Over the past few years, Huawei has risen to become one of the world’s top smartphone makers in terms of market share. But the Chinese electronics company faces something of an existential threat due to US trade restrictions which block hardware and software companies from working with Huawei.

So the company is reducing its reliance on outside partners. Among other things, that means developing an alternative to Google’s Android operating system.

Last summer Huawei introduced a new operating system called Harmony OS. At launch, it only ran on smart TVs, but the company said that it would begin shipping phones powered by Harmony OS in 2021. Now Huawei is one step closer to doing that – the company has released Harmony OS 2.0 beta, the first version of the operating system to support phones.

So far Harmony OS works with a handful of recent Huawei devices including the Huawei P40 and Mate 30 series smartphones and the Huawei MatePad Pro tablet. Those are all devices that initially shipped with Android, but users can sign up to receive an over-the-air update that will replace Google’s operating system with Huawei’s.

There’s also an emulator included in Huawei’s developer tools.

Once the update is installed… your device might not look all that different. Huawei has been using a custom Android interface called EMUI for years, so the company used the same look and feel when designing Harmony OS for phones.

Another thing that’s the same? Harmony OS supports Android apps, which means users will be able to install many of the mobile apps they’re already used to using. You just won’t be able to download them from the Google Play Store – Huawei hasn’t been able to install the Play Store or other closed-source Google apps including Chrome, YouTube, and Google Maps on recent phones that did ship with Android. Loading the Google Play on non-Android phones seems like a non-starter.

Instead, you can install third-party apps Android downloaded from Huawei’s own app store or other locations. And Huawei is encouraging developers to port their apps to run natively on Harmony OS with a developer competition with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of rewards.

While the big news is support for phones, Huawei is positioning Harmony OS as software that can power everything from phones and tablets to in-car systems, wearables, televisions, smart appliances, and other gadgets. So a big part of the operating system is its ability to run the same apps in different views for devices with different screen sizes, shapes, and use case scenarios, as demonstrated in this short animation:

via GSM Arena and xda-developers


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7 replies on “Huawei’s Harmony OS now runs on smartphones (who needs Android?)”

  1. I understand that the size of the company has some play in your reporting, but the farther away from Western economies they move the more likely they stay that way. They have proven to be a company with deep ties to the Chinese government with disturbing trends in technical development. You give them the air of a legitimate option when I feel like they are anything but. Any company that helps develop software and hardware to target a particular group is one that should have the word “nazi” used regularly to draw similarities to.

    1. I understand that the size of the company has some play in your reporting, but the farther away from Western economies

      What do you mean by Western economies, which countries? I’ve been noticing recently that European companies of all shapes and sizes are starting to publish their apps on at least three app stores: for iOS, for Google Android, and for the Huawei app store. Why? For the simple reason that many Europeans use Huawei phones (personally I don’t). We are not America and we are not at a cold trade war with China.

    2. “They have proven to be a company with deep ties to the Chinese government with disturbing trends in technical development.”

      They haven’t “proven” anything. You must be one of those types that still believes Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons because you read it in some mainstream media before the war started.

    3. Pfffftttt… as if Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. do not have extremely deep ties with the American Deep State (i.e. NSA, CIA, etc.)

    1. A fork of Android’s JVM perhaps.
      They say it uses a novel microkernel as opposed to the monolithic fork-of-linux kernel that Android uses.
      What does that mean for the consumer? I dunno. Maybe it allows for easier adaptation to different microcontrollers so that less competing OSs will show up for watches from now on.
      It’s not like they didn’t port Android to watches, cars, and TVs either, but due to UI optimizations for different screen sizes and shapes, it seems like when people use one of those, it’s less like “I’m using a TV with android!” and more like “The screen looks good. The TV can do what the TV lets me do.”

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