HarmonyOS isn't going to replace Android on Huawei phones after all

Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Huawei Mate 30 Pro (Image credit: TechRadar)

Huawei had a tumultuous 2019: after the Android ban cast doubt on whether future Huawei phones would have Google's operating system, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer unveiled HarmonyOS, its new operating system. We assumed HarmonyOS would be loaded on future Huawei smartphones – but it looks like the Huawei P40 and beyond will actually stick with Android.

That's according to Huawei's President of Global Media and Communications, Joy Tan, as reported by Chinese news site MyDrivers. According to Tan "a viable alternative to Android's operating system will take years to complete."

On top of that, Tan suggests there are too many Android users, and they might not be willing to make the move to HarmonyOS (according to Statista, in mid-2018 88% of smartphones worldwide were running Android, which is a huge number of consumers).

Instead, Huawei is aiming to replace Google Mobile Services (GMS) with its own collection of apps that do the same thing. Huawei is only banned from using GMS, not the actual Android platform, so by replacing GMS apps with its own, it would circumvent the entire ban.

The problem with Huawei Mobile Services

Huawei could quite easily replace many of the popular Google apps, like Maps, Chrome and Gmail, with its own versions, although they likely won't be quite as good from the outset. There's one thing it won't be able to copy quite so easily, though: the Google Play Store.

The Play Store is where you find all the popular third-party Android apps like games, media platforms (Netflix, Spotify etc), and all the other apps you use everyday. Without the Play Store, your phone would have severely limited functions (unless you went to the effort of side-loading every single app individually).

When the Huawei Mate 30 Pro launched, it didn't have any of the GMS, which made it very hard to recommend to anyone.

Huawei could try to create a true rival app store, but it would need a lot of confidence from third-party developers in order for them to put their apps on the platform, which could in turn take a lot of time and money.

So while future phones from Huawei like the Huawei P40, Mate 40 and Honor View 30 will apparently stick with Android as a platform instead of HarmonyOS, it could be a while longer before they get the full functionality of any other Android phone.

Via GSMArena

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.