Huawei Technologies, currently the world’s biggest smartphone maker, said it is preparing to switch from Google’s widely-used Android operating system to its own Harmony OS, in a pivotal move as it seeks to keep its smartphones competitive as a result of US sanctions that have blocked its access to US-origin technology.
Richard Yu Chengdong, head of the Shenzhen-based company’s consumer business group, said at its developer conference on Thursday that Huawei’s proprietary Harmony OS would be installed on all of its smartphones next year.
“The latest version of Harmony OS has been officially opened to developers globally,” said Yu, adding that Huawei is accelerating the buildout of an app ecosystem around the OS. “The Huawei mobile service system now has 1.8 million app developers and 490 million active users, as well as 96,000 apps.”
The technology world is watching Huawei’s moves in order to take a glimpse of the company’s future business plans amid a US ban that threatens to cut off its access to everything from the chips that power its smartphones and 5G base stations to the globally-popular Android system itself.
Huawei’s addition to the US entity list in May last year barred Google from providing technical support for new Huawei phone models using Android, and from Google Mobile Services (GMS), the bundle of developer services upon which most Android apps are based.
The Android operating system powers the millions of smartphones that the Shenzhen-based company ships each year – so Harmony is crucial to the consumer unit’s future. Huawei claimed the No 1 spot globally in smartphones in the second quarter, easing Samsung into second place.
However, some analysts are skeptical about the ability of Harmony to replace Android, particularly in overseas markets where many users take Google apps such as YouTube and Gmail for granted.