GUANGZHOU, China – In mid-2019, Huawei launched its own operating system – HarmonyOS – in response to US actions that cut it off from Google’s software.
It was the Chinese technology giant’s most ambitious push software for mobile, one they hoped would help the handset business survive.
On Monday, Huawei announced that HarmonyOS would start rolling out on its smartphones from April. Huawei phone users could download it as an update.
A spokesman confirmed to CNBC that users outside China would also be able to download it. The company̵
In 2019, Huawei was put on a US blacklist known as the Entity List which restricted US companies from exporting technology to the Chinese company. Google cut ties to Huawei as a result. This meant that Huawei could not use licensed Google Android on its smartphones. It’s not so bad in China where Google apps like Gmail are blocked. But in foreign markets, where Android is the most popular operating system, it was a big blow.
This move by the Trump administration, combined with sanctions designed to cut off Huawei from critical chip supplies, has hurt the Chinese telecommunications company’s smartphone sales.
Huawei needs to find a source of chip supplies for smartphones. But HarmonyOS is the second “critically important” part to ensure the survival of Huawei’s smartphone business, according to Nicole Peng, an analyst at Canalys.
Development of HarmonyOS
Huawei introduces HarmonyOS as an operating system that can work across devices from smartphones to TVs. In September, it launched the second version of HarmonyOS and has claimed developers to create apps for the platform.
And with international users in mind, Huawei redesigned the interface for its app store known as AppGallery and improved navigation features.
A guest holds his phone showing a photo taken during Huawei’s press conference unveiling the new HarmonyOS operating system in Dongguan, Guangdong Province on August 9, 2019.
Fred Dufour | AFP | Getty Images
“Searching integrated into AppGallery will help a lot in helping people discover apps,” Peng said.
Huawei will also push the update to existing users of its devices, which will help increase the use of the operating system abroad.
Huawei’s AppGallery currently has over 530 million active users every month.
Smartphone challenges ahead
Apps are essential for mobile operating systems. Apple’s iOS and Google Android are the two most dominant operating systems because they have millions of developers creating apps for their respective platforms.
Huawei has a series of apps such as mapping and a web browser under a banner called Huawei Mobile Services (HMS). HMS is similar to Google Mobile Services and offers developer packages that can be used to integrate things like location services into apps. HSE has 2.3 million registered developers globally.
And in China, it is able to bring popular apps.
In international markets, however, Huawei may face some challenges. For example, the app store lacks big names such as Facebook or Google apps, which are important for users abroad.
“If Huawei wants to succeed in selling phones abroad, they need the right applications that are unlikely to come to HarmonyOS. So it’s important to get access to Google Mobile Services again if it wants to build its international phone business,” says Bryan Ma. , vice president of unit research at IDC, said via email.
With Google Android and iOS dominating outside of China, Huawei will also have the steep task of convincing users to switch.
“When it comes to challenges, it’s still in areas … (whether) the product will be acceptable to heavy users who use, for example, Google apps and Google services,” said Canalys’ Peng.
Meanwhile, Huawei also potentially lacks the key supplies to make phones in the future due to the US moving to cut it from chips. Huawei’s Mate X2 uses Huawei’s proprietary Kirin 9000 processor. Richard Yu, CEO of the consumer business, said that the company has enough production capacity for the foldable phone, even after the warning last year could end.
That, along with the uncertainty about the success of the operating system, is a major challenge Huawei faces.
“Huawei can continue to operate the local China market without such concerns (about HarmonyOS apps), but it’s a much bigger problem in that it’s struggling to get components in the first place,” said Ma.