Huawei’s relationship with Android has been a tough one ever since the 2019 trade ban that cut the company off from Google apps. Now, it’s looking like Huawei is preparing to further give up on Android with a new version of HarmonyOS.
Prior to the 2019 US ban, Huawei was one of the largest Android smartphone manufacturers on the planet and had built a huge business both in China and globally selling its rather good smartphones. That quickly changed, with the abrupt removal of the Play Store on new Huawei devices leading to dropping sales figures and the company scrambling to come up with alternate app stores and software for new devices.
Huawei’s efforts to “replace” Android came to a head in 2021 with the launch of “HarmonyOS,” an Android-based platform that would make more drastic changes to the experience while still retaining the library of sideloadable apps available on Android.
Now, Huawei is preparing the next step in that journey.
“HarmonyOS Next” was announced earlier this year as a part of a Huawei developer conference.
At the time, outlets such as Huawei Central said that “Next” is “a pure version of the HarmonyOS operating system without Android libraries” and that it would replace existing versions of the platform.
And, really, that’s a tough statement to take at face value, given Huawei’s history here. When the original HarmonyOS was announced, the company insisted that it wasn’t Android even though there was tremendous evidence that it was. However, it does seem there’s more to it this time around. In a hands-on demo from August that was shared on Weibo (via SparrowsNews), APK files couldn’t be opened at all, even though the overall UI still looked like Huawei’s Android-based designs, as seen below.
Why is this all just coming to light now?
As reported by the South China Morning Post this week, major Chinese tech companies are rushing to hire developers who can produce native HarmonyOS apps.
The report reiterates that “Next” will “involve removing support for Android-based apps on all the company’s devices installed with that new operating system” and that a developer preview is coming in early 2024. Pandaily (via GSMArena) also adds that “Next” will not support APK files and rather only “HAP,” which is explained on HarmonyOS’ developer website to be just a part of a full app package.
It’s definitely clear that Huawei is pulling the plug on Android apps, but it’s still rather hard to believe that the company is throwing away Android (AOSP) entirely. For that, we’ll just have to wait and see, as more digging can be done when “Next” hits the scene next year.
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