Huawei Technologies officially launched its in-house Harmony operating system for smartphones on Wednesday, as the Chinese telecoms equipment maker seeks to become completely independent of American technology.
At the livestream event, Huawei also unveiled a range of products including a smartwatch, a stylus and a tablet powered by HarmonyOS, along with the announcement of a massive migration that will see roughly 100 other Huawei devices – including phones and tablets – updated to run on HarmonyOS from the current operating system based on Google’s Android platform.
Billing the operating system as an “Internet-of-Things” platform, the President of Huawei Consumer Business Group’s software department Wang Chenglu said HarmonyOS aims will provide “a common language” for different kinds of devices to connect and collaborate, providing users with a more convenient and secure experience. This means that all Harmony-OS-powered devices can be linked together and controlled by a single panel on a smartphone.
HarmonyOS will initially come to recent flagship models including the Mate 40, Mate 30, P40, the foldable Mate X2 and the nova 8 series. The company predicts that by the end of 2021, the number of smart devices equipped with the new operating system will reach 300 million, of which Huawei’s devices will exceed 200 million, with third-party partners accounting for 100 million.
The firm started building the Android and iOS alternative in 2016 and made it open-source for a range of devices last September.
“A HarmonyOS 2 phone can maintain read/write speeds similar to those of a new phone after 36 months of use, even with very little storage still available on the device,” the company said in a press release, adding that it has remained committed to user privacy and security.
In May 2019, the tech giant was put on the U.S.’s Entity List which bars American firms from exporting technology to Chinese firms due to national security concerns. The move cut off Huawei from Google’s Android operating system and threatened its hardware supply, including key chipsets. Huawei has strongly denied that it has any links with the Chinese military.
As a result of the sanctions, the company, which was formerly the world’s biggest smartphone vendor, is now ranked sixth place with a 4% market share in the first quarter, according to Reuters. It was also forced to sell its budget smartphone brand Honor last November in order to survive.
Its revenue fell 16.5% year-on-year to 152.2 billion yuan ($23.38 billion) in the first quarter of 2021, marking the second consecutive quarter in which Huawei’s revenues dropped, following an 11.2% decline in the fourth quarter of 2020.
At the event, the company also released the FreeBuds4, an active noise cancellation (ANC) wireless Bluetooth earphones and two monitors, the Huawei MateView and the Huawei MateView GT.
It ended the presentation with a teaser for the forthcoming flagship P50, without announcing pricing or a release date. However, a close-up teaser photo of the smartphone shows four camera lenses along with two flashes. It also hinted at Huawei’s continued partnership with camera powerhouse Leica.
The new phone will have a “lightweight design and an iconic design language, and will lift mobile photography to a new level,” Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group said, adding that a launch date has not been set yet “due to reasons that everyone is aware of.”