Huawei will incorporate Android 11 features into EMUI 11 and enable updating to Harmony OS
Huawei recently surprised people by launching EMUI 11, the company’s latest version of its custom Android-based software, on top of last year’s Android 10 instead of the new Android 11 release. The reason that announcement surprised people is that, after EMUI 5, Huawei shifted its EMUI numbering scheme to match the Android version number. Thus, EMUI 8 was based on Android 8 Oreo, EMUI 9 was based on Android 9 Pie, and EMUI 10 was based on Android 10. Most people would see the pattern here and think that EMUI 11 would be based on Android 11, but things have been very complicated for the Chinese tech giant since the middle of last year, to say the least. Fortunately, though, we now have confirmation that Huawei will be selectively adding some of Android 11’s new features into future versions of EMUI 11.
A spokesperson for Huawei told Android Authority that “after Android 11 is officially open-sourced, we will selectively incorporate some of its features into EMUI 11.” Due to U.S. trade restrictions levied at the company last year, Huawei didn’t have access to the Android 11 source code until it went public earlier this week, meaning they couldn’t start to rebase EMUI on top of Android 11 until very, very recently. The actual process of porting EMUI to the new Android 11 codebase will take months of development effort, though, which is likely why Huawei is working to “selectively incorporate” some of its new features into its existing Android 10-based EMUI 11. Perhaps we’ll see these new features show up in a point release, such as EMUI 11.1. That will hold some people over until Huawei is ready to release a proper Android 11-based EMUI, though the company didn’t actually say which of Android 11’s new features will make their way to EMUI 11.
In addition to unveiling EMUI 11 at the Huawei Developer Conference, Huawei also announced Harmony OS 2.0, the latest version of Huawei’s in-house operating system, and said they were aiming to ship smartphones with it in 2021. In a statement sent to Android Authority, the company confirmed that “devices running the new distributed-technology based EMUI 11 will be eligible for upgrade to Harmony OS in the future“. It’s possible that Huawei plans to offer an upgrade to Harmony OS 2.0 rather than Android 11 come next year, but this is pure speculation as the situation with Huawei could change after the upcoming U.S. election. We still don’t know how far along Harmony OS for smartphones actually is and whether or not Huawei will slow down development on it if they regain their Android license. This statement also leaves open the possibility that only a select number of devices running EMUI 11—possibly its latest devices without GMS—will be eligible to receive an update to Harmony OS.
Regardless, the company has confirmed that Harmony OS is coming to smartphones near the end of 2021. For better or worse, 2021 will be an interesting year for Huawei.