Huawei has recently launched its new line of P40 phones, and these phones have been released without any Google apps.
This got me wondering whether this phone could really work outside of China?
Can we survive over here in places like Europe and the USA with a phone which has no access to Google apps? (I mean, of course we can, but would it be annoying?)
That means no Google Play Store, so no Gmail, no Google Maps, no Google Pay, no access to Google Docs, Sheets…
I was really looking forward to giving this a try and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one of Huawei’s latest P40 phones.
I ended up with the P40, not the Pro or the Pro+ model.
The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the phone looked.
This is a genuinely beautiful bit of tech.
The phone came in a colour called ‘Silver Frost’, and it has a matte finish on the back which I just don’t get tired of looking at.
I also love the phone’s form-factor. It’s smaller than the P40 Pro yet still has a great OLED display with vivid colours and brilliant resolution.
It doesn’t have the flashy 90 Hz frame refresh rate more the AMOLED display that the P40 Pro has, but that doesn’t really matter all that much to me.
The P40 phone still has an incredible FHD+ OLED screen, and it’s 6.1 inches.
It’s really nice and compact. I’ve come from using the P30 Pro, which is a lot bigger.
The P40 is a beautiful phone
Now that I’ve been using the smaller P40, I can’t see myself going back to a bigger phone.
They’re just so cumbersome and feel big in hand.
It comes with Huawei’s Kirin 990 5G, which is super fast (yes, this is a 5G phone, so future-proofed).
The P40 comes with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal flash storage, which is plenty, to be honest.
Then you have the camera on the back, which is stupendously good.
I loved going outside (once a day at the moment) and taking shots with it.
My Instagram feed looks excellent right now thanks to this phone’s camera.
Its camera (made in collaboration with Leica) has three lenses: a 50-megapixel Ultra Vision camera lens, a 16MP Ultra-Wide Angle Camera lens and an 8MP Telephoto lens.
Hands down, for the money this is one of the best phone cameras on the market, and if you’re into photography at all, then Huawei’s P40 line has to be on your radar.
The phone’s battery is also very impressive considering it’s not as big as the others on the market.
It has a 3800 mAh battery, which is quite a lot less than the P40 Pro’s 4200 mAh battery.
However, I was getting incredible results with the P40’s battery. I was getting to the end of the day after pretty heavy usage with well over 20% left in the tank.
Much of this has to do with the way Huawei’s phones’ AI manages apps on the device.
No Google Play Services? It’s kind of a problem…
It also has to do with the fact that this phone doesn’t have the Google Play Services on it.
Google’s apps do run down your battery a tad faster than others, so there’s a benefit to having a phone without Google apps on it.
This brings me onto the focal point of this review: can you really have a phone without any access to Google apps on it?
Well, the first thing that struck me was how refreshing it is moving away from the Google ecosystem.
If you’re moving over from another Android-based phone, you can use an app called Phone Clone to transfer many of the apps installed on your old phone.
This does work for a large number of the apps you’ll have installed on your old phone.
It’s also really easy to do. All you need to do is have the app on your old phone, then click “move date from another device” on your new phone when promoted.
Open up the Phone Clone app on your old phone and select “This is the old phone”.
You’ll then be asked to scan a QR code which is generated on your new P40 phone with your old phone’s camera.
That’s when you’ll be able to transfer your apps and data over to your brand spanking new P40 or P40 Pro phone.
It’s really simple to do, and it only takes a few minutes.
You should then be up-and-running which most of your old apps on your new Huawei phone.
However, some of them won’t work without the Google Play Store installed on your phone.
Then there are the apps made by Google which just won’t work at all.
This means that you’re basically forced to explore Huawei’s AppGallery, which has come a long way over the last few months.
We’re seeing more and more apps coming to the AppGallery, but it still has a very long way to go.
Huawei is putting a lot of time, money and research into their AppGallery to try and make it a viable alternative to the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
This means that you’ll be spending a lot more time on apps like Snapchat, TikTok and I even got into using Huawei’s Browser app, which I actually think is pretty good.
I get a bit of a kick out of using Bing as a search engine, which is what Huawei’s Browser uses.
I also tried out Maps.me and Here WeGo as replacements for Google Maps, and they’re both pretty good.
Huawei’s AppGallery isn’t quite there yet
Huawei’s Email app is also a really google alternative to Gmail, and you can have access to all your Google email accounts through that app.
Exploring the AppGallery for new apps is fun and definitely the safest way of installing apps on your new P40 or P40 Pro phone.
I do know that there’s a whole world of APKs out there which means you can install apps from the browser.
However, that opens up your phone to dangerous malware and I really wouldn’t recommend going down that route.
After using the phone for over a week, it eventually became evident to me that at this point in time, I’m just too tied into Google’s ecosystem.
I’m far too reliant on the Google Play Services. I’m a YouTube addict. Being an editor of a website, I’m reliant on Google apps such as Google Analytics to see how my site is doing.
I need apps like Trello, which doesn’t work on the phone without access to Google Play Services.
Banking apps are impossible to install on this phone, which is a huge issue.
I can’t use Google Pay, which I’ve discovered I’m really reliant on.
It’s so problematic because I honestly think Huawei’s P40 is one of the best phones I’ve tested this year.
Its beauty is unparalleled. Its camera is top-of-the-line. I love Huawei’s EMUI 10 software.
I think it’s one of the best out there. It’s 5G compatible, which I’m sure will be useful moving forward.
I want to love Huawei’s P40, but…
However, I think until Huawei gets all the apps needed on their AppGallery, I don’t think we can recommend you buy this phone right now.
If you’re coming over from another Android device, then you’ll be able to use it to a certain extent.
However, if you’re an Apple user, then you really will struggle.
You won’t be able to bring many of your apps over to the phone.
I love this phone. I love it to bits, but it’s a bit like the one that got away.
You’ll be looking back at it thinking, “I really wish that would have worked out, but it just was just the wrong time”.
Give Huawei a bit more time, and I think their AppGallery will be on par with the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
So, to answer the question in this review’s headline: can you use a phone without Google Apps?
The answer is yes, but it’s really annoying.
What do you think of this review?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
And if you enjoy listening to film podcasts, why not check out Small Screen Radio wherever you get your podcasts!