What is Huawei HarmonyOS? Android Q and iOS 13 rival enters its 2.0 beta

Huawei announced that it had begun work on its own HarmonyOS operating system over a year ago. Today the company officially revealed the 2.0 developer beta of its Android Q and iOS 13 rival.

The latest milestone for the Huawei operating system, previously thought to be called Hongmeng, was announced at the annual Huawei Developer Day in Beijing on December 16.

This version of HarmonyOS is designed to give developers access to the system’s over 15,000 APIs and tools, including the DevEco Studio simulator, to begin developing HarmonyOS-compatible mobile apps.

Developers are required to apply for the 2.0 beta on Huawei’s developer website, meaning the OS isn’t available to consumers just yet (though you can register), but the announcement suggests that the OS will be on its way to our smartphones soon.

“HarmonyOS is a true milestone, as it has redefined how people and devices interact with each other in every facet of daily life”, said president of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group Software Engineering department Wang Chenglu at the beta’s launch.

“Devices and services are no longer limited to specific life scenarios, now that users can freely customize how their devices work to account for any setting. HarmonyOS will create ‘super devices’ that come with more enriching apps than ever, as well as life-altering ‘super services’”.

With smartphones and tablets set to gain access to these “super services” soon, here’s everything we know about HarmonyOS so far.

What is Huawei HarmonyOS?

HarmonyOS is a new operating system developed by Huawei. It was unveiled by Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, at the company’s Developer Conference in China on August 9 2019 and entered into its 2.0 developers beta for smartphones in December 2020.

According to Huawei it is a “lightweight” operating system designed to work on multiple different device types including mobile phones, smartwatches, smart screens and cars.

The OS was originally believed to be called Hongmeng. Its launch is believed to be a direct reaction against a recent Executive Order from the US White House against Huawei. The order went out in May and forced numerous tech companies including Google, Intel, ARM and Microsoft to diminish ties with the company. This lead to questions if Huawei’s future smartphones, like the Mate 30, would be able to run Android or access key services like the Google Play Store.

Related: Best Android phones 2019

What features and apps will Huawei HarmonyOS have?

At the moment, not many. HarmonyOS has only just opened its OS up to developers and is currently trying to court them into the ecosystem by showing off how easy it is to create apps for it.

We know that HarmonyOS aims to leverage phone-watch collaboration to enable features such as hands-free ride hailing, with your taxi’s real-time location and license plate number displayed on the watch screen. Huawei has also announced that online shopping will be easier by displaying post-discount pricing.

Yu said the company hopes to differentiate itself from the competing Android and iOS mobile operating system by making it easier for developers to create single apps that work across every device category covered by HarmonyOS.

“HarmonyOS is completely different from Android and iOS. It is a microkernel-based, distributed OS that delivers a smooth experience across all scenarios. It has trustworthy and secure architecture, and it supports seamless collaboration across devices. You can develop your apps once, then flexibly deploy them across a range of different devices,” explained Yu.

Huawei claims the OS will have four key selling points for developers. They are:

  1. Seamless: First-ever device OS with distributed architecture, delivering a seamless experience across devices
  2. Smooth: Deterministic Latency Engine and high-performance IPC
  3. Secure: Microkernel architecture that reshapes security and trustworthiness from the ground up
  4. Unified: Multi-device IDE allows apps to be developed once and deployed across multiple devices

Confused? Don’t worry those are pretty technical pitches. The short version is Huawei wants to make the OS open source to developers and as easy to code on as possible so developers can start making and releasing apps for it ASAP.

When will Huawei HarmonyOS come out?

HarmonyOS 1.0 initially launch on “smart screen products”, with the first smart TV being the Honor Vision in August of last year.

The company plans to expand it to run on a “broader range of smart devices, including wearables, and head units for your car,” over the next three years.

Initially the OS will be limited to the Chinese market, where there’s already a developed non-Google and iOS app ecosystem.

What phones will run Huawei HarmonyOS?

At the moment there aren’t any confirmed phones with HarmonyOS. Though a report from a Slashgear contributor yesterday suggested a version of the Huawei Mate 30 will feature it. This hasn’t been confirmed by Huawei.

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