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Developer beta for Huawei's Google-free HarmonyOS is here – but you may need to Google Translate the docs

It's all in Chinese if you fancy a gander

Huawei has launched the first developer preview of its in-house smartphone operating system, HarmonyOS 2.0.

The software (which started life as an IoT operating system with a commercial debut on a smart TV, hence the 2.0) is supposed to serve as Huawei's insurance policy against losing access to the Google-made Android mobile OS, which powers its entire mobile portfolio.

Huawei opted to use the operating system across four phones and one tablet, the P40, P40 Pro, Mate30, Mate30 Pro, and MatePad Pro. The embattled Chinese mobile giant – which has seen its sales share retreat across its international markets, as well as in Mainland China – has promised to extend availability to other devices in its portfolio in the coming months.

HarmonyOS shouldn't prove too jarring as it uses the same EMUI 11 interface as Huawei's Android-based devices. Meanwhile, on the developer front, the HarmonyOS Arc compiler plays nice with all the usual mobile development programming languages, including Java, JavaScript, Kotlin, C and C++, with the option to define app layouts using XML.

Huawei formally introduced HarmonyOS in mid-2019, initially aiming the platform at embedded devices, but with the capability to encompass broader general computing platforms like phones, tablets, and laptops. At the time, Huawei insisted it was committed to the Android platform long-term, despite the US sanctions that were imposed just months before, which prevent it from licensing Google's proprietary apps.

In the months since, the US government has increased its pressure on Huawei, taking efforts to curtail its supply chain. Within that context, it makes sense that Huawei would try to limit its dependence on foreign technologies. In September, it formally announced it would port HarmonyOS to its mobile devices, with the inaugural devices available to consumers in 2021.

Huawei claims it has already attracted more than 120 mainstream app developers to HarmonyOS. These developers, which mostly serve the Mainland Chinese market, include China UnionPay, Youku Video, and It also says 100,000-plus developers have "joined the HarmonyOS ecosystem", although it's not clear how many of those are committed to building for the platform, and how many signed up out of curiosity.

Those with compatible devices who are eager to give HarmonyOS a spin can apply to access the beta here, with the software delivered as an OTA update. Note that much of the documentation – as well as the sign-up page itself – is in Chinese. Ironically, Google Translate is your friend. ®


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