Harmony OS, or correctly spelled as HarmonyOS, (HongmengOS in China) is Huawei’s answer to their ban from the Android ecosystem that happened in 2019. Huawei has certainly made an ambitious move by beginning an effort to take back their dominance in the phone market.
While there were rumors dating as far back as 2012 that Huawei is developing an operating system (OS), it never really got anyone’s attention. When the US government handed Huawei a ban, they ramped up their production for the hidden OS. In the same year, they announced that they’re indeed working on their own OS and plan to produce their future phones with HarmonyOS in mind.
What’s the big deal about HarmonyOS?
It’s the potential. HarmonyOS is opensource and designed with the Internet of Things (IoT) in mind. In technical terms, it’s called a microkernel-based distributed operating system. This means that HarmonyOS is completely capable of running on all kinds of smart devices. Smartphones, smart TVs, smartwatches, smart appliances, smart cars, and pretty much anything else.
All applications designed on HarmonyOS are built to run on all capable devices without lag. On paper, this kind of an ecosystem is similar to what Apple has done for so many years. It’s proprietary OS and hardware have allowed their devices to be used seamlessly for ages.
All your devices are in perfect sync most of the time and the experience is often unmatched. That is what Apple sells and it looks like Huawei is going to try and mimic that, but on a much grander scale.
With everything around us slowly becoming connecting to the internet, it’s not going to be long before our entire house ends up being connected to everything inside of it.
HarmonyOS plans to take advantage of this new era of connectivity we’re transitioning to by creating an OS built specifically for this.
We can say that HarmonyOS has 3 distinct features:
1. No Google Apps and services
The rush to create their own OS came soon after Huawei phones could no longer use Google Services and its apps. While we’re all so accustomed to using different Google products in our everyday life, it will be interesting to see what Huawei brings. Currently, Huawei phones feature what is called an AppGallery and it is going to replace the Google Playstore.
The current set of apps on it might not be anything amazing, but Huawei plans to build top-tier apps for their system soon. According to Huawei, there are 96,000 apps on AppGallery and with a strong developer count of 1.8 million.
Given how all of us are super-reliant on multiple Google services and apps, it seems difficult to use a phone without them. Imagine a phone without Youtube, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, etc.
It’s also going to be interesting to see what innovations Huawei comes up with in this regard. The above mentioned apps have changed our daily routines and for the better. Can Huawei come up with something even better?
2. Opensource community
The success of Android can mostly be linked to its opensource community. Anyone with a laptop can develop something for Android and with a public codebase, innovation is inevitable. Creative programmers will certainly enjoy thet merits of an opensource code and we’re very excited to see how they will compete with Android.
With already a decent number of programmers onboard, the number is surely going to rise. Majority of the developers will be from China at this point, but as Huawei expands into more Asian markets, the numbers will skyrocket.
With different cultures getting used to HarmonyOS, we can only speculate at this point how each of them will adopt it.
3. Distributed system
As discussed above, HarmonyOS is designed to create apps that can work on a majority of devices. The seamless transition that could be expected from an app switching between different devices is very interesting. To enjoy it fully, you’ll obviously need a few HarmonyOS-supported devices.
A possible scenario can be if you have a sound and lighting system that both support HarmonyOS. If you play something with a beat, you could sync your lighting with it. With this pairing, you could have your personal disco right in your room. With that kind of an entertainment system, you can bet future parties would be hosted at your house.
The number of possibilities that can arise from interconnected devices will be enormous. From entertainment to productivity, everything will be changed.
HarmonyOS vs Android
While it’s still very early to pit both OSs against each other, there are a few areas where HarmonyOS does seem to have a distinct advantage. One of the current weaknesses of having a massive number of Android phones is app compatibility.
You will have noticed that on high-end Androids, third-party apps that use the camera fail to take advantage of it. This is because developers can’t code the app for each device out there. Sony, Samsung, OnePlus, Nokia, Oppo, HTC, Vivo, and Xiaomi are just some of the top of our head.
At this point, it becomes infeasible to optimize the app for every phone of every brand. This forces developers to (in layman terms) utilize the basic features of the camera.
Apple, on the other hand, enjoys their exclusive and small set of devices. With a very limited number of devices, developers make sure that apps are catered for each of them separately.
When HarmonyOS does officially release on Huawei phones, apps on them will be super efficient. This is because they will be designed with specific Huawei phones in mind, rather than the general Android ones.
HarmonyOS release date
The first official announcement of HarmonyOS came on August 9, 2019. Since then, there has been one major update and that is HarmonyOS 2.0. The 2.0 version released on September 10, 2020.
The HarmonyOS 2.0 SDK is available currently for smartwatches, smart TVs, and head units. They also say that developer tools for smartphones will come sometime in December 2020. According to that, we can assume that 2021 will see phones running HarmonyOS 2.0
How to download HarmonyOS?
You can’t download HarmonyOS as of yet. You can only get your hand on their code. Get access to their code and start developing for it. Just make sure you change the language to English from here.
Let’s get this straight: We’re not fanboys of any brand or OS. That’s why we can’t really say if HarmonyOS is going to be good, bad, or amazing. It’s simply too early to tell.
What we can say is that Huawei is a large company and they’ve been fighting back at their Google ban with full strength. A company their size is not going down without a fight. While it surely is a troubling time for them, we’re going to wait and see what they do from here.
Huawei has a plan and until that is fully revealed, we can’t count them out just yet.
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I love understanding how different technologies work and explaining them to people. From tech guides to opinions, everything is interesting to me. Other than that, I enjoy writing about various science-related topics and conversing with people.