What Huawei Mobile Services is like on the P40 Pro

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We are approaching a month since Huawei debuted the new P40 series to the world. This happened on the same day as the country’s national lockdown came into effect, and luckily Hypertext was seeded a P40 Pro 5G device to use and review.

With four weeks of use under our belt, the fully fledged review is on the way, but perhaps more intriguing is the changes that Huawei has made in terms of user experience, which brings us to Huawei Mobile Services (HMS).

HMS is the firm’s alternative to Google Mobile Services, and now access to particular Google apps are unavailable on new Huawei phones at present. In particular the Google Play Store is absent, instead replaced by the Huawei’s App Gallery.

There are also a few other changes which we will detail below, some of which we’re happy about, and others we’re simply going to have to get use to.

So here’s what it is like to use Huawei Mobile Services on the P40 Pro.

The initial setup experience is pretty much the same now, as it was previously. Obviously the notable absence is that of Google, and signing into your profile in order to complete setup of the device. This is instead replaced by the Huawei ID system, which for all intents and purposes works similarly to that of Google’s version.

That said, there were a few more steps in getting access to the profile, and syncing up of the various elements, such as cloud backup, and permissions for the device.

All in all, it is a relatively seamless process.

What about the Huawei App Gallery?

For the most part is caters to all the applications I need, and there is perhaps only one exception – YouTube.

There is no native YouTube app in the Gallery, as the video platform is owned by Google. The same goes for Chrome, so you cannot have a dedicated app sitting on the device.

There are some workarounds to this, however, with the Browser app on the P40 Pro capable of having the Google South Africa set as the home page. That takes care of the search problem.

As for YouTube, you can bookmark the YouTube page, and save it as an app link to the screen of your device. It does not have the same intuitive interface that the dedicated app does, but it is a serviceable workaround. You get used to it after awhile, and it is not all doom and gloom as we originally thought it would be. There are also third-party apps to facilitate the process, but we trust this method a bit more.

Interestingly we have full access to Google Maps, which was also a concern prior to setting up the device, so from an Google apps perspective, the core ones we use on a regular basis are taken care of.

That brings us to the one issue we had with the P40 Pro, and it’s a pretty significant one – access to Gmail. Like YouTube, you cannot download it from the App Gallery, but you can access it in-browser, but this is limited as notifications for new mails don’t come through the same way they would with the dedicated app.

Huawei does have a Mail client though, but during the first three weeks with the device, it refused to sync up with our Gmail address, citing an irresponsive server error.

Initially this was a massive issue, and had it stayed that way, we would have advised people not to use HMS at all.

That changed over Easter weekend, however, with a system update rolling out OTA that fixed our Gmail syncing issue. The update, version, appeared to do the trick, and we could setup multiple accounts on the native HMS Mail app.

From an ecosystem perspective then, Huawei Mobile Services and the P40 Pro have us sorted.

It is also worth mentioning that the user interface for the device is a bit friendlier than before, and easier to navigate, both of which were issues on previous Huawei phones we reviewed. The ability to uninstall unnecessary Huawei apps in particular is a godsend, as that too was a bane of previous generations.

Right now our only issue is the App Gallery, which every now and then sends us notifications for in-marketplace promotions for specific apps. It isn’t a deal breaker, but is worth noting.

So can we recommend Huawei Mobile Services? In its current iteration, yes, definitely so.

We will, however, advise Hypertext readers to find out about access to mail from the retailer you pick up a device from, especially as if that issue persisted, we would not have recommended HMS.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.