Huawei’s upcoming Hongmeng OS has been touted as Huawei’s next platform in the current political climate, but chairman Liang Hua says it’s an IoT platform for autonomous vehicles, not mobile phones.
This means that Hongmeng OS is designed for other devices, to see how they work together, but designing the OS for mobile phones is a different beast altogether. Chairman Hua says that Android is still Huawei’s go-to choice for mobile devices. Making the platform for autonomous vehicles and telemedicine, even, is smart because of their low-latency operations in the milliseconds. Huawei says it may even get the latency to drop to the sub-milliseconds level. And yet, this isn’t ideal for mobile phones.
When asked in an interview about the current political climate with the US Entity List and subsequent ban, Huawei’s chairman said that they wanted to go with Android but that, if Huawei was forced to, it would develop its own operating system.
These answers shouldn’t be a surprise because Huawei has said before that it prefers to stay with its Android partners and with the Android operating system (as well as with Microsoft and Windows), but that it would develop its own operating system if forced to by sheer necessity. And yet, sources say that Hongmeng was developed for the sole goal of being the Android alternative in the event of a US ban, that Huawei planned for such a ban in advance seven years ago and that the company has been actively developing Hongmeng ever since.
It’s also been said that Hongmeng is 60% faster than Android and that Android OEMs Oppo and Vivo have been testing it out on their respective devices. Why would Huawei let Oppo and Vivo test out the new OS if it’s only an IoT solution for vehicles and telehealth rather than mobile devices? Huawei has also been testing out Hongmeng on the upcoming Mate 30 series, another sign that the company intends to use Hongmeng on mobile devices and that it’s testing Hongmeng for use in the near future (and not sometime in distant years down the road).
As for Android compatibility, it was said at one time that Huawei struggled with this technical aspect of the new OS. In fact, Huawei emailed Google Play developers, asking them to come make their apps for Huawei’s own platform. An email leaked from XDA Developers to this effect. If Huawei isn’t trying to get an app store, and thus, mobile OS off the ground, what is the point of requesting Google Play developers come make apps for it? Google Play developers are mobile developers who develop for Android, a mobile platform.
Last but not least, Huawei says Hongmeng is for IoT, not mobile, but if this is true, why is Huawei developing new boot animations and developing a camera app for the platform? Do autonomous vehicles need a camera app? Are boot animations that important to autonomous vehicles?
US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in mid-May, placing Huawei on the US Entity List with a ban for all American companies to stay away from it. Though Trump has relaxed his policy, allowing high-tech American companies to sell to Huawei once more, and granting new selling licenses to other American entities, Huawei is still on the Entity List — and the Android license revocation rule is still scheduled to take effect on August 19th. What will Huawei do when August 20th comes and it can no longer use Google’s Android? Will Huawei resort to barebones AOSP as the best it can do under short notice?
If we assume that Huawei is correct about Hongmeng, it doesn’t explain why the company is testing it out on mobile devices. If this is something separate from them, why use the platform to test out phones at all? And yet, Huawei is testing it out because it is in a desperate situation. It knows that, if the Android license revocation takes effect next month, it will be desperate to use anything available to sell its upcoming Mate 30. So, what Huawei really means by “it’s for IoT and not mobile” is that it didn’t design Hongmeng for mobile but that, if forced to, it will do what it takes to continue selling mobile devices.
Huawei could have other platforms ready for mobile, such as Jolla, for example, but Huawei will need to come up with a solution quick. And, since the company is testing out Hongmeng on the Mate 30, it’s an educated suspicion that Huawei intends to use Hongmeng for the long haul.
But it’s also an educated suspicion that Huawei, having received some sort of olive branch with Trump’s relaxation of his May ban, doesn’t want to offend Trump or Google by appearing to be on the road to self-sufficiency in the mobile sector because it just might encourage Trump to let the Android license be revoked instead of coming to some sort of temporary truce and restoring Huawei’s access to Android.
If Hongmeng is ready for primetime, it’ll arrive on low-end devices first (at least according to Huawei) and the Chinese market at least in October.