Huawei’s Hongmeng OS aka Harmony OS is here: Everything you need to know


Huawei has finally announced the much-awaited Harmony OS. The new operating system is named Hongmeng for China, and Harmony OS for the rest of the world. To unveil its in-house operating system. Huawei held an exclusive event in the Dongguan city of its home country. The Harmony OS was in the works for almost a decade. The recent US ban on the Chinese tech-maker forced it to accelerate the development work of its own operating system. While Android will remain the main operating system on all of Huawei and Honor’s smartphones, the Harmony OS will be there for contingencies.

Hongmeng OS aka HarmonyOS
Hongmeng OS aka HarmonyOS

Like Google’s Fuschia OS, the Harmony OS uses the microkernel. Huawei says that its operating system is different as it doesn’t use the “non-distributed design,” like the Fuschia OS. This makes the Harmony OS compatible with various smart devices. To justify the versatility of the Harmony OS, Huawei further says that “it is hard to deliver a smooth experience across different devices with [a] huge amount of [code] in Android and Linux core. That is because the multi-device interconnection raises requirements for security and close-coupling between the app ecosystem and the hardware compromises the user experience and development efficiency”

According to Huawei, the microkernel will also improve security. For the most part, it provides basic services like thread scheduling and IPC as most system services will be implemented in the userspace. The amount of code to audit will be a lot lesser than Android, which means there will be less room for hack attacks. Furthermore, Huawei says that the Harmony OS uses formal verification methods to secure the TEE Kernel. The company says that this kind of technology uses a “mathematical approach to validate system correctness from the source” and it is mainly used in aerospace and chipsets field which demand very high security. This also adds to the reliability and robustness of the system.

The microkernel can be “scaled on-demand for wider system security”. Huawei also boasts that the Harmony OS products can achieve an EAL (Evaluation Assurance Level) 5+ certification level. 

The Chinese tech giant also claims the Harmony OS to be better than Android. Huawei’s presentation also showed that the new OS uses a distributed virtual bus with a more simplified protocol. It uses only 1 layer instead of 4. This boosts payload efficiency. It also makes the fastens the discovery and connections of the display, cameras, speakers and other similar hardware. 

The event focused more on explaining the advantages of Harmony OS over the Android OS. Since the Android OS is based on Linux, it uses the Linux kernel’s scheduling mechanism. The Harmony OS, unlike Android, uses a “deterministic latency engine” which can provide “precise resource scheduling with real-time load analysis and forecasting and app characteristics matching.” It results in providing 25.7% and 55.6% improvement in response latency and latency fluctuation respectively. Huawei further says that Harmony OS’s microkernel makes Inter ProcessCommunication up to 5 times more efficient than the likes of Android and other Linux based systems.

ARK Compiler & Harmony OS IDE

The Harmony OS disengages the software from the hardware. This allows developers to develop an application once and then deploy across all hardware. Huawei will let the developers use ARK Compiler which can compile code from the C, C++, Java, and Kotlin languages. The company will also provide its IDE to support application development. This will work for all platforms including smart TVs, car kits, smartwatches, speakers, washing machines, and all devices that can use an operating system. 

The Huawei IDE will adapt to various screen layouts, controls, and interactions. It will also support the drag-and-drop feature. The preview-oriented visual programming support will be there.

Lately, Huawei has been taking security very serious. Like it didn’t allow root access on its Android phones, it will close the doors for root on the Harmony OS too. Huawei already considers rooting a security risk on all Linux-based operating systems. No root access doesn’t mean the Harmony OS will not be open source either. It will be open source with the help of an open-source foundation. Huawei will also create an open-source community to let developers collaborate with others.

Harmony OS Compatibility

The new mobile operating system does not support Android applications right now. Huawei’s Consumer Business Group CEO, Richard Yu confirmed this on the stage. Users cannot directly install or sideload any Android applications on the Harmony OS. According to the CEO, developers will have to make a few changes in their code here and there in order to make the apps compatible with Harmony OS. The CEO further states that converting Android apps to Harmony OS apps is “very easy”.

2 years ago, Huawei started working on the microkernel 1.0 for the Harmony OS. In 2019, the company pushed the progress to make Harmony OS work on all smart screen products. Huwaei will release the microkernel 2.0 next year. The version 3.0 of microkernel will come out in 2021 with the support for wearables and car infotainment systems.

Huawei also says that it can switch from Android to Harmony OS right now as the microkernel’s nature makes the migration incredibly easy. Huawei’s claim is that they can make this happen within 2 days. Huawei is not ready to prove these claims as it ha decided to stick to Android OS for now. Richard Yu says that Huawei wants to keep a good relationship with its U.S partners, which is why it will not be making the switch anytime soon.

Final Words

Huawei’s Harmony OS looks like a great choice to avoid any unforeseen happenings. However, the company still needs to work on the OS’s adaptability. Especially, making the Android applications compatible with the Harmony OS and making an App Store for the OS from scratch is going to be challenging for the company. Huawei already has its App Gallery, but that’s popular in China only. A major Android audience prefers using the Google Play Store, which also happens to be the biggest application repository for any mobile operating system. These bottlenecks make the Harmony OS a plan B for the world’s 2nd biggest phone manufacturer. Huawei is currently working on its entire ecosystem to overcome all future challenges. Only time will tell how successful the Harmony OS turns out to be.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts about the Harmony OS in the comments section down below.

Usama is a software engineer by profession and at he uses his expertise to solve everyday consumer tech problems with his main areas of interest being Android, iOS and Windows.

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