How to work with the new Huawei phones

Huawei is one of the most trusted phone brands in south africa and the world, but a series of international events have dramatically slowed its stellar growth.

Instead of railing against its detractors (the US government) Huawei has expertly played the hand that it was dealt, and now looks set to shake up the entire smartphone industry. Here is what you need to know to join the revolution. Although the US government prevents US companies from giving Huawei their apps, it can’t stop users from acquiring them by other means. So, while most Android phone users get all their favourite apps using Android’s Play Store, this is an app made by Google – a US company – and therefore not installed on the latest Huawei phones.

Huawei’s answer is to power its phones with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) and to radically build out its own app store called AppGallery. Huawei’s replacement for services such as Google Search and Google Assistant, called Petal, is not covered here because, as it turns out, we didn’t really need it. The AppGallery doesn’t look or feel as slick as Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store, but it’s not far off, and it already contains a bunch of the most used apps in SA. What is doesn’t have available, it can help you get. Here is what happened when we set up the new Huawei P40 Lite.


We found a number of the most important apps already available in AppGallery. This includes Snapchat, TikTok, Microsoft’s Edge browser, and Zoom. For multimedia, it has DStv, Showmax, JOOX, Deezer, VLC and many more. It also has all the major banking apps and all the main shopping and food delivery apps, and many of the favourite mobile games such as Asphalt 9 and Fortnite. You tap to install in the usual way. But by far the most important app for us was Microsoft Office, a complex, multilayered app with a very wide range of functions and cloud support, all of which worked perfectly.

Google does not own the Android operating system. Because it was built using mostly shared open source software, it automatically becomes free for anyone to use. All Huawei phones still run on Android.


What is conspicuously absent is Google Search, Gmail, YouTube, Drive and Maps. However, we found excellent replacements for each of these. We simply set Google as our search in our browser Microsoft Edge. Huawei’s own mail app did an excellent job of connecting quickly and easily to fetch our Gmail. Huawei’s HERE We Go navigation app worked almost better than Google’s Maps. YouTube works fine as a web app running in a sort of browser window: video playback works exactly as before.


You can save yourself a lot of time and trouble by simply copying apps over from your old phone. Best for this is an app called Phone Clone. You simply install on your Huawei handset, which prompts you to install on the old handset. It will connect the two phones over your WiFi network, then ask you which apps you want to copy. This worked well for us to move WhatsApp, Instagram, Audible and Spotify, none of which is available in Huawei’s AppGallery.


AppGallery has another neat trick up its sleeve, too. If you search for a popular app, it presents a link to download the app either directly from the app maker (how to get Facebook, WhatsApp, for example) or from other safe download sites (how to get Netflix, for example). Finally, if you search for an app that list that helps Huawei figure out what its users are needing most, so that they can work towards a speedy solution. Everyone’s mix of apps is unique, of course, so your experience of the new Huawei mobile platform powered by AppGallery will differ. Obviously it’s not ideal to have to scramble to get apps, but we did get everything working properly in the end. Expect to see this user experience improve in leaps and bounds over the months to come as Huawei flexes its muscles to build out this third global mobile phone platform.

Microsoft Edge is our favourite browser, on both mobile and PC. It works particularly well on the Huawei phones where it provides searching through Google, and helps to easily download and install apps.

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