Huawei was the world’s largest phone maker until the United States imposed damaging sanctions in 2019. Among other things, it banned Huawei from using the official version of Google’s Android operating system. on his smartphones. Now, the Chinese tech giant hopes to be able to go back by developing its own operating system: HarmonyOS.
Huawei rolled out HarmonyOS for its latest smartphones today (June 2) and announced that it will update older phones to the new operating system throughout the year. The company’s stated goal is to reduce its dependence on Android and develop a competing operating system capable of competing with Apple’s Android and iOS, which currently provide operating systems for virtually everyone. smartphones on earth. Independent reviewers, however, have concluded that the operating system is just Android’s open source code under a new name.
Tech watchers are optimistic. HarmonyOS can spread to China, where there is considerable political pressure to create local alternatives to US tech offerings. And even though HarmonyOS is just a copy of Android, it at least has the imprimatur of a Chinese tech giant to make it appear as a true home alternative. But it’s less clear whether HarmonyOS can become a real competitor overseas, especially as U.S. sanctions still prevent Huawei devices from integrating popular apps from U.S. tech giants like Google and Facebook.
What is HarmonyOS?
Huawei first launched HarmonyOS in August 2019, four months after Google revoked the Chinese tech giant’s license to use its Android operating system. Although the company claims HarmonyOS is “completely different from Android and iOS,” an independent review by Ars Technica has found several telltale signs that it is only a slightly modified version of Android. .
The biggest difference between Android and HarmonyOS is that Huawei’s version is not officially authorized by Google, so it cannot include Google apps. Huawei has instead developed its own alternative apps, including a Google search replacement dubbed Petal Search, Petal Maps instead of Google Maps, and a Huawei AppGallery instead of the Google Play Store. HarmonyOS also doesn’t support major US-based apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.
Will HarmonyOS succeed in China?
Chances are, HarmonyOS could spread to China, where authorities are eager to replace Western technology with local alternatives. Beijing, for example, has ordered all government offices to replace foreign computers and software with Chinese technology by 2022. As the technological rivalry between the United States and China continues, HarmonyOS could become a more attractive alternative to Android and iOS, both of which are controlled by US companies.
Additionally, Chinese consumers are unlikely to miss out on US-based apps that aren’t available on HarmonyOS, as Facebook and its ilk are banned in China anyway. HarmonyOS does, however, support Chinese alternatives like Weibo and WeChat.
Huawei said it plans to have 300 million devices running HarmonyOS by the end of 2021, which would prove that its operating system is viable in the Chinese domestic market.
Will phone makers outside of China embrace HarmonyOS?
Huawei has said it will make HarmonyOS open source software available to any phone maker who wants to use it (much like the open source Android operating system it is based on). But HarmonyOS will be harder to sell outside of China, where consumers are more likely to want mainstream Western apps and the full Google Play Store, and governments are more likely to face diplomatic pressure from the United States. to abandon Huawei technology.