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Outside of China, Android is not Android without Google

The technical story that impressed me the most yesterday was Sam Byford’s “Living a Google-free life with a Huawei phone”. Leading up to the launch of Huawei’s new flagship P40 line, he got a Mate 30 Pro and used it to see how Android is without Google. Of course, this is something millions of people in China don’t do every day, but outside of China, Huawei falls into a weird zone where it doesn’t have its local Chinese services or Google services.

The result, as Sam writes, is weird. But what struck me the most is how essential Google Mobile Services (GMS) are for the functioning of any modern Android phone outside of China. You’d already expect it to be annoying not to have Gmail, Chrome and the Play Store, but the fact that so many non-Google apps don’t work was a shock.

GMS and Google Play services have slowly become essential parts of how an Android phone works. They are how the web engine is updated, they are increasingly how the operating system itself is updated (via Project Mainline) and they protect against malware even for apps you don’t load from the official Google Play Store.

They also offer a lot of services to developers, and that’s the part that’s easy to forget. Google’s services offer push notifications, location, casting, ad support, and much more. Huawei has developed its own services and store to handle life outside of Google, but the situation now is that the Mate 30 Pro doesn’t even come with a viable maps app. Android may be open source, but an Android phone doesn’t really work without Google – at least outside of China.

None of this is particularly shocking or even outrageous, it’s just something you don’t come across every day. Other operating systems like Windows and iOS are equally attached to the company that makes them, which is an point so obvious that it seems silly to point out in the first place. But with Android, it is worth remembering.

We will be paying a lot of attention to the new P40 series from Huawei today, so look forward to that. For what it’s worth, Huawei has said it would come back to the US if it could, but that seems unlikely in the near future. Thanks also to everyone who sent me an email today with their opinion of the iPad – I will try to answer everyone personally, but it will take a while.


Product launches and updates

Google Podcasts rolls out new design, launches on iOS. It looks like a massive upgrade, and the availability on iOS makes it more attractive to people who need to be on multiple platforms. But the cross-platform king of podcast apps remains Pocket Casts, In my opinion. It’s also the rare app that works great on every platform I use it from CarPlay to the web to Android to smart screens. In addition, it is not owned and operated by a giant technology company! (To be fair, NPR isn’t small.)

Royole claims that the FlexPai 2 solves the problems of its rough first fold. I love that Royole just goes for it with another foldable phone and promises it won’t be a mess like the first one. I wonder why the screen is called “Cicada Wing”. Apparently they are good at repelling water and self-cleaning? I mean the wings, not this screen.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab A offers LTE connectivity. I’m not sure I would recommend this to anyone over an iPad, but it’s cheap and gives you an LTE option if you want.

Samsung’s S10 and Note 10 are updated with the best camera features of the S20.

Dell now allows you to control iPhones from its PCs. It’s really amazing that Dell does this and the Mac doesn’t. I’m sure people will turn their noses up at it, but by using the Your Phone app on Windows 10, I’m convinced it’s a no brainer. There will still be bugs and the like, but I hope there is continuous investment in this kind of software from multiple companies.

More from The Verge

Qualcomm’s latest chips can make noise reduction standard on new wireless earbuds.

SpaceX makes its own hand sanitizer and builds face shields to donate to fight coronavirus.

Apple says customers should wait to pick up repairs locked in stores. Here’s an idea that sounds easy and is easy to recommend because I’m not an Apple: why not offer these devices on loan? I suspect Apple can afford it! Like I said, probably harder and more expensive than I suspect, but it would be stupid to leave without a computer. Maybe I just feel this very emphatically because the N key on my MacBook Pro is about to die.

Things to do

I, like seemingly everyone I follow, play a lot Animal Crossing. If you are too, we have a nice series of stories that are both useful and entertaining. If you want a comprehensive guide, Polygons is quite extensive. I also play Shadow of the Tomb Raider and it’s kind of an overloaded, overwhelming collect-the-map game.

If you’re looking for something to play, my advice is to check out our best games of 2020. Our team keeps this page updated all year round. Bookmark it!

Watch movies online with friends. Aliya Chaudhry discusses all major options. There are a lot of them and some of them work with multiple video services.

Fox will be broadcasting NASCAR’s replacement sim race ‘season’ on television. Sean O’Kane takes me to NASCAR, right? I’ve been to a NASCAR race and I loved it, but there are so many things I can afford to keep up. But this looks happy and fun.

One of the reasons the motorsport world was able to quickly convert this switch to sim racing is that there has been a thriving community that has been competing on these platforms for years. Sim racing is so widespread that many professional drivers are already very familiar with iRacing. Most have sim racing platforms – a seat, handlebars, pedals, and giant, often wraparound monitors – that are at their home, or at least their team’s headquarters.

CBS All Access offers a one-month free trial just in time to use Star Trek: Picard.

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