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HUAWEI launches Celia, a Google Assistant rival (Update: Now in India, sort of)

Update: It looks like India will be one of the first places to experience HUAWEI's virtual assistant, but not in full.

Published onJune 16, 2020

HUAWEI P40 Hey Celia 1

Update, June 16, 2020 (03:15 PM ET): Today, HUAWEI revealed that its Google-less Google Assistant rival Celia is now available in India, at least partially. The virtual assistant will now power aspects of HUAWEI’s support app, helping customers get help with their HUAWEI products.

To be clear, this won’t act as the Google Assistant replacement described below. Celia will only work as an aspect of the Support app as well as on the Indian version of HUAWEI’s consumer support site. Still, it seems that HUAWEI is slowly-but-surely bringing Celia to the masses.

Original article, March 26, 2020 (09:30 AM ET): Huawei has launched a new personal assistant for its phones. A rival to the Google Assistant, HUAWEI’s AI helper is named Celia.

HUAWEI will roll out the new digital assistant to its phones through an OTA update. However, the company hasn’t shared a specific timeline for that.

Read: HUAWEI P40 Pro review

The assistant will respond to the wake-up phrase “Hey, Celia” and users will be able to bring it up by pressing and holding the power button on their phones for one second.

HUAWEI first mentioned Celia last year. At the time, Alex Huang, Director of HUAWEI’s consumer division in France, had told French media outlets that Celia is the global version of its existing personal assistant in China called Xiaoyi. The Chinese version of the assistant is currently used in HUAWEI’s AI Cube smart speaker as well as on the phones it sells in China.

What is HMS? All you need to know about HUAWEI's new mobile ecosystem
HUAWEI logo Mate 50 Pro

Our HUAWEI P40 review unit came pre-loaded with Celia and from what we can tell, it defaults to the search engine in the HUAWEI Browser for all search queries. In our case, Celia defaults to Microsoft’s Bing search engine in the UK. However, there’s also an option to use Google Search. There doesn’t seem to be a way to change the browser that Celia uses though (e.g. Brave Browser or Firefox).

HUAWEI had previously initiated an exclusive partnership with Qwant — Google’s rival search engine in Europe — for the development of Celia. The new AI assistant relies on Qwant’s search engine for answering queries on the HUAWEI P40 series in Europe.

Remember, HUAWEI is still subject to the US trade ban which bars it from doing business with many American companies. This is the reason HUAWEI phones lack the all-important Google Mobile Services, including things like the Google Assistant.

What can HUAWEI’s Celia assistant do?

HUAWEI P40 Hey Celia examples 2

For now, Celia can speak and understand English, French, and Spanish. It will initially roll out in the UK, France, Spain, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia.

Speaking of its capabilities, HUAWEI’s voice assistant will be able to do things like make calls, send text messages, set calendar reminders, translate, play music, check the weather, and more.

It’s also equipped with Google Lens-like AI vision capabilities. For instance, it can scan an apple and tell you the number of calories you’re consuming. It can also assist users while shopping online by scanning images and finding similar products on sale.

HUAWEI says it’ll add more features to Celia and expand its reach to different markets in due course. Celia will also appear on other HUAWEI devices such as speakers, TVs, and more at a later date.

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