Huawei formally replaces Android with HarmonyOS, which can also be Android

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  • The Huawei iPad Pro.

  • The P50 isn’t coming out today because … everything happens.


  • The Huawei Watch 3.


This morning, Huawei officially launched Harmony OS, its in-house operating system and (among other things) its replacement for Android, in a live stream. The company announced a new watch, tablet, and smartphone with HarmonyOS. The company also announced that it will update a huge list of 100 different Huawei Android phone models to Harmony OS over the next year.

With today’s announcement, Huawei looks like it has two completely different operating systems, which it calls “HarmonyOS”. On the one hand, the IoT and Smartwatch version of HarmonyOS, which is based on Huawei’s LiteOS and is open source. The second version of Harmony OS is intended for phones and tablets and is a fork of Android and uses the Linux kernel (Huawei is reluctant to admit this). Having two completely different operating systems having the same brand name creates a lot of confusion and you can make many claims about the IoT version of HarmonyOS that don’t apply to the phone version.

TechCrunch, for example, spoke to Huawei and reported, “Huawei denied speculation that HarmonyOS is a derivative of Android, saying that not a single line of code is identical to Android. A Huawei spokesman declined to say whether the operating system is based on Linux. the kernel that powers Android. “This statement applies to the IoT version, but not the phone version. Meanwhile, the company said the exact opposite of the German website ComputerBase, which quoted Huawei’s software president as saying,” To ensure To ensure that our existing users can continue to enjoy the experience they know from our phones and tablets, Huawei uses AOSP open source code in HarmonyOS on condition that they comply with the open source licensing rules and meet the associated responsibilities and obligations . “

HarmonyOS: Still only Android (at least on phones)

In the wake of the US export ban on Huawei, the company is currently fighting for independence from the US supply chain. China has many manufacturers of hardware components that Huawei can rely on, but China does not develop large amounts of software. So software is the company’s biggest problem. HarmonyOS is said to be the answer to this problem, so Huawei wants to sell the operating system as an in-house creation that will make it possible to free itself from US influence. Huawei doesn’t seem to like it when they point out that Harmony OS for phones is heavily based on Android.

We tried the operating system in the official emulator a few months ago, however, and there was no question we were looking at an Android fork. HarmonyOS was identical to what Huawei ships on its Android phones, except for a few changes to the “About” screen, where the words “Android” and “EMUI” (Huawei’s Android skin) were replaced for “HarmonyOS” . Huawei even overlooked a few places where the operating system still said “Android”. The operating system ran Android apps and supported every Android feature with an implementation identical to Android. It used the Linux kernel and listed the version on the “About” screen. The development used the “Android Debug Bridge”, the SDK from Huawei listed 27 different Android libraries in the third-party software list and compiled Android apps with a different file extension. It was Android with no noticeable differences.
Enlarge / “Harmony OS” will appear to consist of several different operating systems with one name. The phone and tablet operating system is Android, the smartwatch and IoT operating system is based on LiteOS, and I have no idea what the “Auto” and “Smart TV” versions are.


Another important point I have to pick about HarmonyOS is the lack of access and transparency. Just accessing the SDK and the emulator required that I had to go through an insane process of uploading a photo of my US passport and credit card to Huawei’s servers so that I could wait for two days to access the SDK could be admitted. Most companies only have one download link. You can’t run the emulator locally on your computer where it could be checked more thoroughly – instead, it’s running remotely on a server in China and a video of it is streamed to your computer. After we wrote our article, Huawei disabled the emulator and prevented “overseas” users from downloading the SDK.


However, HarmonyOS won’t have many options to hide once it’s rolled out on devices. Jon Porter from The Verge notes that the MatePad Pro tablet comes with Huawei’s “AppGallery” Android app store and runs Android apps, as it is of course only Android.

Forking Android isn’t a big deal, and big companies like Amazon are doing it for its FireOS. The difference is that Amazon is open about it and says “FireOS is a divergence from Android” in the first paragraph of its developer documents. Huawei’s developer docs do not refer to Android and are largely gibberish – and by that I mean, they are paragraphs with buzzwords and circular links that contain no technical information about what the operating system is or how it works.

New for HarmonyOS: Android 11 functions, iOS design

  • The HarmonyOS home screen.

  • The new quick settings window looks straight out of iOS.


  • HarmonyOS can now display multiple music players in quick settings. This just seems to be a feature of Android 11.


  • You can select a sound output. This is also a feature of Android 11.


  • “Super Device” offers revolutionary capabilities like … wireless headphone pairing?


In today’s show, HarmonyOS (for phones) has a slight reskinning and looks a little different from the emulator. The most important new feature was a new quick settings window, which shows that the company isn’t afraid of copying both major mobile operating systems: the design is copied directly from the iOS control center, while the new functionality – with multiple media players and a sound output selection – is a feature of Android 11. The HarmonyOS emulator we looked at was based on Android 10, but this quick media setting feature suggests that this version of Harmony has been updated to Android 11 and Huawei is just scribbling more of the code base .

HarmonyOS also has a function called “Super Device” which just seems to be a network function modeled on Google Cast, AirPlay or Bluetooth. According to Huawei, if all of the devices in your house are running Harmony OS, you can use some pedestrian-sounding network features, such as: For example, you can pair a drone with a smartphone for remote control, use a tablet pen on your PC, or connect wireless earbuds to your phone. The company showed off a plug-in for Huawei Windows PCs that allows you to quickly transfer files to a phone. Huawei envisioned wild smart home integration, like tapping a phone on a toaster to look up recipes. There was also a HarmonyOS power refrigerator.

As part of the Harmony OS rollout, Huawei is doing a massive in-place upgrade to around 100 different models of Huawei Android phones that they are converting to Harmony OS. Ordinarily, developing a brand new operating system and supporting hundreds of old models would be an expensive, Herculean effort that most companies would call “impracticable,” but since Harmony OS is actually just Android, it’s not that big of a deal. We also can’t promise that all of these phones will move to Android 11 – they could just get fundamental changes to the rebranding of their existing software.


The first batch of phones will be upgraded today, June 2nd, which will include Huawei flagships such as the Mate 40 and 30 series, the P40 series and the foldable Mate X2. More batches of phones will come in Q3, Q4 and 2021 H1. Huawei promised switchers that “the performance of Harmony OS is superior to that of the Android-based EMUI,” but the company didn’t say which areas are better.

  • Huawei says all of these phones will get Harmony OS. (There’s bigger text in the next few slides.)

  • These phones get HarmonyOS today.


  • This is the slide “Q3 2021”.


  • 4th quarter 2021.


  • 1h 2021.


Huawei dropped a few clues that it is feeling the pain of the U.S. export ban and everything else that’s going on. It said it would start selling existing phones such as the Mate 40 Pro with HarmonyOS, but noted that “due to restrictions imposed by the US” it will not be able to offer these phones with 5G. The company also briefly teased its next flagship, the P50, but said, “For reasons you all know, we haven’t set a launch date yet, but we’re trying to figure out how we can bring this great product to you.” Actually Huawei, we’re not sure which disaster this is referring to. Is that due to COVID? The US export ban? The global chip shortage? Too busy right now to be vague.

To sum it up again: Huawei shipped smartwatches with LiteOS yesterday and today smartwatches with “HarmonyOS”, which is based on LiteOS. Yesterday, phones and tablets were shipped with a split-off version of Android without Google services. Today, Huawei delivers “HarmonyOS” to cell phones and tablets, which Android has split off without Google services. Has anything really changed here?

Offer picture from Huawei

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