Recently there is a surge of discussion regarding an app called LightHouse on HUAWEI phones, which technically grants HUAWEI phones the ability to use Google apps when installed. I think all of us are aware that HUAWEI lost access to Google Mobile Services (GMS) after being added to the US Entity List in 2019 as part of the ongoing US-China trade war. Since then, HUAWEI has been promoting and enhancing their own Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), which aspire to offer a similar experience to GMS.
Without going into too much detail, HMS is probably the most competitive service framework on Android aside from GMS, but with most of the players in the scene relying on GMS, the latter is still the preferred platform for most. After a slew of “hacks” that promise to bring Google back to HUAWEI devices before they are duly removed, LightHouse is the latest solution available to run Google apps on HUAWEI devices. But what it is actually? Does it work? Is it safe? Let’s find out in our tests with the HUAWEI Mate 50 Pro.
What is LightHouse?
LightHouse is published by “Skywalker“. They have no other app under their belt other than a support app for LightHouse, called LightHouse EX. It seems to be quite odd as there’s no further information on the development, as normally developers would link back to their sites on the app page, but the only link available is towards another website that offers the app download.
The description of the LightHouse app reads as follows:
“Lighthouse app is developed to help users to login to google account and gain access to google features.
– Improve success rate for sending messages, and map sharing function
– Log-in to Google Maps, Google Chrome, Youtube & Etc.
– Back-up Whatsapp Message into Google Drive
System icon might disappear on certain smartphone models on home screen, users might not be able to see the application icon on their home screen. If you want to manage the application settings, users can amend through SETTING -> APPS MENU -> Lighthouse.
Lighthouse is developed based on legal and legitimate open source project.”
HUAWEI AppGallery listing for LightHouse
So essentially, this app solves the one major issue holding everyone back from HUAWEI’s smartphones: the lack of Google apps. The legal and legitimate open source project is probably the most suspicious part about the whole description, but hey, let’s not jump to conclusions here.
Is it safe?
Most likely. Apps on HUAWEI’s AppsGallery are screened through a four-layer security system designed to protect users. It requires developers to submit real-name authentication so HUAWEI knows who they are, four layers of security checks for malicious behavior detection, privacy issues, security vulnerabilities as well as manual real-name re-checking to ensure the legitimacy and safety of the apps.
But of course, no amount of checking can guarantee the safety of an app, if the developer wants to exploit their user. Even on other app stores like the Play Store, apps are removed from time to time due to various malicious reasons. So while we can’t be 100% sure whether the LightHouse app is safe, we reached out to HUAWEI’s officials just to understand how safe is this app. On their part, they assured us that this app is safe for the user due to the protocols applied before an app is published on the AppGallery.
At the same time, to keep your Google account safe, I would recommend using two-factor authentication and setting a recovery phone number and email, so that you’ll be notified every time someone tries to log in to your account. While we have been assured by HUAWEI, it never hurts to be too safe when it comes to your account security.
How to use LightHouse?
- In the HUAWEI AppGallery, search the ‘LightHouse’ app
- Install the LightHouse app
- Go to Setting > App > LightHouse > Setting Button (top right corner) > Add account > Sign in to Google account
- Go to AppGallery, search any Google App and install Voila, the Google apps are signed in with your account
- LightHouse does not install Google Play Store
- LightHouse runs in the background all the time
- While LightHouse does not install Google Play Store, we found that Aurora Store is a great alternative to it. Not only does it allow users to download apps that exist in the Play Store, but it also allows users to use a guest account without registering for a Google account.
- While Aurora Store offers plenty of Google apps to download, we noticed that some of them do not work. Take the Google app as an example, while you can install it via Aurora, it turns out it doesn’t work. But it works when installed from AppGallery. So a mixed approach is advised.
So, which Google apps do work with LightHouse?
Below are the apps that we tested with LightHouse:
- Google – Work
- Google Lens – Installed but does not work with since the Google app does not work.
- Google Photos – Works, Photos can be backed up and downloaded.
- Google Play Service – Installed, launches, but stuck on the loading screen.
- Google One – Installed, launches, but stuck on account login screen.
- Google Drive – Works, uploading and downloading works.
- Google Translate – Installed, launches, but unable to load translation.
- Google News – Installed, launches, but useless since Play Services are missing.
- Google Map – Works, GPS lock on to my current location was quick. Getting directions to where I’m heading to took a while though. Nonetheless, it works.
- Gmail – Works, Sent and received email perfectly.
- Chrome – Works
- Google Calendar – Installed, launches, but crashes after a while.
- Google Sheet – Works
- Google Doc – Works
- Google Slides – Works
- Google Files – Works
- Google Ads – Installed, launches, but crashes to desktop immediately.
- Google Fit – Installed, launches, but fails to load due to missing Play Services.
- Youtube – Works
- Youtube Music – Works
- Snapseed – Works
- Google Keep – Installed, launches, but fails to load due to missing Play Services
- Find Device – Installed, launches, but fails to load due to missing Play Services
Out of the 24 Google apps we tested, 14 of them work perfectly, while 10 of them couldn’t work but can be launched.
What games work with LightHouse?
Aside from the usual Google apps, we also tried to install and fire up some games with LightHouse:
- Genshi impact – Works
- Diablo Immortal – Works
- Apex Legends – Works
- Call of Duty – Works
- Sky: Children of Light – Works
- Asphalt 9 – Failed without Google Play Services
- Plants Vs Zombies 2 – Failed without Google Play Services
- Pokemon Go – Failed, unable to log in
While many celebrated the return of Google apps on the HUAWEI Platform, some also rebuked the action highlighting the irony of trying to promote HMS while still falling back on GMS, when it’s convenient. Personally, I welcome the support of Google apps with LightHouse. The point is to give users the flexibility to gain the best of both worlds. I love the fact that I can access Google app while still enjoying the HMS’ unique app ecosystem.
In terms of security, I have faith in both HUAWEI and Google’s multiple layers of security measures. Being rather paranoid, I always practiced multiple factor authentication and other security measures. Also, it is worth mentioning that using a phone that natively supports GMS does not exclude one from security leaks. So it is always advisable to practice digital hygiene regardless of what platform you’re on.
Now, my next concern is how long will LightHouse be around. Will it end up being patched out of existence, like the numerous “loopholes” and “tricks” of yore to try and get Google on HUAWEI smartphones? Well, I guess that’s a discussion for another day.
The LightHouse app has recently been update to support more devices, check out this article to find out what devices is supported now! – Link