In the wake of the US trade ban, Huawei phones have been limping along with a cut-down version of Android without any Google apps, the Google Play Store, or crucial underlying Google services – but the company is now ready to launch a new solution in the form of its HarmonyOS software.
HarmonyOS has been in development for years, first as an Internet of Things platform, and lately (out of necessity) as something that can run on smartphones too. At today's launch of the Huawei Mate X2, it was announced that HarmonyOS would be coming to Huawei's flagship phones from April.
Having already appeared on smart speakers, wearables and other devices, it would seem HarmonyOS is almost ready to make the leap to mobile. This isn't a huge surprise, as it's something that Huawei tipped us off about back in September.
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It's not quite finished though, so the Huawei Mate X2 will launch with Google-free Android. It'll be one of the first phones eligible for the HarmonyOS upgrade in April, Huawei has said, with the software update then apparently being made available to other Huawei flagships around the same time.
Details to follow
That's about all the information we've got from Huawei at this point – we're not sure exactly which existing Huawei phones will be eligible for the update, though it's likely that recent premium devices like the Huawei Mate 40 Pro are going to qualify.
We don't know exactly how HarmonyOS will work either, or how it's going to differ from using Android with Huawei's own app store. Huawei has promised that switching OSes will be quick and easy for users, but hasn't supplied much in the way of detail yet.
What we do know is that Huawei is talking up the lightweight nature of HarmonyOS, so it shouldn't put too many demands on your smartphone. It's intended to provide a seamless experience across a whole range of hardware types, so it has to be able to cope with low-end as well as high-end devices.
We will of course keep you right up to date with news of the HarmonyOS update program as we get it from Huawei – including what this means for the software on the Huawei P50 phone series we're expecting to see turn up towards the end of March.