HarmonyOS: What you need to know

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Yesterday afternoon Huawei held a rather significant event – one focused on HarmonyOS. We’ve known about the IoT-focused operating system for a couple of years now, with it coming to prominence as the Chinese firm tangled with the US and got boxed out of the Android ecosystem in the process.

That situation shows no signs of changing, which makes HarmonyOS all the more important, as we saw what an ecosystem with this new operating system at its core may look like.

Huawei also showcased some new hardware running HarmonyOS, and teased a new flagship phone, so here is what you need to know about the new OS and whether Google and Apple have anything to worry about right now.

Removing the silos

The first thing to note is that HarmonyOS is designed with interoperability and seamless connectivity in mind.

“While there are more smart devices in our lives than ever, the experience they provide often isn’t smart. Siloed systems tend to complicate interconnectivity and operations, which have ultimately led to a fragmented user experience,” explains Huawei as to the problem this software platform aims to address.

“The Super Device experience is designed to address this problem. It provides a common language for different kinds of devices to connect and collaborate, providing users with a more convenient, smooth, and secure experience. It uses distributed technology to meet the varied needs of all types of different devices with a single system, enabling flexible deployment as needed. It also combines previously independent devices into a cohesive and holistic Super Device that integrates all hardware and resources to freely leverage the capabilities of its component devices based on the user’s real-time needs,” the company adds.

To showcase the Super Device experience as Huawei terms it, five new devices were highlighted by the company – the Watch 3|3 Pro, MateView GT monitor, MatePad Pro, MateView monitor and FreeBuds 4. All of the devices are form factors we’ve encountered from Huawei in the past, with the exception of the monitors, but for right now it looks like Huawei’s focus is very much productivity and wearables based.

For those interested in smartphones, a teaser for the P50 Series ended yesterday’s live streamed event. Leica remains a partner for Huawei and the focus appears very much to be on the camera performance of this upcoming series, although definitive details on the devices remain unknown. The same goes for when Huawei plans to reveal the P50 Series, with no date set for now.

As such, we likely won’t see it at this year’s MWC 21 conference, which is happening in the final week of June.

First to receive

What we do know for now, however, is that HarmonyOS will be making its way to smartphones throughout the rest of 2021. It will still depend on which region of the world you find yourself in, but Huawei has confirmed that the operating system will make its way to some of the newer flagship phones first, such as the Mate 40, P40 and Mate 30 lineups.

In the first half of next year, some older devices will also be getting access to HarmonyOS, including the Mate 10 and Mate 9, along with the P20 and P10.

While it will be interesting to experience HarmonyOS on the Mate 40 Pro, for example, which does not have any access to Google Play services, it remains to be seen if consumers with devices that do support Google will be willing to try out the new operating system.

Either way, Huawei is working to grow its device software ecosystem without the assistance of Google. With more than 100 devices planned to receive access to HarmonyOS in one way or another, there will be plenty of opportunities to test it out.

As Huawei undergoes a significant amount of change in a relatively short amount of time, it will need to ensure it can retain as many customers as possible, with the likes of Oppo and Xiaomi circling, not to mention Samsung greeting those who switch to a different brand with open arms.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.

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