Huawei South Africa showed a group of media its Mate 30 Pro smartphone running without Google Mobile Services. All its future handsets will run on the open source Android platform, but will now feature the Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) ecosystem, which is an overlay on Android.
Hello App Gallery, Goodbye Google Play Store
HMS has its own App Gallery – the alternative to Google Play Store that comes preloaded on all Huawei smartphones anyway, which is already active in 170 countries, and has over 500m monthly active users, according to Huawei. There are over 1 million app developers making apps for it and it has over 11 000 apps to date.
Akhram Mohamed, CTO of Huawei SA stressed that Huawei smartphones will look and feel the same, and that consumers will not be able to tell the difference. The company didn’t announce it went live with new apps for the South African market on App Gallery, but there had been over 72 000 downloads within the two week period, which is currently sitting at over 214 000.
The company conducted a survey in South Africa with Nielsen to find the most popular apps, and plan to have the top 75 ready by 1 March and have already tested over 200 most popular apps across Android and iOS.
What does it mean to Huawei users?
The biggest questions from consumers has been whether Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, etc will work. And to that, Huawei has said that certain apps will remain the same on HMS, like Facebook, Twitter, Office 365, and LinkedIn. Small changes in the background have been made for Whatsapp (users wont be able to backup on Google Drive but rather locally on the handset, and how Phone Clone works when Whatsapp is cloned on a Huawei device), Instagram, Google Maps and Waze. The combination of App Gallery, third party marketplaces and web links will have alternatives for Gmail and YouTube.
Things to be aware of but must be stated – each person owns their Gmail account therefore it can still be accessed on another mail app – you don’t need the official Gmail app from Google to check your email. The downside for me has been that consumers won’t be able to log into their Google Maps account. If you are an active Local Guide, you won’t be able to access this data or your saved places, favourites, lists, etc. Other Google services that won’t be available is the ability to use Google cloud services, log into Chrome or any Google service for that matter.
Huawei users will have five ways to download apps on their devices, namely:
1) Phone Clone
2) App Gallery (I would trust this the most)
3) Official APK link
4) 3rd Party App Market (apkpure, aptiode)
5) Quick apps and web links
NB Just to once again point out – all future Huawei handsets will run Android but not Google Mobile Services. It will be replaced with Huawei Mobile Services, and its own App Gallery. All existing Huawei phones will run GMS and the Google Play Store.
Mate 30 Pro running apps from App Gallery, etc
I used the Mate 30 Pro very briefly and it was the same as my P30 Pro in terms of experience. Pictures of the Mate 30 Pro running Android and HMS. Every app you see here is downloaded from App Gallery, or copied via Phone Clone and via third party. Click to enlarge.
As you can tell, you can run Chrome, Maps, YouTube Vanced (alternate), Email app for your Gmail account. And the productivity apps like Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Opera Mini, Dropbox, Speedtest. Finance apps in SA include FNB, Absa, Standard Bank, Capitec and Nedbank.
Other apps available via App Gallery: Netflix, Shazam, VLC, TikTok, AA, 947, News24, EskomSePush, Virgin Active, Booking.com, Airbnb, Kulula, Avis, etc.
Huawei South Africa has already doubled their support team numbers before launch. The teams will be able to assist via a dedicated call centre, a 24/7 Whatsapp line (wow), and via the network operators in the bigger stores around SA. So if you come into an issue while updating anything, they will provide assistance.
First look: Huawei HMS Ecosystem
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. I’m usually unashamedly taking food photos (@nafisaeats on IG).