/ Technology

The great phones I just can’t recommend

I’m currently in the market for a new phone, but with no Google services or apps, I won’t be buying a new Huawei. Is it game over for them in the west?

I’m going to need a new mobile phone soon. Like many, I’ve got a Huawei, a P30 Pro, which I love. But now Huawei has reached the end of the road in its dealings with Google – and that’s a big problem

Last year, US president Donald Trump put the Chinese company on the ‘entity list’, which in effect banned US firms from working with it.

That was over concerns Huawei is too close to the Chinese government (although there’s no evidence of Huawei abusing its consumer or network infrastructure kit to spy).

Services and security

One effect was to stop Google supplying its apps and services to Huawei phones and tablets. You might think you could manage without Chrome, Gmail and YouTube, but Google services underpin many other apps.

For example, CityMapper needs Google’s location services to work. More importantly, Google’s Play Store gives a vital security update and oversight service for Android and Google’s own apps, and all the apps supplied via Play.

How to keep your mobile phone secure

An Android phone without Google is less secure and has many fewer apps. Phones from Huawei and Honor (its sub-brand) with Google apps on them will still work, but Google will no longer push updates out to them, although Huawei will update its own services on those phones.

Yes, it’s confusing.

Hobbled without Google

Nonetheless, Huawei has recently launched the P40 and Mate 30 phone ranges. They’re beautiful phones with great cameras, but they’re hobbled without the Google apps and services.

The usability and security issues created by the absence of Google Play mean I can no longer recommend Huawei devices as things stand.

Will Huawei and Google work together again if Joe Biden wins the US election? It’s possible, but I’m not optimistic.

Huawei says it’s poised to add Google services to its phones again, but with the mistrust of Beijing generally and Huawei in particular, I think it’s game over for Huawei in the west.

I’ll be buying a new phone shortly – and it won’t be a Huawei. Would you still buy one?

Matt says:
19 October 2020

Yes. Apps are being rolled out using Huawei’s own app gallery or it’s pretty easy to install Google play store yourself

Having googled some typical instructions, I agree that the steps involved aren’t what I would count as easy.

So I probably would not buy a Huawei phone that could not access Google services.

But other cheap Chinese phones are available and could easily step into the breach.

It’s really easy – plenty of youtube videos around showing how.

Also, some folk deliberately ditch Google from their phones.

Oddly, YouTube’s AI has just sent me this video on that topic, see:-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqSCmT5S-2w

I hope that the time before the phone is no longer supported with security updates features in your deliberations, Kate. I wish phone manufacturers would make this information readily available, as Microsoft does for the ‘lifecycle’ of Windows and other products.

Hi Kate if I’m honest quite disappointed in your view which seems a little American driven.
Huawei have done a lot of work developing apps and Gps alternatives.
There are a great many of us who remain fans of the brand. Personally I find your summary lacks objectivity and depth.
Regards Mike

I have had a Huawei phone with google, and for some reason I switch to the iPhone.I wish I had stuck with Huawei, and given the USA two fingers. It was all about protecting Apple.
Don’t fall for the Apple adds, Google is a good app, but not the most important thing on a phone.

Well actually what it boils down to when buying a huawei phone is who would you rather owned your data, Google or the Chinese military? I know I’d rather it was google. Capitalism is more friendly I’d say.

Dave says:
27 October 2020

I tried to vote up this and there was no count added so the survey is flawed. Sort it out Which.

Buy Apple! 👍😁

Both Blackberry and Microsoft phones had their fans too, but where are they now?

you do not buy apple you only lease it from them and they can disconnect you at any time – neither are your i-tunes owned by you – again only licensed

Well I still use my HTC Touch HD which runs Windows Mobile 6.1.
I’d like to get a new phone because my browser is too old to run lots of web pages but dislike the Google phones that I’ve tried to use and hate the Apple interface.

I have a Motorola 4G that is clearly end-of-life at about 4 years old. [edited]

Unlike some, I find Google’s services useful, and I like their free ‘Fit’ application. I would not use a mobile for banking or anything financial. My hands are old, touch screens ignore me, and trying to juggle a tiny screen, hold the device, maintain accuracy and a string of doubtful codes is for others. I wondered about Samsung. Do I need the expenditure? Do I need updates with their finite lifespan, given my user habits? Possibly not, though a faster response to inputs would be useful.

[Moderator: we’ve edited out part of this comment which did not adhere to Community guidelines. Remember comments that intentionally false or misleading, vulgar, racist, sexist, homophobic, or hateful aren’t welcome on Which? Conversation].

what utter nonsense GCHQ has everything you have ever done online or by mobile – and you are spreading malicious disinformation about i presume the Covid-19 pandemic – reported as racist

Chris Field says:
23 October 2020

The issue is not about personal security, that boat sailed ages ago, it is about strategic security. Huawei is, in spite of any protestations of innocence, in the thrall of the CCP. Western governments have made decisions to exclude the company from strategic projects. I don’t know what took them so long. The undermining of their smart phone business is collateral damage. Individuals can make their own decisions.

What you really mean is you didn’t know why it took so long to be reported in the media. I’ve worked in the telecoms industry for over 30 years, such concerns have been around the industry for the best part of 20 years, it is nothing new. It is only coming to prominence now because of the actions of the US government and the roll-out of the new 5G network.

HonestSteve says:
23 October 2020

I am overjoyed to find they are no longer pushing Google. Where has Which been over the past ten years? The mass surveillance in collaboration with other private companies and governments is widespread. Please read the terms and conditions you sign up to, you are authorising virtually all your private information and data to be used and sold for their profit.

Google have become so popular because reporters like you hail them as being one of only two options. Many apps market places exist, with varying security features. Many operating systems exist. Unfortunately the mass public listen to people like you and avoid the alternatives because you tell them to, with little or no objective research. Many well known companies have invested millions into development of alternatives, only to face criticism because they are not Google or Apple and are a bit different. Unfortunately they then become commercially non viable.

Why not campaign for real choice and freedom? Put pressure on manufacturers to let us choose what we want. Having to invalidate our warranties to remove unwanted software is immoral.

I, am now happy to buy Huawei now. No more rooting of devices to get rid of Google. I now get an up to date product, that I can use for my secure and regularly updated apps that I get from F-Droid. I only trust open source apps that have been peer reviewed and assured to be free of spyware. Something that you wont find with the Google Play Store.

I plead to the writer and general public alike, please use critical thinking to not just to something that is different, but to mainstream equally.

Dean says:
29 October 2020

I agree, you don’t need ‘Google play store’ to get android apps for your/any android based phone. Apart from F-Droid, there is also APKPure which also offers android apps.

Both are open source orientated and F-Droid highlights if the app invades your privacy. Further, neither service needs you to register or sign up or join or provide any personal data to just the service.

I have not had a problem finding the apps I want or ones that meet my needs, without intrusive adverts. In somecases I’ve found better apps that are not on google play store. So if your want a Huawei there are means to get what you want, without giving your life to Google.

Kate Bevan is entitled to her view and it seams that she wants to get engrosed in the Google ecosystem that is fine.

However the article is extremely one sided and lacks the balanced unbiased view that Which? should not have published and premoted and that is wrong of Which?

Which? should have commissioned and published a more balanced article.

Mick says:
23 October 2020

Never mind a phone, my wife & I have stopped buying anything from China wherever possible.
Until they clean up their act.

Chris Field says:
23 October 2020

You’re going to wait until they clean up their act? I hope you are very young!

I have a Samsung C120 purchased some 15 or so years ago. It is small and light and will easily fit into any pocket. It is still on it’s original battery,makes and receives calls, can send and receive texts. Why do I need a new phone?

Frederick says:
23 October 2020

I guess it will also depend on what happens after the US election and, should there be a new president, whether they will maintain the current restrictions.

MikeMace says:
23 October 2020

Why would anyone consider buying a Waawee when there are so many other good alternatives that you can be sure will have software support in the years ahead?

Indeed, both Knock ‘ere and Mow Two Roller, to name but two, are active competitors in that market.

Michael Holmes says:
26 October 2020

The US government has a major reason to shut Huawei down. It runs a global monitoring system that includes collecting the majority of electronic documents and phone calls that are made across scores of nations. America’s NSA runs a variety of programs to extract this information from some of the world’s largest hardware and software giants including IBM, Microsoft, AOL, Oracle, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and many more. Mass evesdropping on a global scale. The Americans work in close alliance with other nations with their ultimate target being to scoop up everything.

We know this because Edward Snowdon worked as a NSA contractor but was so upset by what he saw that he made his knowledge public. Edward Snowdon’s whistleblowing was written into the book “No Hiding Place” by Glenn Greenwald. Billions of electronic transactions are captured every day. Some statistics are included in Greenwald’s book and the numbers are absolutely staggering.

Huawei was not run under their control, so it had to be removed. Unbelievable??? Run a search on “Five Eyes” and read a few of the results before you answer that question.

For the past six years, I have had Huawei phones, first the P10, then the Honor 9. Both are excellent phones that are classier, better built and better value for money than equivalent Samsungs of their time. I also have a Samsung smartwatch which I paired to the Honor phone, downloaded several apps from the Samsung store app on the Huawei and everything went swimmingly well. Then last month, worried about the anti-Huawei propaganda, I decided to retire the Honor and bought myself a flagship Samsung S10. To my horror, Samsung declared in Portuguese that it “does not support your country” because I put in a Gibraltar SIM chip – presumably Samsung engineers flunked their O Level geography and don’t know we are British. Worse still, because of this idiocy, it has wiped out all my watch apps and I cannot download them again, so effectively I am left with a crippled Samsung watch that will not talk to a crippled Samsung phone. Evidently Samsung practises geocoding of services, which according to Which? is illegal under Regulation (EU) 2018/302 (which will still apply after Brexit), so I really don’t know where I stand, clutching these two pieces of Samdung. Sorry for the long post, but please don’t assume that Huawei is the only flawed maker (it makes great phones) or that the sun shines out of the back end of the others, because both Apple and Samsung are openly the most viciously anti-competitive and anti-consumer behemoths, although this aspect has seemingly never bothered Which? very much over the last ten years.

Stephen Dunn says:
10 November 2020

I am somewhat astounded that no one has mentioned the Linux community and the Pinephone Pine64 manjaro which you set up with the software you want! NO Android/google or Apple needed at all.
So if you want to be free, look into and the big “free community” that is growing up from it.

Stephen, as those phones are very new and not yet in UK shops, I don’t think this is particularly surprising. From a quick look at their website, the Pinephone looks like an interesting project.

But given that the majority of phone buyers submit to Apple and/or Google services, its appeal may be rather limited.

I do wish the project well, but I fear that it could easily go the way of both Blackberry and Windows phone.