Don’t get me wrong, this situation is utterly rubbish. Huawei / Honor make totally brilliant phones. They’re well designed and – especially the Honor brand – extremely well priced. However, America won’t let Huawei (or Honor) work with American companies – and that includes Google. So, no “Gapps” are appearing on those phones.
Right now I have the Honor 9X Pro on test and it’s yet another brilliant smartphone. Pop-up selfie lens, a 48 megapixel triple rear camera, 6.59″ 2340 x 1080 screen with a near-400ppi resolution, 2.2GHz Kirin CPU, 4000mAh battery, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage and a microSD card. All that for just £219.99. Boom. You can’t go wrong.
It arrives, you drool over the beautiful design and the fantastically reflective rear-end. It’s a whole world of good but then…
..then you turn it on.
Most Android users want a fairly familiar setup sequence. They have an expectation. However, when I got this booted up my face starting screwing up. There’s no Google Account setup screens, no Gmail, no YouTube, no Google Pay, no Google Drive, Play Music, Google Calendar and – worst of all – no Google Play.
Instead you’ll find the Huawei Browser and the AppGallery – the Huawei / Honor app store. Then, when I opened the browser, I found that the default search engine was Bing. Nobody uses Bing. Nobody, and I can say that with confidence. I was in Seattle a few years ago at a Microsoft conference. There were people from all over the world there – thousands crammed into this huge conference centre. Steve Ballmer got on stage (OK, this was a few years ago) and asked everyone who used Bing to put their hands up. Not one person did. Best of all, these guys were all Microsoft fans.
So, how do you make your new Huawei / Honor phone a bit more “Googley”? We’re going to go through a couple of options.
The Huawei Browser and Bing
- Option 1 – Keeping the browser but changing the default search engine.
Go to “Settings->Search Engine” in the browser and switch the search engine to “Google”. In all honesty the Huawei Browser is pretty decent, and you won’t find too much difference between this and the Chrome browser.
- Option 2 – Installing Chrome. (Entails side-loading an APK)
On your new shiny phone, head to https://apps.evozi.com/apk-downloader/ and enter the Google Play URL for Google Chrome (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.android.chrome&hl=en). It’ll generate a download link, then you need to download the APK file.
Your phone will warn you about installing an APK this way, but you can go ahead and install it.
It’ll install, but you won’t get updates as this particular app isn’t available in the Huawei AppGallery and you can’t communicate with the Google Play store to receive updates.
In all honesty, the browser-based version of YouTube isn’t too bad. You can upload videos and watch them in HD, plus you can go full screen and watch videos in landscape orientation too. Sadly there is no “option 2” for this one, as you’ll see in a second…
- Option 1 – Setting a shortcut and placing it on your Homescreen.
In the Huawei Browser, head to https://m.youtube.com and then select “Add to home screen” from the menu..
As you can see in the third picture above, you end up with a YouTube link on your homescreen.
- Option 2 – Installing the YouTube app.
Sadly this simply doesn’t work because it needs the Google Play Services, and even if you side-load these, it still doesn’t work.
Again, the on-board mail application works very well and you can add your Gmail account in seconds. A lot of the functionality is there…
- Option 1 – Use the on-board mail app. (No risk)
I’ve used this and, although the “sync frequency” is 15 minutes, mail seems to arrive very quickly.
- Option 2 – Head to the GMail website and set this as a shortcut. (No risk)
Use your Huawei Browser, go to https://gmail.com and login. Then go to the menu in your browser and choose “Add to home screen”
Again, you can’t load the Gmail app if you try and side-load it because you’ll need Google Play services, which isn’t supported.
The mapping and navigation functions work well from the browser, and again – the app needs Google Play Services so you can’t side-load it in with an APK.
- Set a shortcut to your Home screen for the web version.
Again, go into the Huawei Browser and load Google Maps that way. I found that the GPS location didn’t seem to work, which was a pretty big problem. If you don’t need it for that, you can at least add a shortcut to the web page on your home screen by opening your Huawei web browser and setting the Google Maps web page as a shortcut.
- Use “HERE WeGo – City Navigation”.
Download this from the AppGallery. It has traffic details, transport types and – although there’s no Street View and stuff like that it’ll get you to your destination.
I had a good look into this one. Google Calendar, if you side-load the APK, just doesn’t seem to fire up at all. You can do the “shortcut the web version to the desktop” thing but your reminders won’t be integrated into the phone and you’ll potentially miss appointments etc unless you’re on the page. So, perhaps the bets and only option here is to go into the Android calendar app which is already pre-installed on your Honor / Huawei phone.
It won’t, though, intergrate with Google. I’ve not found a way around this.
Right now, although there’s “ways around”, if you’re fully plumbed into the Google world, then moving to an Honor or Huawei phone may require a bit of a rethink.
However, if you just use Google Mail and a bit of YouTube then things probably won’t feel too much different in all honesty. Yes, you’re going to feel some pain when that Google Play link advertised in a shop or online doesn’t work for you, but the general operation of the “No Gapps” Huawei / Honor handsets is bearable. With a few tweaks here and there, and a homescreen looking like this, you’re most of the way there..