After losing the use of Google’s services, Huawei announced that it would ramp up efforts to work on an alternative operating system called HarmonyOS. For now, the company has focused the OS on powering IoT devices like smart home appliances, but the long term goal is for HarmonyOS to eventually power smartphones and laptops.
We haven’t seen too much news about Harmony OS lately though, and so the jury is still out on exactly how good it may end up being. According to a new report from Ars Technica that claims to have done a deep dive into the developer version of the OS, things are not looking so rosy. While the report itself is quite lengthy, the following are a few key highlights from the article:
- Getting developer access requires a two-day background check that includes sending copies of your passport, personal ID, and credit card to Huawei (to perhaps safeguard themselves against any intellectual property theft)
- You don’t actually run the beta OS in its emulator; it’s streamed to you, Google Stadia-style, from (presumably) a phone running the beta in China (to again ensure control over their IP)
- Most importantly, HarmonyOS seems to be a fork of Android 10 with the word “Android” find-and-replaced with “Harmony”
Now it’s worth noting that not only is the report a little too critical of Huawei with a clear inherent bias, but that HarmonyOS is still a work in progress and so is likely to still change a lot before it ever gets released on any big smartphones.
It also shouldn’t be surprising to hear that it is being based off a forked version of Android (which is open source) given that it would make development efforts faster and easier for the many thousands of Android apps to be compatible with it.
The report does counter claims that HarmonyOS is going to be incredibly different from Android, although once again, the company is still hard at work on it with its initial main focus to operate on IoT things, they’ve likely stripped back the core functionality a lot to allow it to have a smaller digital footprint.
We also knew the development of HarmonyOS would be a long-term thing for Huawei and that it would take many years to replicate something that could compete with Android. I still think the market needs more competition and that Huawei is a big enough company to offer that OS competition, so it might be able to build a new OS that is more than just an Android clone, possibly offering something unique and different for users.
Last Updated: February 4, 2021