In 2019, the US had updated Entity List, a blacklist that restricts US companies from engaging in trade with any foreign company or an individual, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and 70 affiliates have been put on the list. Hence, Huawei would need the US government’s approval to buy parts and components from American companies. As a result, Google suspended business activity with Huawei, disabling Huawei to release its smartphones without a licenced version of the Android operating system.
Additionally, without a licenced version of Android, Huawei smartphones cannot use any of the Google services including GMail. Moreover, Android App Store would no longer work restricting access to thousands of applications. So, Huawei’s smartphone sales started falling steadily.
In Q4 2020, the number of sales showed a free fall, dropping 42% year-over-year in smartphone sales. Huawei wanted to become independent from the worldwide smartphone supply chain, starting with its own operating system on its smartphones. To achieve this, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer division, confirmed that HarmonyOS would run on Huawei’s new devices in 2021.
“HarmonyOS” (also known as “HongmengOS” in China) is the in house operating system of Huawei and they have released 2.0 version in December last year, bringing “beta” smartphone support to the operating system for the first time. Nonetheless, can Huawei succeed where many before have failed such as Windows Phone, Blackberry 10, Sailfish OS, Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, Symbian, MeeGo, WebOS, and Samsung’s Tizen? Will HarmonyOS 2.0 be the Android killer? Only time will tell.
HarmonyOS is claimed to be a mobile operating system that can work across several different devices such as smartwatches, TVs and in-car head units and smartphones. Developers only need to create one version of the app which would work on multiple pieces of hardware.
Brand new mobile phone UI controls, adding 45+ UI controls for developers to develop mobile HarmonyOS applications
The HarmonyOS application framework supports mobile phones and rapid migration which means no-installation loading of HarmonyOS applications on multiple devices
- Will provide Windows and Mac platform development kits
- Will provide 30+ sample codes for mobile developers
- Distributed capability interfaces such as multi-modal perception support multiple usage scenarios
- Standard input method framework and capabilities
- Standardised telephone system interface capabilities
- Provides standardised distributed data management capabilities
- Enhance the account system capabilities including account-less devices into the HarmonyOS system
As of December 2020, Huawei released the HarmonyOS 2.0 beta software development kit (SDK) for developers for platforms including Smart TVs, Cars head units, smart wearable and smartphones.
Furthermore, Huawei has also shared the information about the device adaptation roadmap of HarmonyOS 2.0 including the following:
From September 10, 2020 – devices with 128KB to 128MB RAM
From April 21, 2021 – device with 128MB to 4GB RAM
From October 2021 – device with 4GB to more than 4GB RAM
Huawei has planned to install HarmonyOS 2.0 in excess of 200 million by the end of 2021.
Huawei as well as from its partners, mainly based in China, have confirmed the following devices: Huawei Mate 40, Huawei Mate 40 Pro, Huawei Mate 40 Pro+, Huawei Mate 40 RS Porsche Design, Huawei Mate 40E, Huawei Mate X, Huawei Mate Xs, Huawei Mate X2, Huawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro, Huawei P40 Pro+, Huawei P40 4G, Huawei Mate 30 4G, Huawei Mate 30 Pro 4G, Huawei Mate 30 5G, Huawei Mate 30, Pro 5G and Huawei Mate 30 RS Porsche Design.
Moreover a number of other devices including Huawei Mate 40E, Huawei Nova 8, Huawei Nova 8 Pro, Huawei Nova 7 Pro 5G, Huawei Nova 7 5G, Huawei Nova 7 SE, Huawei Nova 6, Huawei Nova 6 5G, Huawei P30, Huawei P30 Pro, Huawei Mate 20, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, Huawei Mate 20 X 4G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and Huawei Mate 20 RS are going to be available for customers.
Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro (app support – Chinese version) and Huawei Smartwatch 2021 will be available in the market in wearables category.
Huawei MatePad Pro (Confirmed)
Huawei MediaPad M6
Note: After separation from Huawei, there’s no confirmation on what Honor may decide for devices including Honor 30, Honor 30 Pro, Honor 30 Pro+, Honor V30, Honor V30 Pro, Honor 20, Honor 20 Pro, Honor V20, Honor Magic 2 and Honor 9X.
HarmonyOS vs Android 10
However, If you like to try out HarmonyOS on your Huawei Android phones such as P40 Pro, you would need to be a Chinese citizen as the current beta version is only available in China. Hence, Huawei requires you to go through a two-day long background check to get your hands on HarmonyOS as a developer.
Huawei requires you to go to Huawei.com, make an account, and then sign up to be a developer by passing identity verification. This means sending Huawei your name, address, email, phone number and pictures of your ID (driving licence or passport) and a photo of a credit card. This is a major difference from Google’s one-click, anonymous download for the Android SDK, on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Huawei is making this as hard as possible and it’s easy to imagine a potential developer giving up on HarmonyOS OS due to the complex and intrusive download process and going back to Android and iOS development.
First look at HarmonyOS it looks very similar to Android OS. Huawei has brought over EMUI Android skin to HarmonyOS. Looking into the app it looks like HarmonyOS has just replaced “Android”. Besides, it seems HarmonyOS has replicated all the Android 10 features such as gesture-navigation system, settings, a permissions system, NFC tap-and-pay support, dark mode, and the notification panel
Just a trip to the app info screen will confirm that this phone runs Android. You’ll see apps like the “Android Services Library,” “Android Shared Library,” “com.Android.systemui.overlay,” “Androidhwext,” and on and on, for about 10 different entries.
It looks like some packages got hit with a find-and-replace, changing “Android” to “HarmonyOS.” If you look at the app info for the “HarmonyOS System” package, you’ll see it uses the Android system icon (the “Android green” coloUr is a dead giveaway) and a label saying “version 10.” Uh, isn’t HarmonyOS on version 2?
The “version 10” here is a reference to Android 10, which seems to be the version HarmonyOS is based on. If you visit the “Huawei App Gallery” (which has a ton of apps… because it is just an Android app store), you can choose from any number of “system info” apps, which will all identify the phone as running “Android 10 Q.”
Besides, Huawei has replaced the Google play store with Huawei App Gallery with all apps from Google, Weibo, Microsoft, TikTok, WeChat, Tencent, Amazon, Baidu, Evernote, and much more. Besides, the Google Play ecosystem is replaced with Huawei Mobile Services which support syncing with other Huawei devices.
HarmonyOS in many ways is the same as Amazon with FireOS, which is also a fork of Android. With Amazon acknowledging FireOS is a fork of Android but Huawei brand HarmonyOS is a new OS.
With millions of mobile phones in the market, many have failed to stand up to Android and iOS, nevertheless, Huawei attempted with the potential backing of the Chinese government. Yet, it seems to have done no one than reskinning Android and branding it as HarmonyOS. But with 1.4 billion people and about 18% of the global population living in China, and the support of the Chinese government, HarmonyOS might become the Android of China.