Huawei is switching to Harmony OS: Everything you need to know

Published on 03 Jun 2021

Huawei announced that it will launch its HarmonyOS 2 operating system on its smartphones over the coming year. The announcement was made during a live stream this Wednesday. The company also launched a new smartwatch and tablet. The updates will first be rolled out in Asia. There is no official date as to when HarmonyOS will be released globally.

A response to the US ban

In May 2019, Donal Trump issued an executive order that banned the use of telecommunications equipment from foreign companies that pose a threat to national security. The order itself does not mention Huawei by name. However, the US Department of Commerce created an "Entity List" of companies to whom the order applies. This list included Huawei's name. This meant that companies operating in the US were no longer allowed to work with Huawei. Huawei would lose the ability to work with firms like Qualcomm and Intel that manufactured key components for their smartphones. China however has a lot of local companies that manufacture chips and smartphone components. The biggest blow from the US ban was that Huawei would no longer be able to work with Google. It would lose access to Google's suite of apps, like YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs as well as the Play Store. 

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Since the ban came into effect, any new smartphones sold by Huawei would ship without Google services pre-installed. Without the play store app, getting popular apps like YouTube would be a very complicated process and one that is not recommended by Huawei or Google. In response to being cut off from its US supply chain, Huawei has been making efforts to find vendors and partners locally and to make its own components. The launch of the HarmonyOS for smartphones is the latest step in this endeavor.

More about the HarmonyOS  

The Mate 40, P40, Mate 30, and MatePad Pro will receive the new OS first. In the third quarter of this year, HarmonyOS will be rolled out to the nova 6, nova 7, nova 8, Mate 20, and MatePad products. The company has plans to replace Android with HarmonyOS on a whopping 100 smartphones by the end of the year. Typically the move to overhaul the operating system for so many devices would be a tedious and very expensive affair. Most companies would consider it impractical and unfeasible, so why is Huawei making this move? The answer is because HarmonyOS is actually a fork of Android. Huawei is reluctant to admit this but the HarmonyOS used on smartphones is based on the same codebase as Android and utilizes the Linux kernel. This is why it is fairly easy for the company to update the operating system for so many of its devices.

During the live stream, Huawei focused on the interconnected use of HarmonyOS and how it could be used on a variety of IoT-enabled devices. The company highlighted that the Harmony OS would provide a seamless experience to users across devices. It aims to create a unified world for those who choose to buy into its ecosystem of products. Similar to what Apple has done with its devices and iOS, and Mac OS.

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Featured image: Courtesy Huawei