Huawei, once a global powerhouse in the Android smartphone market, has faced a tumultuous journey since the 2019 trade ban that severed its ties with Google apps. The ban, imposed by the U.S. government, led to the abrupt removal of the Play Store on new Huawei devices, resulting in a significant decline in sales. In response to this challenge, Huawei scrambled to create alternative app stores and software solutions to sustain its smartphone business.
In 2021, Huawei introduced HarmonyOS, an Android-based platform that sought to deliver a distinctive user experience while still maintaining compatibility with Android apps. However, recent developments indicate that Huawei is gearing up for a more significant departure from Android with the upcoming HarmonyOS Next.
HarmonyOS Next, unveiled in 2023 during a Huawei developer conference, is described as a “pure version” of HarmonyOS without Android libraries. This iteration aims to replace existing versions of HarmonyOS, signifying Huawei’s ambition to create an independent operating system. Notably, when the original HarmonyOS was launched, Huawei maintained that it was not rooted in Android, despite evidence to the contrary. However, recent hands-on demonstrations in August showed APK files were unopenable, suggesting a more decisive break from Android.
Reports suggest that HarmonyOS Next will remove support for Android-based apps on all devices equipped with the new operating system. Major Chinese tech companies are reportedly rushing to hire developers capable of producing native HarmonyOS apps, underlining a broader industry shift away from Android. The developer preview for HarmonyOS Next is slated for early 2024, promising a deeper exploration of the changes and features that this new version will bring.
One notable departure from Android norms is HarmonyOS Next’s exclusive support for HAP files, eschewing the standard Android app packaging format (APK files). While it’s clear that Huawei is moving away from Android apps, the question remains whether this marks a complete abandonment of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
As the developer preview of HarmonyOS Next approaches, the tech community and users alike will be closely watching to understand the implications of Huawei’s decision. This shift could have far-reaching consequences for Huawei’s global user base and the broader mobile ecosystem, potentially reshaping the competitive landscape in the smartphone industry.