The short answer is “yes.” But there’s certainly so much more that goes into it.
By now it’s no secret that there’s something missing from Huawei’s latest flagships that we’ve all been accustomed to using. Even so, your Mate 30 or P40 still has plenty of “smart” in that smartphone. That goes beyond what you’ll find on the AppGallery.
If you hang around a lot of tech pages or blogs, you’d know exactly what’s missing. People are quick to point that out whenever stories about Huawei’s new phones come up.
You would have also probably noticed all the sponsored articles on the matter. To be clear, this particular article isn’t. The rest of the team is working on those because we gotta keep the lights on. For today, this here is more of an honest, and hopefully helpful take on the matter.
Some of their communication strategy which involves highlighting the number of apps available and how it’s now the third largest App Store, I think, is a little misguided. But that’s a conversation for another day. For now, I’ll try to answer some questions that some friends and GadgetMatch followers have asked.
What can you find on AppGallery?
A lot, it turns out. When the Huawei Mate 30 series first came out, the app selection was looking a little lean. Fast forward to a few months later and the apps you’ve come to know and love are all starting to slowly be available.
In the Philippines you already have Viber, WeChat, Lazada, SnapChat and some pretty useful ones like GCash, PayMaya, SHAREit, and Canva among others.
In Singapore, transportation and ride-hailing apps like ComfortDelgro, TADA and RYDE have already made their way to the AppGallery.
You can also find links to your favorite apps that aren’t available for direct download on AppGallery. Say for example, WhatsApp. Here’s how you can get it.
Step 1: Search Whatsapp official link in the AppGallery.
Step 2: Click on the selection that says Official download link from Whatsapp to open the link.
Step 3: Once directed to the Whatsapp official website, click download now and installation will take place immediately.
What about apps that are NOT on AppGallery?
Fun fact: There’s a wishlist section on the AppGallery where you can let Huawei know what apps you desperately want to be available. Just make sure your App Gallery is updated so you can find it.
Huawei is pouring a lot of resources to make sure ALL the apps are available on the App Gallery. They’re not there yet. However, with the company being aggressive, the growth is promising.
If you really need to get your hands on certain apps there’s a workaround. There are third-party app stores that you can get to through the phone’s browser. Sites and apps like APKPure and APKMonk provide you access to apps that may not yet be present on the App Gallery.
Personally, I’ve opted to go the APKPure route. If you’re worried about updates, APKPure actually handles that for you. Since installing some apps, I’ve consistently gotten updates that cover both new features and additional security.
Is the AppGallery secure?
In a previous article, Huawei confidently told us, “We do not touch data. That’s a policy from top-down.” They also pointed out how they have never been caught doing anything with users’ data — that’s something that can’t be said from the likes of Google or Facebook.
Huawei also sent us a presser on how secure the App Gallery is. It talked about a four-layer threat detection. It detects malicious in-app behaviour, including activities such as eavesdropping on users, monitoring users, and taking screenshots or screen recordings without authorization. You can find more details here.
In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Google’s Play Protect and the security layers on Apple’s App Store. It’s likely not perfect, but it’s there and it will detect and deter malicious software.
Now on the US government’s accusations of Huawei working in tandem with the Chinese government to spy on its users, the company has adamantly denied this. For its part, the US hasn’t been able to provide any substantial proof to back its claim. Remember, burden of proof lies on the accuser.
The Chinese government itself is a whole other socio-political issue altogether. Until a solid link is established, Huawei probably knows about you just as much what phone makers like Apple and Samsung do. Which I would argue is much less than the amount of personal data available to the likes of Facebook or Google.
Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) is far from complete. It’s missing certain essentials — one in particular is a reliable maps app. You would still have to go to the browser and search for Google Maps for something that’s actually usable.
For many Google apps, that’s your workaround. Look for it from the browser and create a shortcut on your homescreen. If this is something you can live with, well and good. But it’s hardly an ideal setup.
I rely on several Google services that have no alternatives — a lot of which are actually present even on iPhones. Two in particular are Google Cast and Google Photos. Don’t get me started with Huawei Cloud. It just isn’t the same.
Cast is fine, I imagine not a lot of people will use it. But there’s no alternative to the features and convenience of Google Photos. Unlimited photo backup with access to nearly every other device. That, to me, is irreplaceable.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place
As a regular user, I honestly am not sure what the right move here is. I would love to see HMS take-off. If they can find a way to have their services perform in a manner similar or close to what we get from GMS, that’s great. However, I’m not even sure if that’s possible.
If you’ve seen our Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro video, the retail box comes with a tagline saying “with easy access to the Google apps you use most.” Our sources say this won’t be unique to Xiaomi. We should expect new Android phones to have this tagline on retail boxes as well.
That’s a clear flex from the US Government, striking some sort of agreement with Google to have Android phone makers include this tagline. Huawei is unfairly put in a disadvantageous position. Their only fault? Being a company from China.
Huawei needs to continue selling phones so they can keep pouring resources into building up HMS. If you’re going to listen to “global” (Western, really) reviewers alone, they will tell you that they “can’t recommend” at least the Mate 30 and the P40 series because of what’s missing. That’s not entirely wrong.
However, if you’re the type who can live with some of the compromises for now, by all means, get the new Huawei flagships. Help them get HMS up to speed. Because at the rate things are going, Huawei being able to stand on its own is more likely to happen than the US letting Google work with them.
You can put GMS on the new Huawei phones. It can be quite cumbersome and isn’t a method I personally recommend, so I’m not going to tell you how. If you want to find out for yourself, you can always Google it.
Grab introduces new cashless payment through Cash-in With Driver
A new way to go cashless!
Because of the pandemic, Grab’s GrabCar service has adopted cashless payments only. With more people still opting for cash for their commutes, Grab pushes a new feature to make their service safe and reliable — Cash-in with Driver.
This feature allows commuters to use GrabCar by paying cash through the driver. All you have to do is activate your GrabPay wallet during the ride, pay cash to the driver, and receive your change back on your GrabPay wallet.
Grab hopes the new feature allows more commuters to switch gradually towards a cashless lifestyle, and enjoy GrabPay benefits. For instance, there’s GrabRewards points that can be used for certain deals, promos, save on Grab transactions, and make seamless cashless payments across GrabPay’s partners.
Cash-in with Driver will be available on GrabCar 2-seater and 4-seater in Metro Manila. For Cebu and Pampanga, it will be available in GrabBayanihan Car and GrabCar 2-seater. Additionally, it’s expected to come soon on GrabTaxi.
The new feature will fully roll out by November 2020. Simply update your Grab app to the latest version, and you can start embracing a cashless lifestyle. Learn more about Cash-in with Driver via this link.
Zoom is now rolling out end-to-end encryption for free, paid users
But there’s a twist
Video conferencing service Zoom has announced it’s rolling out end-to-end encryption for all users globally. It’s now available for users as a technical preview for the next 30 days and users can provide feedback.
The technical preview means the company is still working on the feature and user feedback could bring changes to the end implementation. End-to-end encryption means that the company hosting the service too cannot snoop around. The encryption key is saved with the user and all communication between two people remains secured.
The feature is opt-in only, meaning users have to manually go to the Settings tab and enable end-to-end encryption. You’ll also be prompted to create a one-time passcode, which Zoom says will help them prevent abuse. By default, Zoom meetings and webinars use AES 256-bit GCM encryption for audio, video, and application sharing.
Due to the added security layer, you won’t be able to dial-in on calls via an ordinary phone. Additionally, it’ll disable a few features like join before host, cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions.
End-to-end encryption is available on Mac and PC, the Zoom Android app, and Zoom Rooms. It’s yet to roll-out on iOS since the updated patch hasn’t received approval from Apple’s App Store yet.
Zoom says that this is just a part of their security update and the company plans to roll out better identity management and E2EE SSO integration as part of phase 2. Altough, the latter is scheduled for 2021.
Lastly, Zoom for Android has received a new update and it brings along support for live streaming to YouTube.
Acer has an In-Game Live AI Translator on their own esports platform
It’s called SigridWave and the platform is Planet9
Acer introduces SigridWave — an In-Game Live AI Translator for Planet9 which is the company’s next-generation esports platform. There’s a lot to unpack here so try to digest the information slowly.
SigridWave: In-Game Live AI Translator
SigridWave aims to break language barriers and facilitate communication among gamers around the world. It leverages deep learning tech and is especially trained in gaming jargon.
When in-game, SigridWave employs Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology to recognize utterances and convert them into strings of text. This text is then run through a Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology. The NMT Tech has so far been trained with over 10 million bilingual sentence pairs, enabling it to understand the terminology associated with specific games (such as “ADS” or “camping”) and learn how players express themselves.
If your nose is bleeding after reading all of that, don’t worry. Same.
Intended specifically for gaming, SigridWave’s AI has so far been trained with over 1,000 hours of game-centric speech (voice + transcript), enabling it to accurately relay detected messages back to users in a language that they can understand.
Being game-centric is key. Acer points out that the biggest hurdle in machine translation is context. Many words can carry multiple meanings and computers struggle to discern the most suitable translation for the situation, that’s why being focused on gaming is essential.
SigridWave will have a closed beta in Q4 2020, during which time it will be available for two-way translation between English and Mandarin in a number of major FPS titles such as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.
SigridWave will work in tandem with Planet9 — a next gen esports platform. The AI Translator is booted up while in a game lobby on Planet9’s desktop client. It’ll appear as a customizable in-game overlay.
The platform itself is meant to be partly competitive and partly social. It’s designed to provide an open community for casual and amateur players who want to improve their skills and take steps towards going pro.
The platform helps players connect with others via teams and social clubs; to improve their skills, via in-depth feedback on gameplay in the form of statistics and coaching; and to experience organized gameplay, via casual or ranked scrimmages and competitive tournaments for most games.
In-game overlays will be supported for League of Legends on launch in late 2020 or early 2021, and support will be made available for additional titles in the future.
Planet9 strives to help gamers connect with others who have similar skill levels and aspirations. From there, players can create a team to be registered on the website or search for one to join.
Planet9 will also help recruiting teams to fill their rosters, considering factors such as game played, rank, region and language in order to identify potential teammates.
Once a team is established, a private team page is created on the platform to function as a central hub for all involved. In addition to keeping track of match history and statistics for later review and discussion, the team hub includes a number of features to help keep everything organized: a board for discussion and polls, a group calendar for scheduling scrimmages, a tab to keep track of team funding and a directory with basic stats on all members.
Planet9’s Club feature is intended to help players keep up with groups they like or admire, whether they’re major names in the industry or a local university team. Clubs consist of two parts, a public “home” page for followers and a private “lounge” for members.
The home page is a place to share content (posts, polls, videos, etc) in order to engage with the community, whereas the lounge is a place to relax and discuss club-related content with a smaller circle of more dedicated members.
Businesses, influencers and public figures are also capable of forming a club on Planet9, creating a unique new touchpoint for brands that wish to connect with gamers. Whether professional or amateur, each club is granted access to a variety of tools to host tournaments in order to grow their own community.
Planet9 recently partnered with Currys PC World to feature Planet9 in its stores in order to enhance esports initiatives in the UK and Ireland. This includes an in-house designed arena to give players a chance to see what it’s like being part of a local gaming club, practicing with teammates and learning from coaches.
These in-house arenas will launch soon with a rapid expansion to 30 stores throughout 2021. Each of the stores will open its own club on Planet9 to grow its gamer community as well as to host tournaments, creating a pipeline for players to show off their talent.
Planet9 includes a significant amount of infrastructure designed to make the process of organizing and hosting tournaments as seamless as possible.
An extensive UI ensures that a successful tournament can be put together even by those with no experience, while a number of automation features (registration, bracket mastering, etc.) enable experienced hosts to minimize time spent on tedious activities and focus on providing as enjoyable an event as possible.
Tournaments are highly customizable, featuring a number of preset brackets and privacy modes, opportunities for sponsored branding and club-determined rewards. Come game day, an all-in-one “Bracket Master” console makes it easy for judges and organizers to communicate, configure matches, broadcast to an audience and more.
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