The anti-Google option: Harmony OS arriving in June

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Although I'm OK with Google knowing everything about me through their apps and their 'Play Services', I do recognise that there's an element in the tech world, perhaps more so on AAWP, that is suspicious of Google and would like to go another way for their smartphone. Of course, Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile was a good option here, but sadly abandoned by Microsoft and hardly viable in 2021. There's Apple and iOS, of course, but perhaps some of the same concerns apply, i.e. 'big tech' knowing what you're up to. Then there are super niche 'Google-less', privacy-conscious Android distributions, such as e/OS, but these are relatively hard work in terms of building up the applications and services you need. But if you've been paying attention to the Huawei-USA bust-up in the last few years, you'll have heard of 'Harmony OS' and this might be just what the doctor ordered...

In a nutshell, Trump's USA government banned Huawei from using American-owned tech, and this included Google's software services, meaning that we've now had almost two years of Huawei smartphones shipped without the Google Play Store or Play Services. This affects not only Google's first party apps (Maps, Gmail, YouTube, etc), but many third party apps and games that tie into Play Services. Plus Google Pay is out, of course. This has been a right pain for Huawei to navigate and so far they've been shipping their EMUI skin on top of the base (Open Source) Android OS, but with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), along with a makeshift Huawei App Gallery. Over time, this has grown to include many of the popular Android applications and games, but certainly not all - and end users like us also usually have to install one of the many third party application stores that has a wider selection of downloads, even at the risk of not knowing the exact ancestry of each item in terms of uploader and legitimacy.

In short, it's been a mess. Huawei's 'Harmony OS' aims to simplify things... slightly. It's still EMUI and HMS on top of AOSP (Android Open Source Project), but it's held together rather more formally and with fewer of the 'joins' showing. So ignore Huawei's claims about this being a new mobile OS - it's not - but do give them some credit for persevering under circumstances that would have seen other companies throw in the mobile towel.

From GSM Arena today:

Huawei president of Consumer Business Group hosted a TEDx keynote in Shenzhen, China, revealing future plans for the company’s division of mobile and IoT devices. Dr. Wang Chenglu confirmed that “many devices” will be able to switch to Harmony OS 2.0 by June 2021. The executive expects 300 million smartphones, tablets, and other IoT devices to have the Harmony OS by the end of the calendar year.

After the announcement a tipster shared on Huawei’s fan forum that the P50 flagship series will be postponed to June so it can become the Harmony pioneer. The flagships will launch alongside the MatePad Pro 2 tablet, which will also run the new OS out of the box.

Earlier reports suggested Huawei and Honor devices that are on EMUI 11 and Magic UI 4 can switch to Harmony OS 2.0. However, some Chinese sources claim it will be only for Kirin-powered devices, meaning phones with a Snapdragon or Mediatek chipsets won’t be eligible.

Dr. Wang Chenglu, President at Huawei Consumer Business Group
Dr. Wang Chenglu, President at Huawei Consumer Business Group

A Honor 9X unit that is testing Huawei’s own OS is already on Beta 3.0, meaning the Chinese manufacturer is going strong with the development of its in-house ecosystem. The software package is also available to P40, Mate 30 and MatePad Pro devices, but only Chinese units for now. Once Huawei is ready with the implementation at home, then we can eventually hope that one day HarmonyOS 2.0 will go global.

Although Biden's USA relenting and letting Huawei back into the party would have been preferable, at least this is a more cohesive way forwards for Huawei. I can't see many existing P and Mate series owners from the pre-ban era agreeing to the upgrade to Harmony OS, but maybe it'll only be offered to post-ban handsets like the otherwise excellent P40 Pro, which I have here and can test in a few months time. Watch this space.

In any case, if you're vehemently anti-Google and don't mind giving your data to Huawei, and if you don't want to switch to iOS and Apple, then maybe this is worth considering?

Source / Credit: GSM Arena