Huawei announces HarmonyOS – potential Android replacement

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Huawei has unveiled its own-built operating system, HarmonyOS, which the Chinese company could use to power its smartphones instead of Google’s Android.

The phone-maker has been hit by trade restrictions from the US, which has left the firm’s ability to use Android in the long term in question.

Huawei currently uses Android to power its smartphones and other devices, but previously admitted it was developing its own OS as a “plan B” should it be no longer able to use the Google program.

At the company’s developer conference in southern China, Huawei said HarmonyOS would be first used in a new Honor smartphone – a sub-brand of Huawei – which the company will announce on Saturday.

Chief executive Richard Yu said the new operating system could be used in phones, computers, tablets and wearable devices such as smartwatches. However, he said the Chinese firm’s “priority” is to still use Android in its devices, though it could easily switch to Harmony at any point if necessary.

Mr Yu also revealed that the new software would be open source, meaning it would be available for others to install as their device software.

The Huawei executive said the company wanted the operating system to be global and “not just used by Huawei alone”.

Huawei is yet to reveal more details about its operating system, including the content and native apps that would be a part of it at launch.

The firm said it has been developing the software for more than two years but its importance did not become urgent until earlier this year.

In May, Huawei was hit by an executive order from US President Donald Trump which effectively banned it from trading with any American companies.

The firm has been dogged by accusations that it has close ties to the Chinese state – something it has denied – and could be used to spy on people in the West.

The US restrictions saw Google announce that it would limit Huawei’s access to its Android operating system for future devices, although these have since been eased through a temporary licence to trade some items.

Amid the stand-off, the company has insisted that nothing would change for existing Huawei device users and their phones – all currently running Android – would continue to function as normal.

Chris Price
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