Huawei Answers US Ban with HarmonyOS

(Image credit: Huawei)

Ever since the US government decided that Huawei was an unsafe company to do business with, a major unanswered question has been what it would do without access to Android, the smartphone OS developed by Google. There have been rumors about Huawei making its own OS, partially as a way to deal with a full ban on using Android, and these have now been confirmed.

Huawei unveiled its HarmonyOS (or HongmengOS in China) at its Developer Conference in Dongguan, China.

What is HarmonyOS?

Huawei’s answer to Android. HarmonyOS is designed to be ‘seamless, smooth, secure and unified’ according to its four key features, and will be usable in ‘smart watches, smart screens, in-vehicle systems, and smart speakers’, as well as phones. 

This is similar to Google’s Fuchsia, an in-development OS that also promises to unite multiple disparate devices under the same system.

Like Google has done with the Android Open Source Project, Huawei will make HarmonyOS an open-source platform, available for anyone to use. An operating system is pretty worthless without apps, so Huawei hopes this move will encourage developers to start making their apps compatible, initially those based in China, but then later others from around the world.

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What products will use HarmonyOS?

There are currently no specific products announced that will use HarmonyOS, although Huawei has promised its new smartscreens that will launch later in 2019 will be the first ones to use the new operating system. Also, a recent leak has suggested that the Mate 30 Lite, the low-spec version of Huawei’s upcoming flagship phone, will be available in China with HarmonyOS installed instead of Android.

Beyond this year, Huawei has laid out a three-year plan to optimize HarmonyOS for more devices, including wearables, smart home products, and cars.

A necessary defensive move

The situation with the U.S. government’s ‘Entity List’ has calmed down recently, with the White House allowing American companies to work with Huawei in certain contexts, although the continued US-Chinese trade war could see this change.

Debuting its own operating system and getting it off the ground before anything truly bad happens was the smart choice for Huawei to make. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see if this decision pays off soon when we see the first round of devices with HarmonyOS appear by the end of 2019.