UPDATED 21:50 EDT / JULY 08 2019


Huawei claims its Android replacement HongMeng OS will be 60% faster

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. was recently given a temporary reprieve, allowing it to do business with U.S. technology firms once again, but the company is apparently taking no chances as it forges ahead with the development of its own mobile operating system.

HongMeng OS, as it’s called, is an internally built operating system said to have been in the works for several years already. Huawei has been tight-lipped about the OS so far, but in an interview with French magazine Le Point this week, Chief Executive Ren Zhengfai made some interesting claims, including that it will be 60% faster than the Android system it’s meant to replace.

Zhengfai said Huawei was ramping up the development of HongMeng OS in response to a recent executive order by U.S. President Donald Trump that effectively placed Huawei on a trade blacklist, preventing American companies from selling components or providing software updates to it without a special license.

The order meant that Google LLC was forced to stop providing Huawei with updates for its Android operating system, for example. That was a major blow for Huawei, which is the world’s second-largest seller of smartphones and has ambitions to supplant the current market leader, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Without an up-to-date operating system, its smartphones simply won’t work as well, and that would inevitably mean fewer consumers would want to buy them.

But Huawei apparently anticipated such a move by the U.S. government and has been working on HongMeng OS for several years already just in case it needed an Android replacement. In fact, HongMeng OS won’t just replace Android, as it’s also designed to work on various other platforms besides smartphones and tablets, including desktops, laptops, connected cars and even data centers, Zhengfai told Le Point.

The cross-device capability of HongMeng OS seems to mirror what Google itself is trying to achieve with its new FuchsiaOS system, which is also currently under development.

Zhengfai added that HongMeng OS will also have more “application” than Android, but didn’t go into details.

Still, the overall success of HongMeng OS will most likely depend on the availability of popular applications. It’s highly unlikely that people would want to use it if apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail can’t run on the platform. Earlier reports have said HongMeng OS will in fact be compatible with existing Android apps, though Zhengfai didn’t make any mention of that in the interview.

In addition to addressing app compatibility, HongMeng OS would also need a new app store. That isn’t such a big problem in China, where Google Play has a very small footprint and where numerous third-party app stores exist. But in the West, the vast majority of Android users rely on Google Play, so Huawei would need to come up with an alternative.

“It’s not a surprise given the importance of the Huawei smartphone segment that it has a back up plan, one that it may now need to execute given the state of the U.S. vs China trade war,” said Holger Mueller, principal analyst and vice president of Constellation Research Inc. “The claim that it’s 60% faster is actually to be expected as any new operating system needs to have a design point that is substantially faster than rival or replacement products. In time Huawei’s operating system may pick up some weight and become slower though.”

Photo: vladandriescu/Flickr

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