Huawei unveils smartphone operating system HarmonyOS

By Kate Birch
HarmonyOS from Huawei is an operating system that claims to seamlessly connect smartphones, TVs, tablets and other smart devices in the digital ecosystem

Chinese tech giant Huawei has announced it is rolling out an update of its operating system HarmonyOS, which will now be installed on smartphones and other smart devices.

The operating system, which was previously available in some smart TVs, will be made available in devices for the Asia market and is seen as a replacement for Google’s Android OS – the market leader included in more than 85% of handsets.

Sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump in 2020 have prevented Huawei products, including smartphones, from working properly with Android platform, leading to limited functionality – such as lack of access to Gmail.

The focus for the update for HarmonyOS was not on smartphones though, but Harmony’s use in other connected devices such as tablets, smart speakers and TVs, suggesting the Chinese tech giant is eyeing the IoT market. Huawei will be hoping that Chinese customers especially embrace HarmonyOS as the link between digital ecosystems of connected products.

Huawei smartphone sales hit hard in 2020

The US trade ban and concerns regarding Huawei’s involvement in 5G infrastructure in numerous countries, who have cited concerns that the company has links to the Chinese government, have hit Huawei hard. Revenue in Q1 2021 fell 16.5% year-on-year – equivalent to around US$23.5 billion.

Huawei began 2020 as the world’s leading seller of smartphones, shipping 55.8 million devices in Q2, surpassing Samsung for the first time, according to Canalys Research but slipped to sixth place by the end of the year, shipping 32 million devices. However, that figure includes sales of the Honor smartphone brand which Huawei sold in November 2020.

Huawei did not announce a new smartphones at the launch event but did unveil the MatePad Pro tablet and Huawei Watch 3.

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