This week I’m testing the Huawei Mate 50 Pro, the latest flagship from the Chinese manufacturer that has been shut out of the Android smartphone cartel since 2019. I’m not going to give you another history lesson, I’m sure you’re all ready over the backlash between Huawei and the US, depriving the latter’s smartphones of Google Mobile Services (GMS).
Last year, after testing the Huawei P50 Pro, I had also admitted to the manufacturer and its fans that yes, Huawei without Google, it could work in 2022. But at that time I was already wondering why the hell you should bother with such a shaky user experience. And this, as partially functional as can be!
This year I am much less magnanimous, and in 2023 Huawei without Google will also be without me.
It still works just as well, so still just as bad actually
“But Antoine, you’re talking nonsense as usual. Aren’t you tired of moaning about nothing? We can use all the Google applications – ALL! – if we tinker a bit.”
So already, no. It’s not true. Then I know the song. And it’s true, we can adjust. And it’s true, you can use Google Maps, Gmail, Google Drive and many other common apps like WhatsApp, Netflix, Youtube etc.
Even Uber and Uber Eats work and manage to geolocate me correctly. Phew, for a new townsman whose ancestors probably picked more berries than they hunted mammoths, you can’t imagine my relief.
The DRM Info app even indicates that the Huawei Mate 50 Pro I’m testing has Widevine L1 DRM to pair SVOD content in HD, which shouldn’t be the case (but I’ll check with Huawei).
In fact, it is very simple. You only need three apps: Petal Search, Aurora Store and GSpace.
The first and least effective is Petal Search. It is a native Huawei application that acts as a search engine or rather an APK file aggregator to install most of the applications that are not available on AppGallery.
Except that many of the APKs may either not be installed on the smartphone or may not launch once installed because authentication through your Google account is not working due to lack of GMS. But for applications not directly linked to supermarkets, it works. The only catch is that you will have to manually update each app.
Then we move on to the second solution: Aurora Store. This alternative application store allows you to download and install apps and games like Google Play Store. Some work very well, others very poorly. This was especially the case with mobile games in my specific case. Apex Legends or Call of Duty Mobile did not work, apps closed by themselves shortly after launch.
The app itself remains a good open source client for the Play Store. You can also create an anonymous session without having to enter your Google credentials. The interface is very nice and quite ergonomic.
This is where the third solution comes in and actually the only one that works: GSpace. This application creates a kind of virtual space where your Huawei smartphone behaves like a normal Android smartphone equipped with GMS. You can install apps through the Play Store as if nothing had happened.
Except you can’t add all 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 so useful. Essential even. Basically my “magic” solution was to download all the apps I wanted through the Aurora Store and then clone them into GSpace.
Uber, Uber Eats, my banking app N26, Apex Legends Mobile, Amazon Prime Video… All apps downloaded through the Aurora Store that didn’t work worked fine in GSpace. Sometimes, for Slack for example, authenticating through my Google account worked normally, but it blocked me from the application when I launched it outside of GSpace.
But again, GSpace is not a perfect cure for hypogooglicosis.
The Middle Kingdom is no more
Yes, GSpace is a great application that allows Huawei users to fill many gaps that the manufacturer neglected. But this is again an imperfect solution.
It is still not possible to use Google Wallet for contactless payment. And I know there is an alternative called Curve that many Huaweiists recommend on forums. Except that if you want to pay with your connected watch, you simply won’t be able to. Far from being prohibitive, this is another concession that must be made.
That’s a lot, isn’t it? And even if you are a hack pro, a 3.0 geek who loves to hack his daily life by gamifying every layer of his user experience, I ask you: WHY ALL THIS?!!!!
Really, it’s not a troll. And I sincerely do not want to look down on anyone, nor make fun of those of you who use a Huawei smartphone. But taking all the elements discussed above, how can one justify Huawei’s offering at this point? I am talking about these 4G smartphones that run on Android 11 without content and sell for more than 1000 EURO!!!!
Perhaps for someone who doesn’t care about the software experience and is mainly interested in hardware, the excellent spec sheet of the Huawei flagships is enough. Maybe a photo filer who is only interested in the photo module doesn’t care about Google’s services. Or maybe you are satisfied with the Huawei P30 Pro, one of the best smartphones of its time (2019 eh), which still holds up and has GMS.
But here I am talking to you about buying a new Huawei smartphone without Google services in 2023. Personally, I could not imagine it in the long term. And I think that testers and other tech journalists should take their responsibility and confront Huawei with this status quo, which no longer holds.
Huawei without Google in 2023, it works, but with a limp. And I run away from here with my Nothing Phone (1), which has the Google Play Store.