Huawei's unwanted Android replacement is closer than you think (or is it?)

Huawei's unwanted Android replacement is closer than you think (or is it?)
UPDATE: It's not clear if TechRadar misunderstood Alaa Elshimy's statements or the senior Huawei executive misspoke, but apparently, the company's Android OS substitute is actually far from ready for primetime. Instead of launching in June around the world, the platform is scheduled for a domestic debut in "late 2019", most likely to be followed by an international expansion at some point next year. Original story follows.

Things may look bleak from the outside for the world's second-largest smartphone vendor, but it's becoming clearer and clearer that Huawei was in fact internally prepared for the recent exodus of US partners and parts suppliers. We're not just talking 90-day or 12-month prepared either, as a company official reportedly made a surprising revelation in an unusually detailed discussion with the folks over at TechRadar.

Apparently, that homebrewed mobile operating system Huawei could use to replace Android on future products if the White House maintains its ban and Google is forced to pull its support is pretty much ready for primetime already, eyeing a global rollout as early as next month.

Unwanted Plan B in action


Internally known as HongMeng, which is apparently a metaphor for the "primordial world, primeval chaos" in Chinese creation myths, the Android-replacing software platform is rumored to go official under the name "Ark OS", which could bear an interesting biblical implication of its own. While Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director and Vice President of Huawei Enterprise Business Group Middle East, has nothing to disclose on that front, his statements offer an unprecedented look behind the development curtain of this largely mysterious OS.


Intriguingly, Elshimy reveals the operating system has been ready for almost a year and a half. Specifically, since January 2018. Huawei started working on it as a backup plan in case things went south between the company and Google for any reason (good call, as it turns out), never actually wanting to bring it to market. But now that its "strong relationship with Google and others" has deteriorated close to the point of no return, there's no reason to hesitate any further and delay the Ark OS release.

This is scheduled to take place sometime in June, although many of the details and specifics remain up in the air. What we know is that the new platform should support not just mobile phones, but also tablets, computers, connected cars, smartwatches, activity trackers, and "others."

Can Huawei survive on its own?


If you ask global analysts, survival is at stake here. But if you ask Huawei, the only question mark is how much the company can continue to grow from here. At least publicly, there are no fears whatsoever the booming smartphone division could be brought to an untimely death if Google, Qualcomm, and Arm's business is lost after Trump's "stay of execution" expires.

In addition to HongMeng or Ark OS, Huawei plans to rely heavily on a number of in-house products and technologies going forward to replace US-made services. The Huawei AppGallery, for instance, will unsurprisingly take the Play Store's place. And the promise is "all applications that work with Android" will eventually support the new OS. That's certainly an ambitious goal, which might be a lot harder to accomplish in reality than in theory. After all, US-based app developers could themselves be banned from doing business with China's embattled tech giant.


Meanwhile, Alaa Elshimy claims the "US sanctions won't affect the company's chipsets in any way as we are self-reliant in many aspects." That's another incredibly bold assertion that should probably be taken with a grain of salt... or ten. For one thing, it remains unclear what Huawei can do to cut its reliance on Arm, a British chip developer that apparently uses "US original technology."

As far as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and SD card support are concerned, Huawei says you "don't need to be part" of the respective alliances setting the standards for the three technologies to use derivations of said features. In other words, whether the company's future phones will be allowed to run Android or not, they should be able to offer (non-standards-compliant) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity without a problem.

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17 Comments

1. Mikele

Posts: 172; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

There's always light after the tunnel, adversities would discovered man and his inventories at last. Keep going Huawei!!

4. Phonehex

Posts: 765; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

The problem is that it becomes incredibly difficult to gather momentum to garner sales once you remove Android. 90% of the general users wouldn't want to shift from Android unless Huawei offers up top notch specs for 50% the price ... that too for a few years . I just don't see it happening.

10. oldskool50 unregistered

To start, you dont need Android to run Android apps. It's the lack of Google Services that would hurt most.

15. cheetah2k

Posts: 2265; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

New OS, zero apps... Huawei will likely focus inward and on the local market - so anyone with a Huawei now will be stonewalled on updates... Apps would be designed inhouse at first, and without a focus on the wider international population. Huawei have always struggled with handset updates, so that indicates their software division is weak.. So I wouldnt expect anything decent in the way of OS or apps any time soon.. Just crazy to think the Huawei CEO came out telling the world they support the PLA. They only have themselves to blame for doing it.. No sympathies here

2. BlackhawkFlys

Posts: 924; Member since: May 07, 2014

Even if Huawei gets green light to use Google services and other US technology. Huawei should continue developing their own alternate OS and hardware. They should sell two versions of their phones one with Google Android with the Play Store and the other one with their own OS along with Aptoide or App Gallery. Offer the phone running their own OS at a subsidized price preferably a $100 or $200 less than the one with Play Store support.

3. notfair

Posts: 753; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

No, they will sell only 1 version and will go after google customers.

5. Godlymansean

Posts: 337; Member since: Apr 14, 2017

Hopefully it works out well for them, just doesn't seem right how it was handled. But who really has all the info...

6. threeline

Posts: 315; Member since: Sep 11, 2011

If all the Chinese citizens band together and only support their own will change things.

7. Guseinguliev

Posts: 118; Member since: Mar 04, 2019

Honestly, I don’t care about huawei smartphones, the usual Chinese smartphone.

8. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

They are worried about spying now, who the hell would buy a Huawei phone running their OS lol.

9. oldskool50 unregistered

Huawei won't last long because other Chinese vendors have Android which will give them an advantage. At this point, for their smartphone business, they are better off selling their platform to another OEM and getting as much as they can for their intellectual property. Sucks what Trump is doing, which is why when he isn't in office, he's going to prison and he can sit their and rot while he thinks about how he screwed up people lives. Assuming he doesn't die before then, which would be totally awesome if he did.

11. OneLove123

Posts: 1152; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

I don’t think Huawei cares if they lose their phone business. The ceo and his daughter are hardcore iPhone users anyway.

13. Solarius

Posts: 11; Member since: May 24, 2019

it's just American propaganda and you all believe what you are told and all that is written, you have to run your brains

16. cheetah2k

Posts: 2265; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

Yep. propaganda that the Huawei CEO came out and publically anounced he supports the PLA... BWAHAHAHA

17. jacky899

Posts: 431; Member since: May 16, 2017

Just talk to any real Chinese in China and you will understand their love for Apple is beyond real or logical. It's been a status symbol in the last decade. The real American propaganda try to paint the Chinese as a unified group that supports their own country, which cannot be farther from the truth. Chinese will never band together. Huawei wouldnt even support ZTE when they were in the same position.

12. emjoigently

Posts: 154; Member since: Aug 22, 2017

I wonder if a better plan would be an alliance with other Chinese makers to create a Chinese OS, apps store, ecosystem. Something Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi etc can all agree to. Oppo and co can put Android on exports and The Peoples OS on their locally sold phones.

14. Joosty

Posts: 480; Member since: Mar 14, 2013

They should combine the best of iOS and Android. Could potentially be something great.

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