Will HarmonyOS Replace Android on Huawei Smartphones?



Following Huawei’s US ban and subsequent suspension from the Play Store and Google services, will the Chinese company now use its own HarmonyOS instead?


Huawei has been in the news a lot, lately. The Chinese tech giant has had a hard time trying to convince US lawmakers that they aren’t trying to spy on users around the world, and this has resulted in them getting banned from doing business with US companies. Being on the US Entities List makes it illegal for American companies to do business with Huawei without the proper licensing. This means that Google can no longer offer them their services, which includes future Android updates.

The general consensus has been that Huawei would upgrade its existing HarmonyOS – formally known as HongMeng – and use it for their smartphones. The OS is currently used to connect smart tech and is not as yet used as a mobile operating system. Most people assumed that this would change, however, as the company wouldn’t be able to access Android updates.

It appears now that Huawei doesn’t intend to use the HarmonyOS for its smartphones – and this makes sense, because it would take a long time to develop anything that could be used effectively. Building an effective operating system for mobile would take Huawei years, and the Android ban isn’t all that it seems.

What can Huawei do?

Huawei are banned from using Google Mobile Services (GMS), which includes all the apps like Gmail and Google Maps, as well as the Play Store, but they’re not actually banned from using the Android platform itself. This means that they can simply build their own maps app and replace the Google services very easily.

Of course, while building a maps app is completely possible with the right partnerships, building an app store from scratch is something of a significant achievement. It’s unlikely that Huawei will be able to build anything that comes close to the Play Store for a long time.

Still, Huawei can carry on using the Android platform, while they take the time to build and improve their own apps to replace Google’s. Some users might even favor this as it means that they won’t be giving Google all of their information anymore.

To be fair, there are other apps than Google Maps – for example, HereWeGo Maps, which have a very good reputation and could easily be used as a replacement. On top of that, any standard email app could replace Gmail, as all your emails would still wind up there all the same.

There are alternatives to Google Drive, like Dropbox and One Drive, which you could use instead. In other words, most of the essential Google Mobile Services can easily be replaced by existing apps, and Huawei will no doubt make their own apps to cover them as well.

No need to leave Android

Android is the world’s largest mobile operating system, with 88% of users worldwide on the system. It’s pretty obvious that most Huawei users don’t want to have to trade the operating system in for HarmonyOS – which would be brutally inefficient for a long time to come. This should come as welcome news, then, that Huawei doesn’t really need to give Android the boot.

The company can still use the Android OS on its new phones, this is because they can use the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). This is the free and open software from Android anyone can use. It doesn’t come with Google Mobile Services, however, and security updates do take a while longer to appear here.

This does mean, however, that Huawei phones can still keep updated with the latest security patches, just that they’ll take a while longer to reach them. Assuming that Huawei can make a decent app store, they might actually be able to get around the consequences of the Huawei ban altogether.

Essentially, it’ll be like you’re using any Android smartphone, just without the Play Store. If you’re someone who doesn’t really use many apps, then this shouldn’t even worry you. Most developers will want as many people to use their apps as possible, so they’ll no doubt wind up on Huawei’s app store, anyway. It’s not like people aren’t going to be aware that the thing exists and developers won’t have to change anything in their apps because Huawei phones will still be using Android.

Problem solved?

So, does this mean that the whole Huawei ban thing isn’t even such a big deal? Not exactly. The Chinese company will still struggle to sell its phones in Western markets without the Google Play Store. While most people can suffer using a different navigation app without breaking a sweat, the Play Store holds a central position in the heart of many Android users.

That being said, if you’re willing to gamble on the notion that Huawei won’t be banned from GMS forever, then spending a year or so without the Play Store might not sound like such a heavy price to pay in return for having a Mate 30 Pro.

It’s also possible that Huawei will drop the price of their products in Western markets to try and convince more people to carry on buying them. This could ultimately get you a great deal on a Huawei premium flagship handset, without having to make too big of a sacrifice in the long run.

That’s not to say that the waters are all clear for Huawei. The company still can’t even sell their new phones in the US, or in several other countries. What’s more, they’re not allowed to work on 5G networks in the US, or collaborate with companies and research foundations there on the advancement of mobile networks and other essential technologies.

The wrap-up

It’s been a hard year for Huawei, indeed. The company isn’t in the clear yet, and it appears that they’re going to have to carry on fighting going into 2020. Whether they’ll ever come back to the US remains to be seen, but we have a feeling that they’ll be back on the market before long.