Huawei's Harmony OS will expand to phones with next upgrade

A top Huawei exec details changes coming to the company's homegrown operating system at the Huawei Developer Conference.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
2 min read
Huawei Harmony OS

Huawei's Hamony OS is spreading its wings.

Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images

Huawei's Harmony OS could start appearing on  phones as early as next year, according to the company's mobile CEO, Richard Yu. Speaking at the Huawei Developer Conference on Thursday, Yu detailed the latest version of the company's homegrown operating system software, which will be a fully open-source platform and work on more powerful devices than it does currently.

First released last year, Harmony OS is the company's answer to iOS , Apple's mobile software, and Android by Google . When the US government banned Huawei from using US tech products or services, the company designed Harmony to serve as its alternative to the Google services on which it previously relied.

During Yu's keynote, he said that Harmony would be available on phones "maybe starting next year," but a spokesman for the company later confirmed to CNET that Huawei would launch Harmony OS phones in 2021.

Yu first said he eventually intended to open up Harmony OS and have it run on phones last September, but over the past year Huawei has focused on growing its App Gallery -- its own version of the App Store or Google Play -- by getting more developers on board. Huawei now says it offers the third biggest app ecosystem in the world.

See also: 5 things to know before you buy a Huawei P40 Pro phone

For Huawei, as the operating system spreads its wings, it's not simply about getting it on phones, but rather enabling a wider ecosystem of products to work together as more and more connected devices become available. This isn't just a part of the company's mobile strategy, but its strategy for the internet of things, which is increasingly becoming a reality thanks to the advent of the 5G next-generation network technology.

According to Huawei, apps developed for Harmony OS will work not just on smartphones, but across devices including TVs, watches and in-car systems, opening up possibilities not just to other phone manufacturers, but tech companies of all kinds.

The beta version of Harmony OS for TVs and smartwatches is available immediately, with a mobile software development kit coming in December.

Watch this: Huawei becomes the world's No. 1 phone maker, Google offers freebies