Huawei without Google: What are we really losing?

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Whether via download or with the moving app Phone Clone: On an Honor or Huawei smartphone without Google apps, not all apps that you previously downloaded or even purchased in the Play Store will work. In a large sample, I’ll show you what problems you have to reckon with and how to solve them.

Now I have the Google-less Honor 9X Pro in test mode for two weeks. I am less frustrated than I initially feared. I can continue to use some of my old apps. Either I find it in another app store (rarely in the AppGallery), I can replace it with a web app, or I find an interesting alternative that I would never have encountered without the force to move.

Again and again I am pleasantly surprised by this journey of discovery. But I could understand if someone does not have the curiosity and, above all, the patience that this change requires. So let’s go through stages …

Inventory: These apps have been tested

Before testing the Honor 9X Pro, I had Huawei nova 5T (test) (with Google services) in permanent use. This is of course a favorable starting position, because I was able to use the Huawei tool Phone Clone to the full extent for the move to the Honor 9X Pro. Apps and app data can be transferred from the old to the new smartphone in no time.

The following apps were part of my test and thus serve as a sample:

  • Airbnb
  • Basecamp 3
  • Bring!
  • Coronika
  • Ebay
  • eBay Classifieds
  • EufyHome (Smart Home Control)
  • Feedly
  • Miser
  • Google Assistant
  • Hangouts
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Maps
  • (Hangouts) Meet
  • Gmail
  • ING Banking
  • Joey (Reddit app)
  • Lastpass
  • Linkedin
  • Nuki
  • Paypal
  • Personio
  • ProtonMail
  • Signal
  • Slack
  • Spotify
  • Swipetimes
  • Syncthing
  • Telegram
  • threema
  • Trainline
  • winSIM Service
  • Zoom

Apps that just keep working

We were able to successfully transfer the following apps either via Phone Clone from the old to the new smartphone or re-download and reuse them:

  • Airbnb (Phone Clone)
  • Coronika (Phone Clone)
  • eBay Classifieds (Phone Clone)
  • EufyHome (Smart Home Control, Aurora Store)
  • Feedly (Website)
  • Geizhals (Phone Clone)
  • ING Banking (Aurora Store)
  • LastPass (Aurora Store)
  • LinkedIn (Phone Clone)
  • Nuki (Phone Clone)
  • PayPal (Phone Clone)
  • Personio (Phone Clone)
  • ProtonMail Website
  • Signal (APK Pure)
  • Slack (Aurora Store)
  • Spotify (Aurora Store)
  • Syncthing (F-Droid)
  • Telegram (F-Droid)
  • threema (website)
  • Trainline (Phone Clone)
  • winSIM Service (Phone Clone)
  • Zoom (Phone Clone)

In the AppGallery, I found Airbnb as a “Quick App”. A look into the official documentation reveals that this appears to be Huawei’s counterpart to Google’s ‘Instant Apps’ (Documentary). However, the version installed via Phone Clone or Play Store alternative works perfectly.

In the AppGallery itself I found only the apps Geizhals, Telegram and Trainline for direct download. On Spotify, the entry led me to the download at APK Pure. I searched for Google Maps, appeared to be the very good alternative Maps.me (see below).

Without Google services, it’s bad for notifications. / © AndroidPIT

The version of ING’s banking app, which is available from the Aurora Store, works perfectly. Only when I want to activate notifications for transfers in the settings, there is an error message. Because then the app would want to access the GMS core, which is missing on the Honor 9X Pro. The app does not recognize the existing HMS Core instead.

ProtonMail behaves similarly and warns me every time I open the app that I won’t be notified of incoming emails. The service also displays the same warning when I download the app from the official website.

With Telegram, on the other hand, I use the variant from F-Droid. This is optimized for use without Google services and attaches a notification. This allows the app to remain active in the background and to check the server for new messages every few minutes.

Signal also offers its app for APK download on its website. Unfortunately, the version there is often older than the Play Store version. When you move your chats to the new smartphone, you get the error message that the backup is from a newer version and cannot be restored. The latest version I found at APK Pure.

Interim conclusion

Need makes inventive. But how much ingenuity can a smartphone manufacturer trust its users? Android is historically a bit more complicated to use than iOS. Hobbyists in particular appreciate this property, as it gives them a sense of co-determination: I can do with the device what I Wants.

But how much exploration can Huawei and Honor expect from their new customers? For me, as a relatively experienced smartphone user, the lack of a play store was a medium-high challenge. But what does this look like for a new customer who suddenly has to download and update apps like WhatsApp manually?

It becomes even more complicated when professional or private needs make Google services inevitable. In the second part of this series of articles, I want to describe how you continue to use Google services such as Calendar, Hangouts-Meet or Gmail as web services and which apps you can replace with good alternatives. One thing I can anticipate is that everything works somehow. And it tends to get easier.

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Shayaan is writer and founder at Technewspulse Media and editor of five-book series. His interests include Graphics designing and search marketing.

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