Here’s why Huawei’s ‘HarmonyOS’ won’t be replacing ‘Android’ anytime soon

Users of Huawei‘s smartphones in Nigeria and across Africa need not jubilate yet to the announcement of the newly developed Operating System (OS) by the Chinese tech company. Huawei unveiled its much-publicised HarmonyOS which is expected to replace Android. Information available however states that there are no immediate plans to replace Google‘s ‘OS’ – at least not in the next three years.

The HarmonyOS is an interconnected system that is tailored to meet the advanced setting of devices, connecting home devices to cars, smartphones and wristwatches. It is Huawei’s answer to Donald Trump’s clampdown on the growth of the biggest Chinese tech firm.

But while the world expected the HarmonyOS to hit the ground running, Huawei has announced that the Operating System won’t be used on its Huawei smartphones in the next three years.

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Test run period? The Operating System seems to still be on a test run as the company did not include its smartphones among the devices the OS will be deployed on. The company announced the timeline for the deployment.

  • Huawei watches and bracelets will be equipped with HarmonyOS by 2020.
  • Huawei intends to launch some notebook models with HarmonyOS.
  • HarmonyOS will be incorporated with Huawei’s connected speakers and headphones in 2021.
  • Huawei’s augmented reality glasses will be launched in 2022 with HarmonyOS.

Empty Wallet: The HarmonyOS is nothing compared to Google’s AndroidOS which is home to multiple Apps (applications). HarmonyOS does not have many Apps. It’s still empty. Despite being an ecosystem, its lack of applications makes it inferior to Android’s Google Play Store which provides consumers with more than 2.5 million downloadable applications.

For Huawei to have many apps like Google, it has made sure HarmonyOS supports applications developed in Java, C/C++, JavaScript/HTML5 and Kotlin. Apps developed for Android are also suitable for HarmonyOS but developers will still have to recompile their Apps specifically for HarmonyOS. This is where Huawei is expected to hit a rock trying to convince developers.

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Not developers’ taste? While HarmonyOS is the talk of the town, it’s not yet popular enough for developers. This judgement appears to be coming too early but it factors in future occurrences like a sudden deployment of HarmonyOS on Huawei’s smartphones if the Chinese company loses complete access to Android.

The operating system is currently a credit card without money inside. This means that while Huawei’s OS is a dream-come-true open-source and supporter of Internet-of-Things (IoT) compared to Android, its value is currently next to nothing without apps present.

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A blessing and a curse: What makes HarmonyOS a blessing for users is also its curse. While it’s expected that Huawei will spend big to lure developers to produce applications for its OS, developers might find the multi-functional tendency of HarmonyOS as a problem. It was learnt that developing an app that is suitable for all devices might result in poor user experience.

“For instance, when I put an experience on a TV that also needs to work on a phone, I either have to have a massive amount of conditional logic —in essence, building two separate user interfaces — or I build to the lowest common denominator, making both experiences look poor,” the Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, Michael Facemire, explained.

It was also added that the uniqueness of an app drops if it’s multi-functional.

But Huawei says it’s battle-ready: Despite the doubt trailing HarmonyOS, when push comes to shove, Huawei says it’s battle-ready to withstand a negative outcome of the trade war between China and the United States.

The company says while it is not ready to equip its smartphones with HarmonyOS, with the intention to continue depending on Android, if the company loses its right to Android due to the trade war, HarmonyOS is a suitable alternative and capable of replacing Android by 2020.

“If we cannot use [Android] in the future, we can immediately switch to HarmonyOS,” Richard Yu, CEO of the company’s Consumer Business Group said.

However, as easy as Yu made it seem, such switch or transition is not a walk in the park as the HarmonyOS is believed to be created differently from that of a smartphone’s Operating System. Also, it is unsure if any developer is willing to take a bumpy ride with Huawei’s HarmonyOS in its early days.

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