HUAWEI‘s HarmonyOS was always intended as their long-term solution to distance themselves from Android. However as most of the apps in the market right now are either developed for Android or iOS, HUAWEI retained support for users to sideload Android APKs. But that might soon change with HarmonyOS NEXT which will reportedly support native HAP packages only.
HarmonyOS NEXT will no longer be based on AOSP, no longer supports Android apps
HUAWEI’s self-developed HUAWEI Mobile Services (HMS) ecosystem is intended to replace Google Mobile Services (GMS), which HUAWEI lost access to back in 2019 thanks to Trump escalating the US-China trade war. While HUAWEI is keen on telling you how HarmonyOS is a next-gen operating system, in its current state, it still relies on AOSP underpinnings. The Android roots are what allows HUAWEI devices to still use Google apps via workarounds like Lighthouse.
HarmonyOS NEXT is slated to be HUAWEI’s self-developed operating system featuring the all-new HarmonyOS kernel and system. As mentioned earlier, only apps in the native HAP format will be supported, with HarmonyOS NEXT dropping support for APK sideloading. This practically means HarmonyOS NEXT is cutting ties with Android, and is set to be the third true operating system, standing alongside Android OS and iOS.
As it stands, there are many developers that have taken to publishing their apps on the AppGallery. Notable exceptions include Google (obviously, duh) and Meta, but numerous apps like Shopee, Telegram and many apps by local developers are currently available on the AppGallery. Not supporting sideloading APKs may hamper the adoption of HUAWEI devices in regions outside of China, but it remains to be seen if HUAWEI can really entice developers to develop native apps for HarmonyOS NEXT.
China-based Internet giants are reportedly investing heavily to make the third major mobile operating system a success. NetEase, Meituan and more are posting openings related to HarmonyOS development, dangling salaries higher than the market average. Previously, we have heard rumors of other smartphone vendors also adopting HarmonyOS, although that seems to have fizzled out. But that might change with HarmonyOS NEXT. Will HUAWEI successfully break the two-horse race, with HarmonyOS NEXT as the dark horse?