[Update 5: Possible Q4 Launch] Huawei’s Android alternative may be coming this Fall with Android app compatibility
The biggest story in the tech world this week is President Trump’s executive order to restrict U.S. companies from supplying products to Huawei. One result of this is Google revoking Huawei’s Android license. The U.S. Commerce Department has already softened the restrictions, but it’s clear the company should be concerned about their future with Android. The company has been working on a backup OS since 2012 and now we know a little more about it.
According to a report by Chinese publication Caijing, Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group, has revealed details about Huawei’s OS. It will apparently be available later this Fall or early next year on phones, computers, tablets, TVs, cars, and wearables. The OS will be compatible with all Android apps and they can also be recompiled to improve performance.
After the news of Google revoking Huawei’s Android license, many assumed that they would simply build an OS based on AOSP. It may not be that simple. They may not be able to use any OS that contains copyright belonging to a U.S. company. So this news of Android app support is a pretty big deal since other Android alternatives, such as Tizen, do not support Android apps out of the box.
Huawei devices have become incredibly popular over the last few years, meaning there are millions of people relying on Android apps on their Huawei phones. People won’t want to give up those apps if they move to a new Huawei device.
This situation is far from over. Huawei is already working closely with Google to work on a solution. At the end of all of this, Huawei may still be allowed to use Android and Google Play services. But it’s important to know the company has a backup plan and it involves Android in some capacity.
Thanks to @Aeeeb_Ping for the tip!
Update 1: Reportedly “Far from ready”
The Information‘s report differs greatly from what was reported earlier. Rather than being ready this Fall or early next year, they claim the OS is “far from ready.” It is reportedly being referred to as “Project Z” internally. The report also claims this OS would rely on 3rd-party developers to create apps for it, which may shoot down the idea of Android apps being able to run on the OS.
According to the report, Huawei has been working on Project Z for several years, but its original intention was to be for their home Chinese market, and not a full Android replacement. If all of this is true, Huawei’s post-Android future may not be as positive as they’d like people to think.
Update 2: May Roll Out Next Month
The roller coaster ride continues. First, it was reported that Huawei’s Android alternative would be ready this Fall or next Spring. Then it was reportedly still “Far from ready.” The pendulum is swinging back as a new report claims it will be rolling out next month already.
It’s important to note that this new information comes from the Managing Director and Vice President of Huawei Enterprise Business Group Middle East. The OS is apparently codenamed “HongMeng” and was ready all the way back in January of 2018 as a “Plan B” waiting in the wings. As the initial report claimed, the OS, possibly called “Ark OS” at launch, will be compatible with phones, computers, tablets, TVs, cars, and wearables. And it is still expected to have compatibility with Android apps.
Update 3: Not launching in June
The roller coaster goes back down. A Huawei representative reached out to TechRadar to confirm that the Android alternative OS will not be launching next month. They confirmed the initial report from last week that said the OS could be ready for China in the Fall and internationally in 2020. Everything else about this OS is still very much unknown.
Update 4: Not for Smartphones
According to Xinhua (via The Verge), Huawei Senior Vice President Catherine Chen told reporters in Brussels that the company’s Hongmeng OS isn’t intended for smartphones. Xinhua states that Chen “was unequivocal” about this fact. According to Chen, Hongmeng is for “industrial use” and has been in development for far longer than Huawei’s efforts began to find an Android alternative. Lastly, Chen states the Huawei intends to continue using Android for smartphones. In our view, this comes as no surprise since it would be an absolutely monumental, if not impossible, effort to replace Android on such short notice.
Update 5: Possibly launching on a smartphone in Q4 2019
The confusion over Hongmeng OS prevails, as latest reports suggest that Huawei could launch the new OS on a smartphone after all. Chinese state media outlet Global Times (via Reuters) reports that Huawei is testing a smartphone with Hongmeng OS, and it could potentially go on sale by the end of this year, with a launch expected alongside the Huawei Mate 30 series. The phone is expected to be priced around CNY 2,000 (~$288), which means that the phone is definitely not targeting the higher end of the market. The low pricing of the phone would primarily be to attract software developers and users to join the new ecosystem.
Huawei is set to release Hongmeng OS at Huawei’s Developer Conference on August 9 in China. The launch of a smartphone with the new OS would definitely be against the “unequivocal” claims from senior Huawei executives, but the Chinese company is being forced into a corner by the prolongation of the effects of the US ban despite promises of relief.