In Depth

Huawei Harmony: why the Chinese firm is launching an Android rival

New operating system will be ‘faster and safer’ than Google’s software, but won’t appear on smartphones immediately

Huawei has confirmed that it is developing its own smartphone operating system as the company begins to distance itself from Google’s Android software. 

Announced at its developer conference in Dongguan, China, the new operating system will be used not only to power Huawei’s broad range of smartphones, but also other connected devices such as wearable tech and in-car infotainment systems. 

Richard Yu, head of Huawei’s consumer business group, told attendees at the conference that Harmony, known as Hongmeng in China, is “completely different from Android and iOS”.

At first, the BBC says, Huawei will launch the operating system on smaller devices, such as connected speakers and smartwatches, for customers in the Greater China region. 

Why is Huawei making its own Android rival?

Although Huawei has been successfully using Android operating systems since 2009, today’s announcement comes as little surprise.

In May, Google was forced to block Huawei’s use of the software after the US government placed the Chinese firm on the so-called Entity List, which contains nations that are deemed to pose a potential threat to America’s IT infrastructure.

Huawei being on the list means it is barred from buying technology from American companies without approval from the US government, says The Verge

While Huawei is still able to use the Android operating system to power its smartphones, certain features, such as Google Maps and YouTube, will be blocked on future devices. 

It has therefore developed its own operating system as a contingency plan in case the company’s access to Android is blocked completely. 

However, it’s believed that Harmony has been in development “for a number of years”, The Daily Telegraph says, suggesting that Huawei had intended to create its own software ecosystem prior to its run-in with the US government earlier this year. 

How is it different to Android?

Little is known about the Harmony system as the company has yet to announce when the software will launch on smartphones. 

What is known, however, is that Harmony will mirror Android by taking the form of an open-source operating system, meaning third-party companies “can take the code and use it however they want”, the BBC reports. 

Huawei has also said that Harmony will let developers create one version of their app, before “flexibly” deploying it “across a range of different devices”, the broadcaster adds. 

At the conference, Yu claimed that Harmony would be “faster and safer” than the Android system, Engadget reports. 

Huawei, however, intends to stick with Google’s software on its smartphones for the time being, the tech site says. But Yu insisted that the company could switch its phones over to the new system “at any time” in the event of its Android licence being revoked completely. 

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