Huawei operating system coming to smartphones in Asia

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An update of HarmonyOS, the operating system developed by Huawei, means it will now be installed in a wider range of products, including its smartphones.

It is due to roll out across Asia following a launch event on 2 June. There is no date for a global launch yet. A trade ban imposed by the US last year effectively prevented Huawei devices from working fully with Google’s Android platform because it blocked access to essential apps like Gmail.

However, Huawei said it did not consider Harmony to be a replacement for Android, which accounted for 85.4% of smartphones shipped in 2019. Apple’s iOS had the remaining 14.6%, according to the research firm IDC.

Other operating systems such as Samsung’s Tizen and Amazon’s Fire have failed to disrupt the handset market. HarmonyOS has so far only been available in some smart TVs.

The trade ban imposed by former US President Donald Trump did not stop Huawei handsets from using Android altogether but  limited their functionality.

It was telling that there was expected to be a host of new products but no new Huawei smartphones unveiled at Tuesday’s launch, with the focus instead on Harmony’s use in other internet connected devices such as tablets, smart speakers and televisions.

“HarmonyOS is designed to provide the glue between a growing array of connected devices that Huawei is targeting,” commented Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight.

“Huawei will be hoping that it can follow Apple’s lead, by having a single software platform that extends in all directions, providing a seamless experience to customers that buy into its ecosystem of products.” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reports that the Shenzhen-based tech giant is anticipating 300 million devices to be equipped with HarmonyOS by the end of the year.

There has been great excitement ahead of the launch inside China, said the BBC’s China media analyst Kerry Allen. “Social media users have picked up on how the characters for ‘harmony’, ‘hong’ and ‘meng’, mean ‘ambition’, and ‘kindness’”, she said.

“Divisions of China’s youth movement, the Communist Youth League, and even fire rescue and official courthouse accounts, have been promoting the new system. In the last week, more than 17 million Weibo users have read posts that include the hashtag TheHarmonySmartphoneSystemIsHere.”

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