06 December 2019
It has been a few months since Huawei announced HarmonyOS, its homegrown operating system meant for all types of devices including smartphones. Many have been expecting it to be an Android replacement for Huawei and Honor devices to get around the trade ban imposed by the U.S. government. Even though Huawei has tried to maintain a moral high ground by saying that it does not want to use HarmonyOS on smartphones unless forced to do so, one of the top executives has now offered a contrasting statement.
Joy Tan, VP of Public Relations for Huawei US, told Financial Times that HarmonyOS is still years behind when it comes to replacing Android. He further admitted that the company is indeed struggling because of the ban and has found the situation to be a lot more difficult than it thought it would be in the beginning.
In the interview, Tan said:
“Yes. We have to find alternative solutions for that ecosystem, but it’s going to take some time to build. There are so many Android users in Europe and south-east Asia, and they're so used to these Google applications on top of Android phones.”
His words are indeed true as Android is currently the world's biggest smartphone operating system with a market share of around 88%. It will take a good number of years for any new operating system to even make a dent, let alone getting close to replacing and then actually replacing Android. We have seen the likes of Samsung's Tizen and Microsoft's Windows Phone platforms trying very hard and eventually failing at it.
This is the reason Huawei is now shifting its focus to replacing Google Mobile Services (GMS) from trying to replace Android as a whole. Android is basically an open-source platform but it is GMS which makes it the way everyone has become used to using it. GMS is responsible for all the Google apps and services that you have on your device including the Play Store. It is also the very thing Huawei is banned from using in its new products and as a result, the Mate 30 series was launched with Android but no Google apps or services.
Huawei wants to spend its resources and money on Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) to replace what has been missing on its new phones. While it will find it relatively easy to replace apps like maps, clock, and calendar, it is the Play Store which will be the biggest roadblock. AppGallery is Huawei's app store that comes pre-installed on its phones but it is more like an extra option for installing apps and games. With no Play Store access, it will difficult for Huawei to convince all major app developers to bring their apps and games to its own store. And we all know that without a robust app ecosystem, any new mobile operating system is bound to fail sooner or later.