Huawei has long been working on its own fork of Android, and on June 2, Huawei’s HarmonyOS will finally make its official debut on phones.
Even before Huawei was officially placed on a blacklist banning the company from buying U.S. tech, the Chinese electronics giant had been developing its offshoot of Android to sidestep the need for critical Google apps and services. And while Huawei has already released a few TVs running its HarmonyOS, the real test will come next week at Huawei’s launch event, when HarmonyOS will finally be released for use on phones.
That said, initial previews of HarmonyOS running on mobile devices have not painted a pretty picture, with Ars Technica describing recent beta versions of HarmonyOS as a rather generic (and somewhat laggy) version of Android 10.
However, even if Huawei manages to clean up and boost the performance of its upcoming OS, the bigger question might be whether HarmonyOS is arriving too late to make a difference.
With Google having launched the public beta for Android 12 last week, Huawei is getting dangerously close to releasing a version of Android that will be two years out of date on day one. On top of that, HarmonyOS seems poised to be Huawei’s mobile OS for devices sold in China and abroad, but because HarmonyOS requires developers to redesign their apps to run on its OS, Huawei will still have to play catchup when it comes to populating its app store (Huawei App Gallery) with the same catalog of software available on traditional Android devices.
But what’s even more pressing is that due in part to the blacklist, Huawei’s phone shipments in Q4 2020 fell by a massive 41%, knocking the manufacturer from its top spot as the world’s biggest smartphone vendor all the way down to number six. And while Huawei has since refuted previous rumors, at one point things looked so dire that multiple reports surfaced claiming Huawei was considering selling off its entire phone business.
Meanwhile, in other OS news, 9to5Google noticed that Google has started to quietly roll out its Fuchsia OS to first-generation Nest Hubs. Previously, first-gen Nest Hubs shipped with Google’s Linux-based Cast OS, but now it looks like Fuchsia is finally ready to power Google’s smart displays for real.
Designed as a flexible OS made to power all sorts of devices—from laptops to tiny IoT gadgets—many expect Fuchsia to eventually supplant both Android and ChromeOS as Google’s all-encompassing OS of choice. However, after Fuchsia was first announced back in 2016, Google has taken a slower, more reserved pace when it comes to rolling out Fuchsia to actual retail devices.
But now that Google has started to push Fuchsia to some Nest Hub devices, Huawei could be facing an even bigger time crunch, as it could have spent all this time and money developing its own fork of Android, only for Google to transition to a brand new OS sometime in the not too distant future.