Wednesday, 19 February 2014

How to get Google apps (Gmail, Maps, Chrome and more) on Xiaomi's phones

Have you heard of Xiaomi? 

- The company was founded just 4 years ago.
- It sold close to 20m smartphones in its third year, bringing the total number of MIUI users to 30m (MIUI is the name of the Android version modified by Xiaomi).
- Google's VP for Android even joined Xiaomi in August 2013.

While Xiaomi's phones were mostly sold in China (with some in Taiwan and Hong Kong) so far, 2014 will be the start of international expansion, starting by Singapore with its S$169 Redmi (named Hongmi in China).

The latest smartphone from Xiaomi is Mi3, a powerful 5" smartphone with a weight of just 145g (more specs on Xiaomi). Opening the packaging looks like this:

The hardware is great. However, as an international user with no Chinese reading ability, the first thing I wanted to do was to install the Google apps to access my Gmail, Maps, and others.

Where are Gmail, Google Maps and the other Google apps?

The apps themselves are not available on the Xiaomi market. Searching for "Google" brings results such as below:

The first result, by Eric Xiang (and marked installed on my screenshot), is a Google Installer. It's basically an app which gives access to the Google apps.

Going Google on Xiaomi

Once installed, open the app and scroll down to access the Google Play one.
While installing, it will prompt to install dependencies, which you have to accept.

With Google Play now installed, you can sync your Xiaomi with Google Accounts and access all the apps from the store, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Keep, Chrome... I added around 15 Google apps.

Solving the Google Contacts sync

One problem I had after the install was the inability to sync my Google Contacts. While it should be in the Google account settings for sync (accessed from Settings > Accounts > Google), the 'Contacts' line was simply not there for me.
Sync settings for Google accounts in Android. At first "Contacts" was not available for me.

The solution was to go back to the Google Installer, and manually install the app looking like a contacts card (The third app in the screenshot below, marked 'installed'). 

I had no issue for Calendar sync or any other service. I would have saved time if the Google Play installer contained this contacts sync as part of the dependencies.

Step by Step guide to install Google services on Xiaomi MIUI

  1. Search for "Google" in the Xiaomi market
  2. Install the "Google Installer"
  3. Open the Google Installer
  4. Install Google Play, accepting the dependencies proposed.
  5. Set up your Google account(s) in the Android settings
  6. Enjoy Google Play for your usual apps.
In case of issues:
- While installing Google Play and its dependencies, you might have to check the boxes "I trust this app"
- For Google Contacts sync, you might have to separately install a Google Contacts sync app from the Google Installer app.

Hopefully, this is just a hack before a native install of Google apps... which would help Xiaomi's development outside of China.