which case our advice is to find a good replacement app on AppGallery. Overall, almost all of our transferred apps worked.
Initially, you’ll probs try to set up the phone by downloading all of the important/must-have apps from various sources. The AppGallery does not host apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. But you can, in this case, download them directly from the websites. The AppGallery lists the apps, but as a link, and once you click the link you’ll be directed to the app’s website, where you can download the app directly.
You’ll be able to link Gmail-accounts to the native email service app without any issues. In terms of navigation, we found that Waze works perfectly in the place of Maps, and for native search, we set Microsoft’s Edge as the default browser but Huawei’s main browser works just as well.
Searching for more apps will take time, and patience, and scouring the web and third-party app stores. Our Pro-tip here is to use both Aptoide and APKPure, which will cover most of the apps you need. But those are third-party downloaders so it’s not our fault if it doesn’t work.
The WhatsApp saga
If there’s one annoyance with this whole process, it’s that you can’t transfer a WhatsApp chat backup automatically (like you would if you were moving to a Google device). If there’s one thing we don’t like, it’s minor inconveniences. This is one of those.
The reason for this is that WhatsApp natively backs up chats to Google Drive and presto! You can’t access Drive on this device, so it’s useless. What you can do, however, is download the chat backup directly to your device by changing a setting.
After you’ve gone through this strenuous process (we know, it’s not all that bad actually), you’ll need to transfer the chat backup folder to the new Huawei using a file-sharing app called ShareIt. Or any file sharing method — you can even Bluetooth transfer it to yourself if you want to relive the early 2000’s.
Point is, if you want to keep your chat history from WhatsApp (let’s face it, most of us do), you’ll need to transfer it manually. Which is a bit of a pain. And the Boomers may struggle with this part.
A little handholding
We have to mention that Huawei is going out of its way to educate customers on setting up their HMS devices.
The company has set up 24-hour access to a support call centre, a WhatsApp line as well as customer service points in more than 100 shopping centres across South Africa. So when you acquire your shiny, brand new Huawei P40, ask the sales assistant in the shop (or via customer service) to help you set up the Google-less device.