Huawei’s HarmonyOS Preview is Out, But it is Just Another Android Fork

Huawei Y9a screen

Huawei has extensively been talking about its new operating system named HarmonyOS. The platform was announced many months ago, and its existence and development were amplified when the use banned the Chinese company from doing business with American companies.

In 2020, we also saw Huawei get serious about HarmonyOS after it was featured in some of its TVs (sold natively in China).

To many of us, we expected that the OS would be brand new and different from what is already in the market, but it has turned out that HarmonyOS is just another fork of Android.

HarmonyOS 2.0 is currently out here (again, only in China) in the form of developer preview that is akin to what we have come to expect in the Android world, which tests versions prior to mass releases.

We had also expected that by now, a bunch of Huawei phones would be running on the new platform, but that is not the case, which is actually more than a month from what Huawei had promised.

The good folks at Arstechnica have since gotten their hands on the developer preview, and after their thorough assessment, they have concluded that HarmonyOS is just another customized form of Android 10.

Huawei has also not made it easy to access the software. Testers need to have a developer account, and as if that is not enough, they are supposed to send a scan of their passport and credit card before they are allowed to download it. Why?

Those who have tested it, and there are a couple of videos and screenshots to showcase the OS, have arrived at the same conclusion from our commentary point of view.

HarmonyOS is nearly identical to what you have in your Huawei phone (just watch the linked video), which means basic UI elements and Settings look the same. Question seeking to clarify the similarities have been addressed by the company, which says it just ported the UI from EMUI, probably for familiarity reasons.

Arstechnica has also reported other suspect elements: development tools recognize HarmonyOS as Android, it uses ADB, and overall, it uses the same Android components. They add that they could not find any feature that is separate from what is already available on Android. In fact, its software development kit creates Android apps (apk), which are then renamed using a .hap file extension.

The delay to release HarmonyOS to the masses means that the system is just not ready. We also understand that the company needed something to convince customers that they have everything under control. It should also be remembered that the development of a competent OS takes years. Android and iOS are mature, but it should be remembered they have been in the market for more than a decade.

Huawei has also sold its Honor arm, and there is a rumour that its high-end line, the P and Mate line are headed in the same direction. If that happens then we wouldn’t be surprised if the company leaves the mobile space altogether, bearing in mind that its sales by numbers have been deteriorating.

Will it try renegotiate its ban with the US now that the country has a new leader? Likely, but whether talks will bring any substantial changes is something we are not positive about.

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Kenn Abuya is a friend of technology, with bias in enterprise and mobile tech. Share your thoughts, tips and hate mail at [email protected]


  1. Will it try renegotiate its ban with the US now that the country has a new leader? Likely, but whether talks will bring any substantial changes is something we are not positive about.

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