Huawei’s Celia Voice Assistant Replaces Google Assistant, but Not Google Apps, on New P40 Smartphones
Huawei has a new voice assistant named Celia to go with its new P40 smartphone series. Celia acts as a replacement for Google Assistant because the P40 series lacks any Google software. The voice assistant is aimed squarely at the market outside of Asia and understands English, French, and Spanish, but not Chinese.
Celia lacks the catalog of voice apps available to Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri voice assistants, and instead is focused more on carrying out commands related to the phone, such as making calls, sending messages, answering questions about the weather, and setting calendar appointments. It’s not entirely without some sophisticated features, however. Celia can also translate among the languages it speaks and the AI can use the camera to identify food and estimate the calories it contains. Huawei’s website for the voice assistant hints that more commands will be added in the future.
The P40 will only be sold in Chile, Colombia, France, Mexico, Spain, and the UK, which is why it speaks the languages it does. One reported drawback of the new voice assistant is that its wake word, Hey Celia, also activates Siri on any Apple device nearby. Huawei hasn’t said if the name Celia, derived from the Latin for ‘heavenly.’ was chosen for any particular reason. It doesn’t seem tied very much to Xiaoyi, the name of Huawei’s Chinese-speaking voice assistant, which approximates to ‘beneficial’ in English.
Huawei had been working with Google to integrate Google Assistant into its devices outside of China, but an executive order by the United States put new restrictions on tech imports from China that impacted its plans in many countries beyond the U.S. Huawei has also held discussions with Yandex, the Russian developer of the Alice voice assistant, about adding Alice to Huawei’s hardware. The end of the Google deal meant Huawei is releasing its Sound X smart speaker in Europe without a voice assistant at all.
The Huawei AppGallery provides some Android apps to the P40, but, no Google products means no Gmail, YouTube, or the entire Google Play store. Popular third-party apps won’t be available either. It’s hard to imagine a smartphone that can’t add Instagram, Spotify, Twitter, Uber, or WhatsApp selling well. The smartphone may not grab as much of the market as Huawei wants, even if Celia could outperform Google Assistant. Future updates could boost Celia’s profile if Huawei carries out its plans to bring the voice assistant to smart speakers, televisions, and other products, but probably not in homes with Apple devices if it keeps simultaneously activating Siri.