This morning in a livestream, Huawei formally kicked off the launch of Concord OS, its in-house working system and (amongst different issues) its alternative for Android. The corporate introduced a brand new watch, a brand new pill, and a brand new cellphone powered by HarmonyOS. The corporate additionally stated it could be updating an enormous record of 100 completely different Huawei Android cellphone fashions to Concord OS over the following 12 months.
With right this moment’s announcement, Huawei appears to be like prefer it has two utterly completely different working programs that it calls “HarmonyOS.” First is the IoT and smartwatch model of HarmonyOS, which is predicated on Huawei’s LiteOS and is open source. The second model of Concord OS is for telephones and tablets and is a fork of Android and makes use of the Linux kernel (Huawei may be very reluctant to confess this). Having what looks like two completely completely different working programs share the identical model title results in numerous confusion, and you can also make numerous claims concerning the IoT model of HarmonyOS that do not apply to the cellphone model.
As an example, TechCrunch spoke to Huawei and reported “Huawei denied speculations that HarmonyOS is a by-product of Android and stated no single line of code is an identical to that of Android. A spokesperson for Huawei declined to say whether or not the working system is predicated on Linux, the kernel that powers Android.” This assertion is true of the IoT model however unfaithful of the cellphone model. In the meantime, the corporate stated the exact opposite factor to the German web site ComputerBase, which quotes Huawei’s software program president as saying “To ensure our present customers can nonetheless benefit from the experiences that they’re acquainted with in our telephones and tablets, Huawei makes use of the open supply code from AOSP in HarmonyOS on the situation of complying with open supply license guidelines and fulfilling associated obligations and obligations.”
HarmonyOS: Nonetheless simply Android (on telephones, a minimum of)
Within the wake of the US export ban on Huawei, the corporate is presently struggling to be impartial from the US provide chain. China has loads of hardware-component producers that Huawei can depend on, however China does not do enormous quantities of software program improvement. So software program is the company’s biggest problem. HarmonyOS is meant to be the reply to that drawback, so Huawei desires to promote the OS as an in-house creation that enables it to interrupt freed from US affect. Huawei does not appear to love it while you level out that Concord OS for telephones is closely based mostly on Android.
We tried the OS within the official emulator a couple of months in the past although, and there was no query that we have been an Android fork. HarmonyOS was an identical to what Huawei ships on its Android telephones, save for a couple of adjustments to the “about” display screen that swapped out the phrases “Android” and “EMUI” (Huawei’s Android pores and skin) for “HarmonyOS.” Huawei even missed a couple of spots the place the OS nonetheless stated “Android.” The OS ran Android apps and supported each Android characteristic with an implementation that was an identical to Android. It used the Linux kernel and listed the model on the “About” display screen. Growth used the “Android Debug Bridge,” Huawei’s SDK listed 27 completely different Android libraries within the third-party software program record, and it compiled Android apps with a distinct file extension. It was Android with no discernible variations.
One other main nit I’ve to select with HarmonyOS is its lack of entry and transparency. Simply accessing the SDK and emulator required me to undergo an insane course of that concerned importing a photograph of my US passport and bank card to Huawei’s servers in order that I may very well be authorized to entry the SDK after a two-day ready interval. Most corporations simply have a obtain hyperlink. You do not get to run the emulator domestically in your pc, the place it may very well be inspected extra completely—as a substitute, it runs remotely on a server in China someplace, and video of it’s streamed to your pc. After we wrote our article, Huawei took down the emulator and blocked “abroad” customers from downloading the SDK.
HarmonyOS will not have many choices for hiding as soon as it rolls out to gadgets, although. The Verge notes that the MatePad Professional pill comes with Huawei’s “AppGallery” Android app retailer and runs Android apps, as a result of, in fact, it is simply Android.
Forking Android just isn’t an enormous deal, and large corporations like Amazon do it for its FireOS. The distinction is that Amazon is upfront about it and says “FireOS is a fork of Android” within the first paragraph of its developer paperwork. Huawei’s developer paperwork do not reference Android and are principally pure gibberish—and by that I imply they’re paragraphs of buzzwords and round hyperlinks that do not truly talk any technical details about what the OS is or the way it works.
New for HarmonyOS: Android 11 options, iOS design
In right this moment’s present, HarmonyOS (for telephones) acquired a lightweight reskinning and appears barely completely different from the emulator. The primary new characteristic was a brand new fast settings panel that reveals the corporate is not afraid to repeat each large cellular OSes: the design is ripped straight from iOS’s Management Middle, whereas the brand new performance—exhibiting a number of media gamers and a sound output picker—is an Android 11 feature. The HarmonyOS emulator we checked out was based mostly on Android 10, however this media fast settings characteristic suggests this model of Concord has been upgraded to Android 11 and Huawei is simply cribbing extra of the codebase.
HarmonyOS additionally has a characteristic known as “Tremendous Gadget,” which simply appears to be a networking characteristic alongside the traces of Google Forged, AirPlay, or Bluetooth. When all of the gadgets in your own home run Concord OS, Huawei says you’ll use some pedestrian-sounding networking options like pairing a drone to a smartphone for distant management, utilizing a pill stylus in your PC, or connecting wi-fi earbuds to your cellphone. The corporate confirmed a plugin for Huawei Home windows PCs that may allow you to rapidly switch information to a cellphone. Huawei imagined some wild good dwelling integration like tapping a cellphone towards a toaster oven to search for recipes. There was additionally a HarmonyOS-power fridge.
As a part of the Concord OS rollout, Huawei is doing an enormous in-place improve to about 100 completely different fashions of Huawei Android telephones that can swap them over to Concord OS. Usually, growing a brand-new OS and supporting 100 previous fashions can be an costly, herculean effort that the majority corporations would name “infeasible,” however since Concord OS is admittedly simply Android, it is not as large of a deal. We won’t promise all of those telephones are shifting to Android 11, both—they might simply be getting primary rebranding adjustments of their present software program.
The primary batch of telephones is being upgraded right this moment, June 2, which incorporates Huawei flagships just like the Mate 40 and 30 sequence, P40 sequence, and the foldable Mate X2. Extra batches of telephones are coming in Q3, This autumn, and 2021 H1. Huawei promised switchers that “the efficiency of Concord OS is superior to that of the Android-based EMUI,” however the firm didn’t supply particulars of which areas it claims are higher.
Huawei dropped a couple of hints that it was feeling the ache from the US export ban and every thing else that is happening. It stated it would begin promoting present telephones just like the Mate 40 Professional with HarmonyOS out of the field however famous that, “as a consequence of restrictions imposed by the US,” it could not be capable to supply these telephones with 5G. The corporate additionally briefly teased its subsequent flagship, the P50, however stated “For causes you’re all conscious of, a launch date has not but been set, however we are attempting to determine the right way to make this nice product out there to you.” Really Huawei, we’re undecided which disaster that is referencing. Is that this as a consequence of COVID? The US export ban? The worldwide chip scarcity? There may be an excessive amount of happening proper now to be imprecise.
So to recap: yesterday, Huawei was transport smartwatches utilizing LiteOS, and right this moment, it is transport smartwatches with “HarmonyOS,” which is predicated on LiteOS. Yesterday, it was transport telephones and tablets utilizing a forked model of Android without Google services. In the present day, Huawei is transport “HarmonyOS” on telephones and tablets, which is forked Android with out Google providers. Did something truly change right here?
Itemizing picture by Huawei