If you think Huawei still hopes to mend its relationship with Google, you’d be wrong. During the confrontation with the US, the Chinese have managed to create many of their own services so much so that I have really started to understand the meaning of the phrase “sanctions are only for our benefit”. Celia’s voice assistant, which Huawei presented yesterday with the P40 flagship, is the best example of this. After all, if the Chinese have had an AppGallery app store for a long time, although it isn’t yet developed, it’s obvious they really had to create an assistant from scratch, because there’s no device without it today.
Despite that Huawei released Celia with the launch of P40, almost nothing was said about it. Apparently, this is due to the assistant being at an early stage of its development and Huawei has a lot of work to do to improve it. However, it is already a working tool, which can be called on command using “Hey, Celia” similar to Siri and Google Assistant, and uses phrases to –trigger actions, even if the user does not touch the smartphone.
How Does Celia Work?
Celia took quite a lot from competitors. Huawei has combined the distinctive features of Siri and Google Assistant in a way where the output turned out to be something painfully familiar on one hand and something completely new on the other. For example, Siri took the layout of dialogs, widgets, and the interface button for activating a command, which the Chinese repainted to make it not that obvious while maintaining the usual gradient. As a result, if you close the bottom and top of the screen, it will be almost impossible to distinguish Celia from Siri.
As with Google Assistant, there is a compact mode allowing you to run Celia right on your desktop without overlapping the screen, showing an animation recording the user’s voice which appears in place of the activation button and control placement at the bottom of the screen – for example, the keyboard call button for text input requests and the camera activation button for scanning visible objects. You can use this feature to translate foreign signs, banners, and documents.
What Can Celia do?
Celia’s functionality leaves much to be desired. Firstly, the assistant only knows three languages: English, French and Spanish. Secondly, it only recognizes primitive commands like a weather forecast, sending messages, and switching songs and is unable to perform more serious tasks like Google Assistant. Thirdly, Celia still only works on the Huawei P40 and the owners of other Huawei devices will not be able to use the assistant until the release of EMUI 10.1, which is scheduled for mid-2020.
Of course, Huawei’s desire to launch its own voice assistant to compete with Google Assistant and Siri deserves respect. The Chinese have done a great job in focusing the project completely on the Western market. However, I highly doubt Huawei will be able to reach at least the level of Google Assistant and “Alice” from Yandex within the next couple of years. Still, the development of voice assistants requires time and developers succeeded as soon as they entered the market.
Will I use Celia when she gets the Russian language? I doubt it very much. The matter is it’s on a level of convenience and a cluster with Russian services “Alice” is out of competition and it’s not equal on level of functionality compared to Google Assistant, which is able to do something no other competitor can. Therefore, at this stage for me, Celia does not exist. Perhaps in a couple of years it will come to mind, but don’t forget that Google Assistant and “Alice” by that time will be two years older and therefore their functionality will be much better.