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Huawei without Google in 2022: It works but why bother?

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Huawei without Google, does it work in 2022? Well, it does, the Google-divorced devices work a little better than in the past. But does Huawei, which continues to sell its smartphones at more than $1,000 overseas without offering a convincing Android experience, really deserve a medal for that? No!

While working on my review of the Huawei P50 Pro that will be ready this weekend, I obviously had to go through the now sad ritual of configuring the smartphone. Still banned in the US, Huawei has to deprive its smartphones of the famous GMS or Google Mobile Services and especially of their APIs and various DRM. As these are used by a good number of everyday applications, even in 2022, it is necessary to tinker with Petal Search and the AppGallery. All this to get a semblance of user experience at the expense... of the user!

But why would I bother with that in the end? To save Huawei's market share in Europe? I don't feel any attachment to this manufacturer (nor to any other of its competitors. Fanboys, take notes). Or because Google is evil and Huawei, if ever HarmonyOS is released, will be an alternative to Gafam and Android? Let me laugh!

And although a large majority of you don't find Huawei relevant in the smartphone market anymore, there must be a fanbase left. A fanbase strong enough for Huawei to still dare to release overpriced 4G flagships in 2022 and find retailers to distribute them.

But who are these people? Do they know about the embargo? Are they technophiles? I would love to talk to one of them. But that's for another article. In the meantime, I have something to say.

Yes, you can live with a Huawei smartphone without Google services

Before resuming with my manifesto, let's move on to the only somewhat objective part of this article. Factually, in 2022, one can quite easily buy and use a Huawei smartphone - outside the US, without GSM and not catch fire instantly or join the Chinese Communist Party.

On a more serious note, I have already talked about it at great length in my test of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro last year. And this year, the manufacturer has built on this good foundation, without changing much, but I must admit that it is viable. V-I-A-B-L-E. Not optimal, frictionless or "normal" but just viable.

With Phone Clone, you can transfer most of your data to your new Huawei smartphone. You can install most of the applications not available in the AppGallery in the form of "PWA" which are, most often, simple shortcuts to the web version. For the rest, you can use the Petal Search tool and download the APK files.

Another solution is to use a third-party application, GSpace. It allows you to create a kind of virtual machine on your smartphone that is compatible with GMS and allows you to access the Play Store and download Google (or third-party) applications like Gmail. Then you just need to add a shortcut to the GSpace application, which itself contains the shortcut to the application you want to access. It's so intuitive, isn't it?

0001 17891378345
My home screen on the left is completely normal and I have almost all the applications I use on a normal Android smartphone / © NextPit

But why be stubborn, I ask you?

I personally could not care less about the fact that Huawei works (haphazardly) without Google. Are we seriously there? We're going to congratulate a manufacturer because it allows us to install APKs and shortcuts all because it wraps these fiddles with beautiful animations and other confirmation screens? Really?

This is a real question that I'm addressing to you because I, personally, have already made my choice. And my choice is not to buy a Huawei smartphone. It's like when UberEats (or Lieferando in Germany, which I use) forgets your fries or the drink that you paid for, and offers you a credit in exchange.

Well no, I don't want the credit, I want the product I spent my hard-earned money on. If the roles were reversed, no merchant in the world, with a few exceptions, would agree to deliver their product or service if you don't check out. If I buy a smartphone for $1,000 or more, I find the idea of having to fiddle around, poking in forums and watching tutorials on YouTube, just to install an application, unbearable.

And it's not only this lack of intuitiveness that I have a problem with. Take Netflix for example, your post-embargo Huawei smartphone doesn't have Google's Widevine L1 DRM (the digital rights management tool, to prevent content from being reproduced). Without this DRM, you can't watch your SVOD content in HD. On a phone worth a thousand bucks!

Anyway, APKs are great as a workaround. And I know we could talk about the risks of downloading APKs via unreliable software libraries, which Huawei is totally blameless about. But personally, I'm not particularly worried about that since I only download APKs of popular applications from recognized stores. On the other hand, we can sit on automatic updates.

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"Petal Search is not responsible for third-party content." Not very reassuring / © NextPit


So yes, I'll say it again because it's true and I'm not denying it: Huawei works without Google. I haven't encountered any insurmountable obstacles, except for using Google Pay or Google Maps, which remains impossible. But that doesn't mean you should pat Huawei on the back and congratulate it for this performance, which is still screwed up in my eyes.

In a pinch, if the Huawei P50 Pro or P50 Pocket were cheaper than their competitors, I might agree to the mental gymnastics required to accept this compromise. Or if I had hope that Huawei would offer a credible alternative and that this boondoggle is only temporary, I would have accepted it too as I did last year with the Mate 40 Pro.

But let's face it. Huawei has not replaced Google, its smartphones run on gutted Android 11. And the pricing policy, for 4G smartphones moreover, is downright insolent in my eyes.

This does not question the undeniable qualities of its smartphones on certain points, such as the cameras. But as a consumer, you can't compartmentalize the user experience like that. And as a tech journalist who doesn't buy any of the phones he tests, I can't recommend products from a brand that offer an inferior experience to the competition with similar or even more expensive prices.

If you still believe in Huawei smartphones without Google, good for you. It will be without me. We'll meet in the comments section of one of my tutorials to synchronize your emails and contacts without having to install 5 APKs.

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Go to comment (16)
Antoine Engels

Antoine Engels
Senior Editor

Black belt in specs sheet analysis. OnePlus fanboy in (slow) remission. Average estimated reading time of my articles: 48 minutes. Tech deals fact-checker in my spare time. Hates talking about himself in the 3rd person. Dreams he was a gaming journalist in another life. Doesn't get the concept of irony. Head of editorial for NextPit France.

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  • Maria 1
    Maria 4 months ago Link to comment

    I hope Google returns to Huawei as it is the BEST by far compared to any Android smartphone! Built-in apps for weather, alarm (Music and ringtones excellent), CALENDAR, HEALTH are impressive. I lost my P20 lite on a hike and luckily I found it 6 days later battery left. But Google IS ESSENTIAL.
    Thank you for the article.

    • Rubens Eishima 29
      Rubens Eishima
      • Admin
      • Staff
      4 months ago Link to comment

      You can get most of the Huawei software and camera experience with the Honor phones, to be honest.
      (Honor is a former Huawei subsidiary)

  • 1
    Coolray Dec 9, 2022 Link to comment

    As much as I want Huawei for it’s great camera, but I am not going for it again as I couldnt sync and back up my photos to my OneDrive. I had OneDrive installed via APK, and I had to manually upload my photos to my OneDrive ONE BY ONE. Imagine the hassle if you already got a thousand of photos and vids in your phone. Also, Im using apps that are Google dependent. I have P40 for 2 years and it’s frustrating that I can’t maximize it.

  • 1
    Paul Gauthier Nov 24, 2022 Link to comment

    Huawei phones are simply great phones. I had a P20 until it got stolen this summer. The camera is great, everything about the phone was just superior to a stupid Samsung or whatever. And I'll never own an iPhone, screw that.

    I think the other companies are just scared of Huawei's superiority.

  • 1
    edgaras puotkalis Sep 20, 2022 Link to comment

    You can now use Gspace to get all GMS apps and everything from Googleplay. Works really good, no problems for me, using for a couple months now. :)

  • Εμμανουηλιδης Χρηστος 1
    Εμμανουηλιδης Χρηστος Sep 19, 2022 Link to comment

    I bother for one simple reason: The effort and R&D put by Huawei on tweaking their end-product after the ban is huge.
    Be it software-wise or hardware-wise Huawei struggling to return to the smartwatch market as a leading brand, and due to the fact that is left out of Google Mobile Services is putting a great deal of effort to offer you the best product money can by at this price. Just go ahead and compare EMUI 12 with MUI 13 (xiaomi), OneUI (samsung), OxygenOS (onePlus): all those are nowhere near the seamless integration EMUI 12 has. Go ahead and check the myHuawei App and tell me if you can find anything like that on any other smartphone, so seamlessly integrated inside the device. Not even Apple who has long been praised for its iOS system has anything close to it. Should we check their systems hardware-wise? Every Huawei phone is a DSLR camera in your pocket, P40 Pro still bests 2022 flagships and P50 Pro has the best camera in the planet right now. Talk about their SoCs? Kirin 990 can outperform midrange 2022 processors....

    In the end of the day, Huawei is making a great effort to show the world they can introduce a new way of living outside GMS and android as we know it today. So, kudos and applauds is better suited to Huawei and not mocking.

    Maybe you have other -shaded?- reasons to mock them, but I haven't and this is my point of view from the consumer side and not the $journalist$-side.

  • Janis 1
    Janis Sep 19, 2022 Link to comment

    Best thing about huawei, that you can get all the apps from Gspace, by downloading it from AppGalery or Petal Search. Its easy to use by adding gmail account and is not doing "heavy toll" on your smartphone.

  • Paul zozak 1
    Paul zozak Aug 6, 2022 Link to comment

    My wife bought a nova 9 in Bogota Colombia. It has all the google apps and she is very happy with it so I dont know what all the fuss is about.

  • 1
    Ghassan Matar Jun 20, 2022 Link to comment

    My current and last Huawei phone is P30 pro from 2019 and still brilliant... since I can not buy Huawei phones due Google issues, I am lost... I do not know what to buy as android phones anymore... It is very sad... Even I am willing to live with some restrictions and get the P50 just for the sake of the incredible Camera... But I am still hesitant.

  • 1
    Corey Merrick Jun 17, 2022 Link to comment

    The bottom line is. Huawei continues to be the leading pioneers of innovation in the technology hemisphere. They have replaced all apps and provide quality alternatives to the Google and Microsoft apps they no longer have. HarmonyOS is very good, the huawei app gallery is also very good. You should still purchase these devices including PC's, laptops, watches and tablets. You will soon realise they are excellent and are still the best tech available to buy. I hope this helps.

  • 3
    Hosh Benben Feb 4, 2022 Link to comment

    I had a different experience than what is presented in this article. More than a year using the P40. I had to change some apps - sometimes to the better. The absence of GMS has niticeable advantages: GMS casts a heavy toll on the processor and the battery. The AppGallery is growing by the day and most apps are being developed without the need for GMS.
    In summary: If using premium hardware and a long lasting battery would mean an extra clicks away to download apps, so be it.

    Rubens EishimaSorin

    • Louis LePoulpe 1
      Louis LePoulpe Mar 12, 2022 Link to comment

      Do you have a solution for watching HD videos ?

  • Rusty H. 33
    Rusty H. Feb 3, 2022 Link to comment

    I had 3 Huawei phones. Mate2, 8, 9. The nine was my last. Living in the USA, without going through hoops, you couldn't get any updates. Shame. I really liked all 3 phones. Never had an issue with any of them. But, some of the apps I use, work dependent, will not work unless you have google.

    CoolrayPaul zozakSorinZois Bekios Zannikos

  • 27
    Sorin Feb 3, 2022 Link to comment

    Yes, maybe someone can live with a Huawei smartphone without Google services, but I can't. I got so used to these services and now I practically depend on them. That's why I have to give up on Huawei, and I say that with regret, because my current phone is a P20 Pro which I'm very happy with, and I generally liked Huawei phones.
    Now the situation has changed radically, and for the next phone I will have to consider models that have Google services. I may even go for the iPhone, though with a low probability. But unfortunately, Huawei is no longer part of my preferences.

    Zois Bekios Zannikos

  • 11
    Chris Laarman Feb 2, 2022 Link to comment

    1) Why bother? Because I care! I do appreciate my Huawei devices, and I don't appreciate being caught in a trade war that is foreign to me (European).

    2) A Huawei tablet of mine received an OTA update from Android to HarmonyOS 2.0.

    Paul zozakSorinHosh BenbenZois Bekios Zannikos

    • 5
      Vickers C. Feb 6, 2022 Link to comment

      Your Tablet was updated to a different version of Android as that is all HarmonyOS is.

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