Six months after its Fall launch and mysterious disappearance from the free world, the Huawei Mate 30 Pro smartphone has re-emerged in a global marketing campaign, including Canada. It finally arrives here late May. No pricing details are available yet.
What took so long? After all, 100 million Mate phone buyers in the first five months in China can't be wrong, right? Wrong. The Mate 30 Pro is still an Android phone but without Google Play Services due to a U.S. Government ban on American companies like Google doing business with Huawei. This means no Play Store, Maps, Gmail, or YouTube on the Mate 30 Pro.
Unfortunately, this also means no 2.7 million Play Store apps, replaced by Huawei's AppGallery 50,000 apps worldwide. The Canada region AppGallery beta will only has 17,000 apps. "This is not a number play for us. We are focused on quality, security and the best hardware in the business," said Suneel Khanna Director of Public Relations Huawei Canada, adding that the AppGallery apps are the only apps able to fully leverage that hardware advantage.
But the "no Google" apps stigma is not going to go away easily
Reviews from popular online smartphone outlets praise the flagship phone but lament its lack of apps, despite company efforts to push its AppGallery store to the free world. With headlines like "The best phone you shouldn't buy" from AndroidCentral and "Huawei Mate 30 Pro review: The forbidden fruit" from AndroidAuthority, you might wonder what Huawei is thinking, trying to push a Google-less phone to Canadians and the rest of the free world.
For the past six months, Huawei's phone sales were almost cut in half, most bought by patriotic customers in China. Huawei's even more sophisticated also Google-less next-gen P 40 series launches this Thursday with a clear intent to sell outside the Chinese market immediately.
Huawei has committed 3,000 AppGallery engineers and US$3billion to its growth and development. Company officials I met in Toronto expect the Canadian AppGallery to grow quickly. But in the last two weeks since meeting with them, they still tout 17,000 apps.
In contrast, Europe's more mature AppGallery boasts 26 million monthly active users with 5,000 apps being launched every week. "We have awesome momentum," said Khanna. But a recent on-site check from an overseas co-worker in Europe showed an alarming number of Google Play Store third -party apps missing. If I bought a Mate 30 Pro or the upcoming P 40 series, my Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Flickr, and many other trusty utility apps will be gone. Alternatives are hard to come by.
The AppGallery in Canada was no better as I looked for the apps I am used to in Google's Play Store world. The photo below tells all.
Living with a Google-less phone for one week
My weeklong experience living Google-less with the Mate 30 Pro was hit and miss. The default e-mail app, already installed in the phone, handled my four Microsoft and Gmail accounts well with lots of settings and search options. AppGallery had Microsoft's Office 365 so my productivity was set, at least.
But my missing social lifeline apps disappointed. Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn were not in AppGallery and Facebook only worked from its website. My must-have Adobe Photoshop Mix, Fix, Express and video Rush apps were not in AppGallery either. Instead, I found a never-ending parade of lesser apps. That's a nonstarter.
Google Maps? Khanna hinted Huawei was working its own Map app as well as financial apps like RBC. He also said Huawei had an easy conversion process for the AppGallery, but most developers can't be bothered for such a small audience compared to the millions of App Store and Play Store users to which they cater.
Gaming fared better depending on genre. Scrabble Go, Cut the Rope 2 and The Walking Dead were there. But Spiral Roll, RR - Real Action Game, and Marvel Contest of Champions were not.
Solitaire apps were plentiful. Spider Solitaire apps with same names and similar icons in the Play Store and AppGallery were totally different once you opened them.
Are there ways to get your Play Store apps in the Mate 30 Pro?
There are sideloading techniques to make the Mate behave like a full Google phone with all apps. Some are aggressively invasive with no security or app upgrade guarantee. But a simpler approach worked for me. It involves downloading the APKPure App from APKPure.com which has stockpiled every Play Store app on its site free for the taking. Although used successfully several times on third party apps, I found serious errors on Google apps like Maps and Chrome. I would advise against it.
Should you buy the Mate 30 Pro?
This phone oozes class and performance, and earns many check marks with a taste of "futuristic" thrown in. The "no Google" apps stigma is not going to go away easily. Cellphone stores of all sizes I showed the Mate 30 Pro to were initially impressed but all backed off at the idea of selling a phone without Google Play Services. AppGallery has a lot of growing up to do.
Unlike switching between full Android and iPhones, Mate 30 Pro buyers will be left with an app void they might regret.
It's best to wait for the US ban to lift. Then, Richard Yu, CEO for Huawei Consumer BG, said all Mate 30 phones will be updated with Google "over one night." I believe it.
About the Mate 30 Pro
Exclusive features include an 88° curve screen edge, bezelless side screens when viewed head-on, iPhone-like 3D face recognition, onscreen speaker, side screen touch volume controls, and a 4,500mAh battery with Mate-27WwirelessCharge.
Dual 40MP SuperSensing Cine and 40MP Cine sensors are responsible for outstanding Ultra Low-light Video down to an incredible ISO 51200, Ultra Slow-motion Video at 7680fps, 4K Ultra-Wide Angle Low-light Time-lapse Video, and 18 mm f1.8 ultra-wide angle and ISO 409600 still photography.
An 8MP f2.4 3X OIS sensor for optical zoom, 5X hybrid, and 30X digital zoom. Front and back depth sensing for excellent rear and selfie Bokeh.
See more of Steve's writing on his blog at techuntangled.ca.
Get the full list of specs for this device at the Huawei website.