Is HarmonyOS a Huawei bluff? Check compatibility with Play Store

huawei harmonyos android

Since the US ban prevents it from accessing the Western supply chain, Huawei has rolled up its sleeves, starting with the creation of HarmonyOS. An almost titanic undertaking, even for a giant like the Chinese company: to create an alternative OS in what is in effect a duopoly between Android and iOS. In the past years we have seen several such attempts: Symbian, Samsung Tizen, Blackberry 10, Sailfish OS, Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, MeeGo and WebOS, to name the most famous. No one has succeeded, so there is a lot of curiosity to see if Huawei will go the same way or not.

Since its announcement, Huawei has made often confusing statements about HarmonyOS, also known as Hongmeng OS at home. Sometimes presenting it as a rival to Android, others not (perhaps not to disappoint Google too much), claiming that it was anything but Android and iOS. In all this, put in the fact that practically almost no one in the West has been able to get their hands on it in depth and you will understand why there is all this curiosity.

Upgrade 30 / 04: after the Huawei press release, we learn from a leak the actual compatibility of the Play Store with HarmonyOS. You can find it at the end of the article, before the official press release.

New images of HarmonyOS, but the resemblance to Android is obvious

With the release of the very first Beta of HarmonyOS 2, this curiosity was further ignited and the first users posted images and videos starring the new Huawei OS. However, a certain spread right away skepticism towards him, dictated byexcessive similarity to Android. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but why then claim HarmonyOS is a whole new OS, when it actually looks like a simple fork of Android?

For this the colleagues of ArsTechnica they decided to investigate further, not without encountering difficulties in doing so. Starting with a to say the least poco invasive registration process: unlike Android and iOS, whose SDKs are freely downloadable, Huawei requires a photo of the identity documents and credit card (!), as well as various personal data, and two days of waiting for the necessary checks. And there is no way to bypass all of this: even if you download HarmonyOS in the wrong way, the emulator won't work unless you use a verified account. And from here you can see the difficulties: how should a third-party developer be encouraged to do this procedure?

Nonetheless, Ron Amedeo tried his hand at doing it for the sake of journalism (and our credit cards). And right away you come across another oddity, namely the fact that the emulator is remotely. Most likely it is a real smartphone connected to a Huawei intranet and closed in who knows what office in China. Instead of a real-time simulation, what you get is a 720p streaming video stream, with obvious video quality and latency limitations.

Putting these "oddities" aside, from the start it is clear that HarmonyOS presents itself as a 1: 1 copy of EMUI 11. But there it is: Huawei would have opted for a less radical approach possible, in order to accustom users to a smoothest transition possible. Going into the software information, as expected there is no mention of Android, but just dig deeper to find numerous "clues" to the fact that HarmonyOS seems more and more like a reskin of the EMUI 11.

Among the apps installed we find "Android service library","Android shared library","com.Android.systemui.overlay"And others. Furthermore, other such packages would appear to have simply been renamed from "Android" to "HarmonyOS". Just see the app "HarmonyOS system“, Whose logo is that of Android and which shows version 10 (wasn't it HarmonyOS 2?). Even within the AppGallery the apps refer to Android 10, but the "oddities" don't end there. Compared to what a Beta of a new OS should look like, HarmonyOS seems all too complete. This is because it has practically all the features of Android: gestures, settings, permissions, payments with NFC, Dark Theme, notifications and so on. Not to mention that within the same AppGallery there are not only numerous apps (including from Google), but also reviews that are years old.

Digging everywhere, no HarmonyOS element has been found that is not also present on Android. In light of all this, what makes us turn up the most is not how HarmonyOS is done, but how it is presented. It's perfectly fine that it's a fork of Android, but why talk about it as a “new OS” when it doesn't seem to be? It's still a Beta, for heaven's sake, but given that 2021 will be the year of the first smartphones with HarmonyOS there doesn't seem to be time for such radical changes as it is now.

There is also an open source version of HarmonyOS, called Open Harmony, but it doesn't appear to be related to HarmonyOS in any way. Put simply, OpenHarmony doesn't use Android apps, it has a LiteOS microkernel from Huawei but it's only for IoT devices. The "oddities" continue if you look at the documentation and SDK package. In 2019 it was presented ARK Compiler, the new compiler it would have improved Android efficiency. Trying to look for some of its references, given its importance for HarmonyOS, it was discovered that it practically no longer exists: the site is offline (error 404) and the developers who tried it defined it as "a fraud"and "not even half finished". As for the SDK, it looks pretty much the same as the Android Studio SDK.

What conclusions to draw from all this?

As stated by Ron Amedeo, HarmonyOS 'goal seems to be to "save face" after the US ban. Being able only to use Android AOSP but not Google services, the company would have seized the ball to try to hide this limit and come out of it in a more "original" way. Instead of proposing an Android UI (like the EMUI) but which only has the basics of Android, propose it again but in a "proprietary" key. (Yes, I'm using a lot of quotes because I want to be as polite as possible).

At present, HarmonyOS makes no sense to exist outside of China. And even in China there are doubts about the claims of wanting to offer it to other companies such as Xiaomi, OPPO and vivo. What good is using what is nothing more than a fork of Android, when any company can freely do it on their own?

Google Play Store works correctly in HarmonyOS Beta 3 | Update 30/04

huawei harmonyos 2 beta android images 30/4

A few months (almost 3) from the official Huawei press release (which you find below) from a leak of the always careful Teme (RODENT950) we have news that the brand's smartphones, updated to Beta3 di HarmonyOS, can be safely compatible with Google Play Store, as well as Huawei smartphones with Android but with HMS. And in fact, the smartphone in question is a Mate 30 For 5G, therefore one of those released after the exclusion from Google services.

This news can open to two ways: the first that actually confirms what is reported in the press release, but also from the rumors above, or that the fact that a smartphone previously moved by Android even without GMS and with HarmonyOS installed can still use the Google store. We will understand with the first smartphones equipped with the new operating system out of the box if this is confirmed.

Official statement | 04/02

In response to what was reported by ArsTechnica, here is the press release from Huawei Italia:

"Built on Huawei's distributed technology, HarmonyOS is a totally new operating system designed uniquely around the needs of a future where IoT devices are designed to coexist and interact massively. It can be deployed on demand to a wide variety of devices, and flexibly adapt to different hardware resources and application requirements.

While ensuring that all applicable open-source rules are strictly adhered to, HarmonyOS leverages a large number of third-party open-source resources, including Linux, to accelerate the development of a complete architecture. By drawing on the open source code of AOSP (Android Open Source Project), the HarmonyOS distributed application framework can coexist with the AOSP application framework and support both the AOSP and HarmonyOS APIs to offer users the same smartphone and tablet experience as before and the cross multi-device differential experiences.

While some elements of the EMUI 11 user interface are retained in the current developer beta, HarmonyOS will launch with a new user interface alongside upcoming Huawei smartphones. The developer beta program is still ongoing, and we are delighted to receive any feedback from the developers and partners who work alongside us to bring our vision of all scenarios to life."

⭐️ Discover the new Weekly Flyer of GizChina with always different exclusive offers and coupons.