[Q] Nexus 5 in China - No Google Now then no search access
I live in China and just bought a HK-spec Nexus 5 (D821). Upon receipt of the device I inserted my China Unicom SIM and proceeded to setup the phone. Firstly I noticed that everything was in Chinese automatically, so I changed the language. Then I noticed that nothing was updating, so I setup my VPN and used that to download all the updates. Once everything was updated I noticed that Google Now was absent and I wasn't able to enable it.
I searched the forums and found the two solutions offered to enable Google Now. One involved GPS-faking, signing out of my Google account for search, then deleting all data for Google Play Services, Google Play and Google Search. This didn't work, i think because the phone did not allow me to fully disable Google Play Services, saying that it "can't uninstall because this package is an active device administrator". Then when you click on "manage device administrators" it lists only one - Android Device Manager with a check box for allowing to lock or erase a lost device... That was a dead end.
The second method involved wiping the device then reinitiating with a non-China SIM installed. I used an Australian Amaysim SIM card and it appeared to do something different to my original installation. The phone started up in English, and asked if I was in an Australian time zone, despite the Aussie SIM not working at all on the Chinese networks. I then connected to my WiFi, and added a Google account and was asked to enable Google Now, which I did successfully, with cards loading up. However the one issue I have now is that I cannot access Google search without my VPN being active. Google Now says I don't have an internet connection unless my VPN is active and the search bar doesn't even respond..
I do have internet access - there is an H next to my network signal strength indicator and I can browse to non-China bookmarks in Chrome. However I cannot use the important search bar without a VPN - very frustrating!
My previous phone is an HTC One X with stock ROM running 4.2 and it never had a problem accessing Google Search in China without a VPN. What has changed now with the Nexus 5? Is it related to Google Play Services updates?
Can anyone help???