Huawei's New Operating System Unveiled: HarmonyOS

Sheri Evans
August 10, 2019

The headline use for the new software is likely to be in some Huawei phones but as the threat from the United States trade ban is abating, it's questionable if the OS will be a straight-up replacement for Android on flagship devices.

Huawei has rolled out its long-rumored Hongmeng operating system (OS), known as the HarmonyOS.

"Harmony OS is completely different from Android and iOS", said Richard Yu, head of Huawei's consumer business group referring to operating systems developed by Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Apple Inc (AAPL.O). And Harmony OS, which Huawei says is "a distributed OS for all scenarios", will move quickly to smart watches, smart displays, and in-car devices, and it is being adapted for smartphones too. Huawei unveiled a smartphone operating system that it said can replace Google's Android, adding to the Chinese tech giant's efforts to insulate itself against USA sanctions. But Harmony is real, and Huawei confirmed that it would move to this system in smartphones should tensions with the USA government escalate further and prevent it from using Android.

The firm said HarmonyOS would support "both drag-and-drop control and preview-oriented visual programming" and that the multi-device IDE would allow app devs to code once and deploy across multiple devices. This microkernel uses formal verification methods in order to reshape security and trustworthiness in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE).

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Every company that builds phones dreams of a day when they don't have to pay royalties to Google for using their Android OS. Anonymous sources told Global Times that the phones will be priced at around $288 for low and medium-end markets and will ship in their millions, along with the Huawei Mate 30 series, in the fourth quarter.

Is Huawei moving away from Android? Huawei says it will expand the use of HarmonyOS gradually, but it's planning to keep using Android on phones for now. For now, HarmonyOS will be China-exclusive, although Huawei wants to make it available internationally later.

HarmonyOS will support a wide range of apps including Android, Linux, and HTML5 in the future.

Yu said that due to these four considerations, Harmony OS will be both faster and safer than Android. However, Yu claims the company will be able to switch over the HarmonyOS in a matter of days if it becomes impossible to use Android.

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