Nova sheds light on Huawei’s world beyond Google

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What is that?

The Huawei Nova Y70 Plus is an oversized smartphone with a massive display and massive battery to match – but very moderately priced.

More importantly, though, it reveals just how well Huawei has overtaken the elephant in the room called Google Mobile Services. Since the US government banned Google from providing its Android-related services to Huawei in 2019, the Chinese manufacturer has taken a step back, scrambling to bring its own Huawei mobile services to Android level.

The Y70 is proof of its own pudding.

The Huawei interface is smooth and innovative, with gesture navigation features that can be learned quite quickly. It offers a range of popular apps to download after setup, including TikTok, Ayoba, SnapChat, and Shein.

Three of the main experiences that most users would want from their phone, Google Play Store, Gmail Maps, have been smoothly handled.

Instead of the Play Store, we have the choice between the Huawei App Gallery and the Apps section of Huawei’s search engine, Petal Search. The latter includes search tabs for web, apps, shopping, images, news, videos… the options follow one another as you scroll. Under Apps, if one searches for an application available in the Huawei App Gallery, the user is directed there. If not available, it displays the option to download its choice from a browser-based source, with a Verified tick in Petal Search indicating that the app has been tested for security by Huawei.

Google’s own apps work a little differently. Petal Search and App Gallery offers the option to access it as a Quick App, which actually means it’s a browser-based app or Progressive Web App (PWA). ), which can work directly from a browser.

It lacks the full functionality of the Gmail app and clumsily displays emails, but gets by. The alternative is to log in to their Gmail account from the built-in Huawei mail app or another app download. The Microsoft Outlook application, for example, can be downloaded from a third-party website.

Cartography is much more easily tackled, so to speak. Unless Google Maps ratings and reviews are to be trusted, Petal Maps is a great alternative. While it doesn’t pull in its contacts like Google Maps does to show who lives near you or along your route, that could be seen as a positive, as the option has always felt overbearing and intrusive.

In addition to finding fairly obscure businesses, Petal Maps also offers some surprising options in its area or along its route, suggesting that user-generated content is beginning to play a similar role to Google Maps.

What about the handset itself?

Despite a large 6.75-inch screen with 1600×720 resolution and a huge 6000mAh battery, it weighs less than 200g. Huawei says it only needs charging every three days, but we found that to depend on how bright the display is and how long you keep it from turning off. With judicious display management, it can indeed last three days.

Once the battery reaches 5% capacity, it engages an economy mode that keeps it going for another 12 hours. It supports 22.5W SuperCharge, giving it a good few hours of use from a 10-minute charge.

Its triple rear camera includes a 48MP main lens with f/1.8 sensor, a 120° 5MP ultra-wide angle camera and a 2MP depth lens. An 8MP selfie camera on the front uses AI software to smooth skin and highlight key features.

Despite an affordable price, it looks like a high-end smartphone, lacking a high-definition display to give it the same dazzling feel of almost any device costing twice as much.

How much does it cost?

Recommended retail price of R5,499 including Huawei Bluetooth speaker worth R699. Some outlets put it on promotional sale for R4,999. Contract prices are usually around R229 per month.

Why should you care?

Huawei phones have a strong following in South Africa, offering technological features as innovative as anything from Apple and Samsung, but at more accessible prices. The ability to live without Google Mobile Services is key to their continued success, and the Nova Y70 proves that’s entirely doable.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Setup requires many services to be enabled, including usage analytics and partner offers. Although they can be ignored, they give the impression of a very intrusive user interface and can confuse novice users.
  • Navigating web apps through the app gallery is still clunky.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Petal Maps has become a useful mapping ecosystem, with travel time, weather and video views incorporated – although the latter are still thin on the ground.
  • Excellent multitasking, allowing multiple apps to open in “floating windows” or split-screen – or both.
  • Massive 6000mAh battery for up to three days of use.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter at @art2gee.

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