- Huawei’s HarmonyOS will soon drop support for all Android libraries, meaning users won’t be able to sideload or install Android APKs on Huawei phones running the upcoming HarmonyOS Next.
- Major Chinese tech companies are hiring HarmonyOS app developers ahead of the HarmonyOS Next developer preview, signaling a move towards native apps for Huawei’s phones.
- While HarmonyOS is already running on over 700 million devices in China, the implications of dropping Android app support on Huawei’s international phones remain unclear.
The US sanctions knocked the wind out of Huawei’s smartphone business. Due to the ban, the Chinese company could not use US technology in its phones, which also cut off its access to Android. To ensure its survival and as a part of its strategy to diversify away from US tech, Huawei announced HarmonyOS in August 2019, its cross-platform Android replacement. Despite the company claiming otherwise, the OS was based on Android and supported Android apps. Four years later, Huawei appears ready to ditch Android app support in its OS.
HarmonyOS phones sold in China have never shipped with access to Google Play Services and the Play Store. But since the underlying OS was based on Android, you could sideload popular Android apps from third-party app stores with ease. With HarmonyOS Next — the upcoming major release of Huawei’s operating system, the Chinese company will drop support for all Android libraries. This effectively means it won’t be possible to sideload or install Android APKs on Huawei phones running HarmonyOS Next.
A South China Morning Post report claims that major Chinese tech companies like JD.com, Netease, and Meituan are hiring HarmonyOS app developers to build native apps for Huawei’s phones. This move comes ahead of the HarmonyOS Next developer preview launching in Q1 2024. A Pandaily report further confirms this and claims HarmonyOS Next will only support the “HAP” installation package.
While Huawei officially announced HarmonyOS Next earlier this year, little is known about the changes it will bring besides dropping Android app support. The OS itself may continue to use AOSP as its base but skip including support for Android app libraries.
Even then, the implications of this move on Huawei’s phones sold internationally are unclear. While such phones also miss out on Play Store support, you could sideload popular Android apps on them. Without the necessary app libraries, though, this won’t be possible. Given the company’s minuscule international market share, it’s likely not too worried about this.
HarmonyOS powers more than smartphones — it is also found on Huawei’s other devices, including tablets, smartwatches, and IoT products. It is seemingly already running on over 700 million devices in China, with 2.2 million app developers creating apps for the platform.
Huawei’s move to drop Android app support in HarmonyOS comes just as it has made a strong comeback in the Chinese smartphone market following the release of the Mate 60 series in China. In the quarter ending September, the company reported a 37% YoY increase in smartphone sales thanks to its new phones despite the overall market shrinking.
Interestingly, Xiaomi also recently unveiled its new OS and MIUI replacement, HyperOS. Like HarmonyOS, the company claims HyperOS will power all its devices from different segments and offer deep integration. However, that OS is still based on Android and supports sideloading of APKs.