Huawei unveils HarmonyOS for phones; Cuts dependence on Android

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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Huawei Smart Phone
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China’s multinational tech company, Huawei has unveiled its Harmony smartphone operating system, looking to recover from US sanctions that have hampered the company’s handset business.

Huawei will begin rolling out HarmonyOS on a limited number of smartphone models, giving users the option to upgrade from the current operating system based on Google’s Android platform.

The use of HarmonyOS means the company will no longer be entirely reliant on Android. US sanctions prevented Alphabet Inc.’s Google from providing technical assistance for new Huawei phone models, as well as access to Google Mobile Services, the collection of developer services that most Android apps are based on.

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Rather than being a direct replacement, Huawei describes HarmonyOS as an “Internet-of-Things” platform that can be used on and connected to other devices including laptops, wearables, cars, and appliances.

During a video launch from the company’s headquarters, the firm introduced several new HarmonyOS products, including a tablet, a smartwatch, and a stylus.

The presentation ended with a preview for the flagship P50 phone, which has been delayed “for reasons that everyone is aware of,” according to Mr. Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group.

By the end of the year, Huawei aims to have HarmonyOS on 200 million smartphones and 100 million third-party smart devices, added Mr. Wang Chenglu, Head of Huawei Consumer Business Group’s software department, who has been leading the company’s HarmonyOS efforts since 2016.

Due to national security concerns, China’s leading telecom equipment manufacturer was placed on a US trade blacklist in May 2019. Huawei has repeatedly denied it is a risk.

Huawei’s handset business was severely harmed as a result of the ban. Huawei, which was formerly the biggest smartphone manufacturer, is now ranked sixth, with a 4 percent market share in the first quarter.

According to Mr. Yu, the company is considering providing upgrades for some components, such as batteries, for users with older phones.

However, with HarmonyOS, Mr. Wang stated that the company was looking beyond smartphones. He claimed that the smartphone market had reached a plateau and that smartphones remained the most dominant gadget in people’s lives because most developers had few other platforms to work for.

The issue with current operating systems is that “devices can’t be connected simply,” with users often having to download separate apps to get things to connect, Mr. Wang said.

“But Harmony can enable devices to be connected to form a super device. It will work as one file system, literally one device,” he added.

Mr. Wang stated that he would welcome other smartphone makers adopting HarmonyOS, but added Huawei sees big opportunities in collaborating with makers of non-smartphone devices.

“But for Huawei to achieve its ambition, it will be important to get other electronics brands and even automakers onboard for the OS, and China provides a favorable market ecosystem to achieve this,” Mr. Wong concluded.

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