It's no secret that Huawei is working on developing an Android alternative for smartphones, which it calls HarmonyOS. The company has now confirmed that the first batch of HarmonyOS-powered phones would arrive as early as 2021.
During today's Huawei developer conference in Shenzhen, China, Consumer business CEO Richard Yu announced the company's second-generation operating system — HarmonyOS 2.0. A beta version of the HarmonyOS 2.0 SDK is already available for developers starting today.
However, the current iteration will only support smartwatches, car head units, TVs, and IoT devices. A smartphone version of the SDK will arrive in December this year, Yu confirmed.
"At the end of this year, the SDK tools and simulators of HarmonyOS 2.0 will be available to smartphones. Next year we will see smartphones running HarmonyOS 2.0," he said. Some of the HarmonyOS features Yu hinted include an adaptive user interface, voice recognition, device-to-device file transfers, and more.
It's unclear if the HarmonyOS 2.0 SDK will be available globally or will be limited to developers in China only. CEO Yu did mention Chinese developers during his keynote but no word was given on global rollout. We'll have to wait for confirmation on that.
Huawei announces HarmonyOS 2.0, makes it open source
Huawei is also making HarmonyOS open source. The OpenHarmony project will allow developers to build upon an open-source version of the OS, in a similar manner to that of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) for Android OS.
The OpenHarmony project currently only supports devices with 128MB of RAM or below. Huawei expects to expand the memory limit to 4GB by April 2021. And come October 2021, the memory limit will be removed completely.
Huawei has been relying heavily on AOSP in recent times because of the US trade restrictions. The company isn't allowed to do business with American companies, essentially cutting it off from Google's Android OS, though it can still build on the AOSP version.
All of Huawei's current Android-based phones come without Google services. This is particularly a problem outside of China, as Android phones without Google apps such as Maps, Play Store, and Gmail would find it hard to attract buyers. That's possibly why the company is cutting down smartphone production next year.
Huawei does have a plan to improve the app ecosystem on its Google-less phones, though. Its HMS Core (Huawei Mobile Services) already have more than 1.6 million registered developers globally. The company also claims over 81,000 HMS Core apps and 700 million monthly active users.
Huawei's fighting the US sanctions at multiple fronts. While it already has alternatives for Android OS and GMS (Google Mobile Services), it's still struggling to find a solution in the hardware department. The latest US sanctions bar it from obtaining semiconductor chips from any manufacturer that uses US-origin software or technology. It'll be interesting to see how the company emerges out of all this.