Huawei’s bold move to challenge Apple and Android

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Now approaching a staggering one billion mobile devices in circulation, Huawei has unveiled HarmonyOS NEXT, a new operating system that completely ditches Android apps. This move marks a significant technological evolution for Huawei and sets the stage for a heated rivalry with Apple and a potential reshaping of the Android ecosystem.

In retrospect, Huawei’s path to the brink of one billion mobile devices demonstrates its perseverance and ingenuity. Despite considerable hurdles, such as US sanctions and being cut off from crucial technology, Huawei has maintained and expanded its market presence, particularly in China. This milestone represents the sheer number of Huawei devices in use and the company’s capacity to prosper in a fiercely competitive and geopolitically heated market.

In fact, Huawei’s consumer business Chairman Richard Yu, says that around 900 million active consumer devices are using its HarmonyOS, up significantly from just a few months ago. The astounding statistics show that HarmonyOS has been somewhat of a hit not just with Huawei devices but also with third-party offerings, confirming how well the Chinese giant’s software ecosystem is being accepted and adopted.

Yu told attendees at an annual developer forum Friday that the sales of premium Huawei smartphones climbed 72% in the first five months of 2024. Frankly, the Mate 60 Pro’s launch last year, featuring an unexpected 7nm processor, sparked Huawei’s remarkable resurgence. This led to a fivefold profit increase in Q1 and significant market share gains from Apple and domestic competitors.

Yu declared confidently, “The future of HarmonyOS is set. Let’s enjoy the brilliant galaxy that belongs to us,” highlighting Huawei’s renewed optimism and ambition.

HarmonyOS NEXT: A new era of independence

Huawei’s HarmonyOS, known as Hongmeng in China, has evolved significantly. The new version, HarmonyOS NEXT, abandons Linux and Android Open Source Project foundations, opting for a completely independent architecture built around Huawei’s kernel. This means, unlike its predecessors, HarmonyOS NEXT does not support Android apps, signalling a complete break from the Google-controlled ecosystem. 

This move is part of Huawei’s broader strategy to create a self-sufficient software environment that can compete directly with Android and iOS. According to Yu, this ground-up approach reportedly yields 30% better performance and 20% lower power consumption. HarmonyOS NEXT boasts several innovative features. 

Star Shield Security is designed to enhance user privacy and data protection, addressing growing concerns over digital security. On the other hand, Harmony Intelligence uses advanced AI to provide smarter and more intuitive user interactions. This offers a more frictionless and possibly more secure user experience, potentially pointing to a new direction for mobile operating systems.

Implications for Apple

Apple is facing a real challenge now, as Huawei has bounced back with strategic advances. Apple has been steadily growing its market share in China thanks to the stubborn strength of its brand and still-premium-priced product line. Yet Apple is at risk of losing most of its gains due to Huawei’s home-field advantage and the company’s ability to adapt to the wants of Chinese buyers.

Ultimately, the competition between Apple and Huawei is no longer a competition of hardware; the ecosystem is also a key. While Apple is well known for its across-the-board integration and secure ecosystem, Huawei’s HarmonyOS NEXT could provide sheer benefits close to that, if not better, within the confines of China. This competition will eventually spur Apple to experiment with its innovation and give several strategies a rethink to hold onto one of the world’s biggest markets.

Impact on the Android landscape

Huawei’s departure from Android would undoubtedly create a ripple effect throughout the Android ecosystem. The move from Huawei is especially relevant as one of the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world. It could set off a ripple effect from other manufacturers now debating their use of Android, potentially creating greater innovation and competition within the market. However, such segmentation may promote both hurdles and possibilities for different Android manufacturers.

Greater diversity in the ecosystem could, more generally, encourage innovation as companies pursue specialised market niches. Alternatively, it might introduce compatibility problems and a more sprawling environment for developers and users. For Google, this user base fragmentation is a genuine concern, with the search giant needing to up the ante on its offerings to fend off potential competition and hang onto its dominant position.

The strategic shift towards autonomy

The move by Huawei to make this the technology it plans to rely on next indicates a broader trend: big tech companies are now favouring their software environments. This gives Huawei more autonomy, with the ability to develop its own operating system or other low-level software. Such a move reflects broader Chinese policy to enhance self-reliance and sends chills through other companies that may need to adapt.

HarmonyOS NEXT and its privacy-centric, AI-driven smart capabilities shed light on what mobile technology may look like in the future. Consumers are becoming more wary of sharing their data, but they also demand intelligent yet effortless interactions with their various devices; companies that can provide best-in-class solutions to these challenges through ML and AI will win the day.

HarmonyOS NEXT: The beginning of a new era?

With Huawei battling Apple and possibly disrupting the architecture of the Android ecosystem, the mobile technology scene is due to witness some significant changes. For consumers, that means more options and devices that could be more inventive and secure. That spells a fresh focus on innovation and strategic realignment for Apple and Android makers who wish to stay atop the pile.

In a dynamic and ever-changing market, Huawei’s strategy has potentially allowed it to shape the future development of smartphones, revolutionising what users would demand from their devices and standards for the industry. With the global tech landscape hanging in the balance, these next few years could determine how this budding rivalry plays out.

See also: Huawei boosts European presence with Paris Innovation Center

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Tags: android, apple, huawei


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