Huawei is ditching Android apps with ‘HarmonyOS Next’

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

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Huawei could say goodbye to Android apps for good next year


  • 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, 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

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Huawei phones are flagging Google apps as malware

A number of Chinese-built smartphones are displaying a strange warning claiming that the Google Android app is malicious and should be immediately deleted.

Reports have claimed some Huawei, Honor, and Vivo smartphones and tablets are all displaying a “Security threat” alert, detecting the Google app as “TrojanSMS-PA”.

The details for the warning elaborate that the app is secretly sending SMS messages and could cause material damage to the user: “This app was detected sending SMS privately, enticing users to pay with adult content, downloading/installing apps privately, or stealing private information, which may cause property damage and privacy leakage,” the warning reads. “We recommend uninstalling it immediately.”

Huawei Optimizer to blame

To further complicate things, the warnings were being displayed on devices built before the China ban, so the app came pre-loaded on the phones and tablets, and wasn’t sideloaded.

In a statement given to BleepingComputer, Google said the warning was not triggered by its Play Protect feature and that the users should take it up with whoever built the devices (meaning Huawei, Vivo, and others). 

“This security notification was not triggered by Google Play Protect and appears to be from a device that is not Play Protect certified and does not have access to officially download Google’s core apps from Play. We recommend contacting the device manufacturer for further information,” said the company’s spokesperson.

“Google Play is the only app store where you can officially download Google’s core apps for Android. All Google apps go through the same rigorous testing as all other apps on Google Play. These tests are designed to ensure that apps are safe, secure, and meet Google’s quality standards.”

Further analysis has shown that the warning was being issued by “Huawei Optimizer”, an app native to Huawei phones. It is yet unclear why other devices

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