Honor, Huawei, no Google Play and the app problem. Is Petal Search the answer?

Morning all. Yesterday I mentioned the reduced app selection on the Honor and Huawei phones. This is because Google Play isn’t available on newer models – like the Huawei P40 Pro, the Honor 9X and the Honor 9A.

I got a number of responses. A lot of criticism and many people pointing out that an app called “Petal Search” helps to fill in the gaps.

Just to bring you up to speed, there’s no Google Play because Huawei (and therefore Honor) have been blocked from working with American companies. That means no Google Apps (YouTube, Gmail, Maps) and no Google Play store. Instead, there’s something called AppGallery which has just a few of the major apps you’d expect. It falls short – way short of making big-name and popular apps properly available.

To their credit, Huawei and Honor are trying their best to create ways around this, but the AppGallery experience isn’t brilliant or painless.

A lot (and I mean a lot) of people have told me that I missed “Huawei Petal Search”. This is another app, downloadable from AppGallery and it’ll – for the most part – find the major apps you’re longing for in places like APKPure.

But again, I have to come back to the average customer. As a normal guy in the street – I don’t think it matters if you’ve spent £899 for the Huawei P40 Pro or £129 for the Honor 9A – you want that familiar, easy install process.

People want to buy a phone, open Google Play, type “Netflix”, install and open the app. Boom. Done. I’m watching a movie.

What people don’t want is to buy a phone, find that the on-board AppGallery doesn’t have Netflix available (but it can be added to a “Wishlist”). Then, if they’re lucky and have the patience to Google a bit, they may find “Petal Search”. After that, they’ll download “Petal Search” via the AppGallery.

Petal Search

They run it and are met with a load of Microsoft-provided news stories. They get past that, do another search for Netflix, then it finds the Netflix APK somewhere on the internet. You then download it and they have to ignore a warning from the phone they’ve just bought telling them not to do this.

If they know what they’re doing, they can tell these warning messages to go away and not pop up again. They can also revisit those random APKPure links later – perhaps on a weekly basis to be sure – just to get the newer / updated versions of the apps but….

I’m sorry. Yes, I’m a geek. I can do this. I can download APK’s and I can make the Honor 9X, the Honor 9A and the Huawei P40 Pro operate in a very similar way to other Google Play-enabled phones. You probably could too, but… not everyone is a geek. The average customer wants a quick, simple, obvious and straightforward solution. They don’t want to have to Google or download separate apps to achieve a similar thing.

Imagine you’ve just bought a car. It’s just as good as any other car. It’s got great performance. It looks great. However, when you go to the petrol station you find that your petrol filler hole is smaller than other cars. Your car isn’t allowed to use the standard size and so no petrol pump fits. A few petrol stations do have special smaller pumps, but they’re few and far between so – after trawling the internet, you find you can use a special little funnel. When you put it into the hole your car shows an alert on the dashboard advising you against it, but… it’ll work.

In short, yes – you can get a lot more apps using “Petal Search”, but you need to be reading sites like this and you need to be prepared to fire up AppGallery, download “Petal Search” and then install – against the advice of your own phone – a load of APKs which may go out of date within days.

This isn’t the experience that the average customer wants. In reality, this isn’t the experience Huawei or Honor wants to give either.

The mobile phone landscape is cut-throat. It’s highly competitive and I’ve loved the Huawei and Honor phones since they first hit the market. However, they’ve been decapitated, and the resulting app install process isn’t as smooth or as easy as it is on other phones.

If you’re going to get an Honor or a Huawei phone and you’re aware of Petal Search then, in all honesty, you’ll be fairly happy with the experience. However, I worry that other manufacturers – OnePlus, Xiaomi, Oppo and so on – will be pushing hard with their Google-backed phones and will be eyeing an opportunity here.