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Crazy idea: Maybe HUAWEI should permanently abandon official Android

Recent statements from a HUAWEI rep suggested the company might do this, but it isn't likely. But maybe it really is time.

Published onJanuary 31, 2020

HUAWEI Mate 30 Pro vs Mate 20 Pro cameras

Yesterday, a pretty big rumor dropped. During a press conference, a HUAWEI representative said that the company won’t pursue using the official version of Android with Google services if and when the HUAWEI ban ends. Instead, HUAWEI’s Android ambitions would be focused on its own fork, Harmony OS.

Of course, this would mean that HUAWEI’s current issue of its smartphones lacking access to any and all Google apps would continue indefinitely.

This news was quite startling, to say the least. However, a subsequent statement from the company seemed to cast aside the claims of the PR rep. Although HUAWEI didn’t really confirm or deny things, it strongly hinted that it would happily bring the official fork of Android — along with Google apps — to its phones if given the opportunity.

Maybe, though, HUAWEI should stick to the original statement. Maybe it’s time for HUAWEI to go all-in on Harmony OS and do what it can to bring a viable alternative to Android and iOS.

If anyone can do it, HUAWEI can

HUAWEI Logo CES 2020

Before the HUAWEI ban began in May of last year, HUAWEI was on track to become the biggest smartphone manufacturer on the planet. Even now, with the HUAWEI ban hindering its growth, the company was still able to officially overtake Apple in 2019 to become the world’s second-largest OEM, just behind Samsung.

If there’s any company today that has the financial resources and raw talent necessary to bring in a viable third choice for smartphone operating systems, it’s HUAWEI.

Related: The HUAWEI and US debacle: The story so far

As an example, the HUAWEI Mate 30 Pro, which launched after the HUAWEI ban took effect, does not ship with Google apps on board. Despite this handicap, HUAWEI still shipped 12 million units of the device. With over 1.3 billion Chinese consumers who are used to lacking access to Google, HUAWEI could experiment with its own operating system comfortably without worrying too much about its bottom line.

Sure, it would be a long-term investment and there would inevitably be short-term losses as the company tries to find its footing and develop Harmony OS to have its own identity. But it would prevent something like the HUAWEI ban from happening to the company again as well as further the company’s ambitions as not only a smartphone manufacturer but as a technology creator.

It’s easier said than done, though

Obviously, creating a new operating system to compete with Android and iOS is no small feat. The deck would absolutely be stacked against HUAWEI here.

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of competitors try to break up the duopoly. In fact, we even have a whole article dedicated to the major operating systems that tried and inevitably failed to sway consumers away from Google and Apple.

Even disregarding that, HUAWEI would have major difficulties in encouraging wide adoption of Harmony OS for one major reason: it’s HUAWEI. The HUAWEI ban exists because the United States government doesn’t trust HUAWEI and there are numerous (as yet unproven) accusations against the company related to espionage, IP theft, fraud, and even violations of international treaties.

We've seen plenty of companies try and fail to compete with Google and Apple.

However, HUAWEI is already working on tidying up its image. It’s dedicated billions of dollars so far to fixing up its cyber security situation and other countries — most prominently the United Kingdom — are ready to give the company the benefit of the doubt.

HUAWEI is already in a bad situation. It’s going to need to dig itself out of the hole it’s in regardless, so why not use this opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and develop Harmony OS as a viable third option on the way?

Maybe the industry needs a shake-up

HUAWEI Mate 20 Pro wide shot of home screen

It’s no secret that the smartphone industry is in a bit of a shambles. People aren’t buying smartphones as much as they used to and innovation (outside of foldables) is pretty stagnant at the moment. Maybe a new operating system is just the kind of fire OEMs need to turn the market around. Maybe a real, potent threat that the billions of people who use Android and iOS just might jump ship to something else would scare companies into taking some real risks.

Don’t miss: HUAWEI in 2020: So many questions

As I said earlier, there aren’t too many companies out there right now that could do this, but HUAWEI could. With that in mind, 2020 could be one of the most important years in HUAWEI’s history.

What do you think? Is it time for a third OS choice in the smartphone industry? Would you go through the growing pains of a new OS with HUAWEI at the helm? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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