For anyone who is interested in Huawei’s new line up of smartphones, you’ve probably already asked yourself the question “How will this whole app store thingy affect me?”. With the ongoing feud between the United States and China on trade, when the announcement was made (has it been one year already? Seesh) that Huawei smartphones were going to be missing out on Google Play, many Huawei fans were left in limbo and uncertain of their next purchase decision.
Ever since then, Huawei themselves have continued to pour resources and effort in developing their Huawei ‘App Gallery’ in an effort to combat this situation, ramping up developer support and investment to attract bigger developers in hope to stand on par with Google’s Play Store. However, it is a fact that at the writing of this article, the App Gallery is definitely not as refined and complete compared to the Play Store, with many popular apps to the likes of WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, etc. are all absent from the App Gallery.
Huawei is indeed working on including all these down the near future. In the interim, they’ve got a workaround which allows users to link directly to these sites officially and install the APKs manually. Additionally, die hard fans have also found ways to even ‘bootleg’ the Play Store into their Huawei devices (though we must caution that this is not strictly legal).
What apps are available on Huawei's App Gallery?
Whilst Huawei courts with the likes of big app names (Microsoft, TikTok, Opera, etc.) they are steadily updating their own repertoire of apps that act as substitutes for familiar core apps, such as ‘Here’ in place of Maps, Deezer in place of Spotify, etc.
While it is possible for certain users, those of the P40 series, to port over their apps from their old device using Phone Close, but most that rely on Google’s integration and/or updates to continue functioning will not work properly.
A New & Refreshing Look
Huawei’s App Gallery had gone through a visual revamp not too long before the launch of the P40 series. An interface that is more user friendly, a better search function that matches apps to what users want, and suggestions on ‘must haves’ are just a few quality of life changes made.
But one of the most notable improvements made would be the house cleaning done where once it used to be a dumping ground for dodgy apps that used to populate the shelves of the App Gallery. This has been drastically improved in 2020 where just a year ago, searching for ‘Netflix’ would have given you a hundred and one imitation knock-off apps.
Development for Developers
Huawei can re-release older devices that are pre-installed with GMS and the Play Store, as it has done with the P30 Pro, but that is hardly a sustainable business model going forwards. In response, the company has been building out its Huawei Mobile Services (HMS). A part of this has been encouraging developers outside of China to embrace the AppGallery through various incentives.
According to Huawei, over 1.5 million developers have registered with the AppGallery, an increase of 115% on last year. Similarly, there are now 60,000 apps that have been connected to HMS too, an increase of 66.7%. Naturally, the volume of apps or developers tied to the AppGallery does not speak for quality. It is worth keeping in mind that Huawei contains to position the AppGallery as "boutique", so it is unlikely to compete with the Google Play Store on volume anytime soon.
How good or bad is Huawei’s App Gallery?
It’s a little hard to rate Huawei’s App Gallery as merely good or bad. On the one hand it’s a functional way to download and manage your apps, and it does the job reasonably well. Huawei appears to be curating apps a little better than previously, but it’s still got a way to go with improving search and app discovery. Feature-wise, it’s not quite on par with Google’s store yet. However, it certainly feels as usable as Samsung’s Galaxy Store, if not more so.
Ultimately the biggest concern for most users is finding the apps that they want to use. Huawei’s problem is simply app volume and attracting key developers. I imagine this situation will improve with time, as Huawei has a large install base and is investing heavily in developer support. Even so, App Gallery is likely to always play second fiddle to Google’s Play Store when it comes to developer support and updates.
In the meantime, Huawei is trying a few novel ways to ensure that users have access to as many familiar apps as possible. I can grin and bear some web apps and downloading APKs manually, but it’s clearly not ideal. However, this will be an odd and potentially jarring experience for general consumers who value simplicity and ease of use.
Huawei’s App Gallery has definitely improved lately. I personally don’t mind using it, and in some ways prefer the layout to Google’s increasingly bloated Play Store. But it’s the apps that count, and Huawei still has a very long way to go there.