In 2023, Huawei is still hanging on to make up for the absence of Google Mobile Services (GMS) on its smartphones. But I am about to give up simply because I'm sick of it, and so should you.
This week, I am reviewing the Huawei Mate 50 Pro, the latest flagship of the Chinese manufacturer decreed excommunicado by the Android smartphone brotherhood since 2019. I'm not going to give you a history lesson again, you are certainly aware of the setbacks between Huawei and the US, depriving the latter's smartphones of Google mobile services (GMS).
Last year, after reviewing the Huawei P50 Pro, I conceded to the manufacturer and its fans that yes, Huawei without Google is still functional in 2022. But at the time, I was already wondering why on earth you should bother with such an unstable user experience. And this, as partially functional as it may be!
This year, I'm much less magnanimous and for 2023, Huawei sans Google is anathema to me.
It's still working well, so it's still bad in fact
"But Antoine, you are talking nonsense as usual. Aren't you tired of complaining about nothing? You can use all the Google applications—ALL of them—if you tinker a bit."
First of all, no. That's not true. Second, I know the drill. And it's true, you can tinker. And it's true, you can use Google Maps, Gmail, Google Drive, and lots of other mainstream apps like WhatsApp, Netflix, Youtube, etc. The DRM Info app even says that the Huawei Mate 50 Pro I'm reviewing has Widevine L1 DRM to watch on-demand video content in HD, which shouldn't be the case (but I'll have to check that with Huawei).
Actually, it's very simple. You only need three applications: Petal Search, Aurora Store, and GSpace.
The first, and least efficient of all, is Petal Search. It's a native Huawei application that serves as a search engine or rather an APK file aggregator to install most of the applications that are not found on AppGallery.
Apart from the fact that many of the APKs may either not be installed on the smartphone or may not launch once installed because authentication via your Google account does not work, due to the lack of the GMS.
We then move to the second solution: Aurora Store. This alternative application store allows you to download and install apps and games similar to the Google Play Store experience. Some may work very well, others may perform very poorly. This was especially the case for mobile games in my case. Apex Legends and Call of Duty Mobile didn't work, the apps closed themselves shortly after launching.
This is where the third and, in fact, only workaround comes in: GSpace. This application creates a kind of virtual space in which your Huawei smartphone behaves like a normal Android smartphone with GMS. You can install applications via the Play Store, as if nothing had happened and Huawei is still good buddies with Google.
Except that you can't add all the apps from this space. But you can clone some apps already installed on your smartphone to integrate them into GSpace. And it is this feature that makes GSpace ultra useful, indispensable even. Basically, my "magic" solution was to download all the apps I wanted from the Aurora Store and then clone them into GSpace.
Uber, Uber Eats, my N26 banking app, Apex Legends Mobile, ... All the applications downloaded via the Aurora Store that didn't work worked perfectly in GSpace. Sometimes, such as Slack for example, the authentication via my Google account worked normally while it blocked me from the application when I launched it outside GSpace.
But then again, GSpace is not a perfect cure for hypogooglicosis.
The Empire of the Middle is no more
Yes, GSpace is a great app that allows Huawei users to fill in many of the gaps left behind by the manufacturer. But once again, this is a flawed solution.
It's still impossible to use Google Wallet for contactless payments. And I know there's an alternative known as Curve that many Huawei fans recommended on the forums. However, if you want to pay with your connected watch, you simply cannot do so.
That's a lot, isn't it? And even if you're a professional hacker, a 3.0 nerd who loves to hack your daily life by gamifying every stratum of your user experience, I ask you: WHY GO THROUGH SUCH TORTURE?!?!?
Really, this is not a trolling post. And I sincerely don't want to make fun of anyone, nor do I want to make fun of those of you who use a Huawei smartphone. But taking all of the above into account, how can anyone justify Huawei's offering at this time?
Maybe for someone who doesn't care about the software experience and is mostly interested in the hardware, the excellent hardware specifications of Huawei's flagships are enough. Maybe a shutterbug, who only cares about the (excellent) camera module, couldn't care less about Google services. Or maybe you're content with the Huawei P30 Pro, one of the best smartphones of its time (circa 2019) that still holds up and has GMS.
But here I am talking about buying a new Huawei smartphone without Google services in 2023. Personally, I would not consider picking it up in the long run. And I think reviewers and other tech journalists should take responsibility and confront Huawei with a status quo that no longer holds.
Huawei without Google in 2023 works, but walks with a limp. And I'm running away from here with my Nothing Phone (1) which has the Google Play Store.