Will Huawei Use Their New HarmonyOS in Smartphones?
With Huawei potentially about to have their access to Android updates terminated, could we start seeing new Huawei phones kitted out with their new HarmonyOS?
Huawei has struggled to keep out of the news in recent months. Since the company was placed on the US Entities List in May, which blocked any US company from doing business with them, they have been taking an increasingly firm stance of resistance.
Why was Huawei banned?
Huawei was banned from the US by the Trump administration after potential backdoors were found in their products which could, in theory, have been used by the Chinese intelligence agencies to spy on US users. The ban was sold as being necessary the US national defense, although some commentators, and of course Huawei themselves, dispute this.
While claims of spying do have to be taken seriously, it must be noted that Huawei recently overtook Apple as being the world’s second biggest distributor of smartphones, behind Samsung. We’re not saying that these two events are for certain related, but the timing is indeed impeccable.
Regardless, seeing as Huawei are now banned from doing business with US companies, Google are forced to work with them on a 90 day limited license, which is about to expire. If Google doesn’t get an extension to this license, then it is unlikely that Huawei will continue being able to use the Play Store or other essential Google services, thus rendering the phones pretty useless in the West, as well as in many other regions of the world.
How will Huawei survive?
This is bad news for the company, but it isn’t the end of the world. It became apparent after the ban was announced that Huawei have in fact being working on their own operating system called HarmonyOS. This wasn’t a direct reaction to the ban – in fact, Huawei have been working on HarmonyOS for a while now, but it wasn’t intended to be used for smartphones.
Rather, the HarmonyOS was meant to be used for smart devices around the home. It provides a way for different smart devices to connect to one another and communicate without using much processing power. This is now something that the company seems to be preparing to launch on their smartphones in the event that Google does a runner.
Huawei have repeatedly said that the OS wasn’t ready for use on phones yet and that they weren’t planning on developing it for mobile use. The facts, however, now appear to tell a different story. It seems that the OS is being prepped for launch on mobile and that Huawei is going to use it if its products lose their access to Android updates and Google services.
What is HarmonyOS?
While the operating system has been in the works for some time now, it is yet to launch and it was never intended to be used for mobile. HarmonyOS is now Huawei’s backup plan in the event that Android is forced to let them go.
The operating system is designed to work with the Internet of Things (IoT), connecting smart devices together to operate more efficiently. This could be a major benefit to the company, as they could integrate IoT support into the mobile operating system and thus connect your phone to your car, your smart TV, your home stereo system, and much more.
What was originally a feared Plan B could actually turn out to work in Huawei’s favor. The OS is very unique. It runs on a microkernel, which is basically a scaled down software thing. Whereas Android runs on 100 million lines of code, HarmonyOS runs on just 100 (supposedly). This means that it can prioritize performance and ensure that communication channels between devices are sound.
Developers would be able to make apps that would work with all sorts of devices seamlessly, in a very tightly knitted web. Basically, HarmonyOS could actually end up being extremely well-suited to the future of IoT and thus consumer behavior.
Is Huawei going to use HarmonyOS in its smartphones?
While new things are exciting, HarmonyOS was not meant to be released just yet and will have some trouble getting started. It’s also likely that it’ll feature a fair few bugs in the early days. In short, Huawei would probably much rather not have to use it for their smartphones. At least, not yet.
On top of this, consumers in the West want to have access to Google services, and without them, HarmonyOS would be at a significant disadvantage in this market. This will likely cost the company billions of dollars in lost revenue.
The world of mobile operating systems is pretty two-sided: you’re either Android, or you’re iOS. There is certainly room for more competition. The thing is, there is also a reason that other companies haven’t bothered to be that competition. People just want to use an OS that supports all the services that they need, has a large and trustworthy app store, and doesn’t restrict them in any way.
HarmonyOS likely won’t fit this criteria to begin with and although Huawei could develop it to make it more impressive, it’s likely that the Chinese company would much rather not have to do that at this stage. If they’re forced to, however, then they will. What else can they do?
So, what we can gather is that Huawei will launch the HarmonyOS on their smartphones if they can’t get access to Android updates, but they’d rather not have to take this path. The company stands to lose market share and a lot of money if they can’t keep Google on side, so they’re hoping that the US lifts this ban sooner rather than later so that they can get back to overtaking Apple as a dominant player on the global market.