On July 27, 2022, Huawei announced to launch the HarmonyOS 3.0. As a response to U.S. regulatory restrictions, Huawei's HarmonyOS also makes it more likely that we will see more Chinese operating systems on the market of smart devices in the future.
In the past few years, HarmonyOS has been subject to controversy over whether it is simply a fork of Android. With this update, HarmonyOS 3.0 seems to complete the separation from the Google-owned operating system by removing the open-source code of Android from the underlying development structure.
In this update, what has been changed in this highly anticipated OS, and is it able to meet all these challenges? Here is a closer look.
The highlights of HarmonyOS 3.0
As a significant iteration, HarmonyOS 3.0 has a thorough test and rollout plan—Developer Preview, Beta, and full release.
Image source: https://developer.harmonyos.com/
In addition to fixing known issues, HarmonyOS 3.0 has removed the excessive part of version 2.0, including improvements in privacy security, interaction design, performance, and multi-device interoperability to better meet HarmonyOS's goal of "Internet of Everything".
Privacy and Security:
Security and privacy have been further enhanced in HarmonyOS 3.0. The new interface for App Permission record is designed to be more concise and intuitive for users to manage directly. Additionally, clipboard privacy protection, fuzzy positioning, and built-in system-level anti-fraud features have been included to strengthen privacy protection.
The Super Home screen is one of the new features of HarmonyOS 3.0, which makes it possible to run mobile apps in the Huawei AppGallery seamlessly between different devices, eliminating the barrier to cross-terminal applications. Furthermore, it adds new features such as stackable desktop service cards, scalable folder sizes, and pure mode support.
Version 3.0 provides enhanced ArkUI capabilities and accelerates HarmonyOS application interface development by 30%. JS/eTS language application development capabilities are improved, enabling JS/eTS language to support complex interface building. Additionally, HarmonyOS 3.0 is smoother and more power-efficient than 2.0 in daily use due to the addition of new algorithms.
In HarmonyOS 3.0, more devices can be accessed; multi-screen collaboration is further improved; even the phone powered by HarmonyOS can call the graphics card of a HarmonyOS PC, indirectly increasing video memory and improving graphics processing speed for mobile phones. In the future, the OS could be seen on more products such as smart wear, smart screens, tablets, cell phones(Mate 50), and cars(Wenjie M7).
Furthermore, Huawei HarmonyOS 3.0 eliminates many system-built-in advertisements, thereby improving the user experience.
HarmonyOS: from slide presentations to practical implementations
While HarmonyOS is still in its infancy, it has undergone remarkable development.
The HarmonyOS 2.0 was unveiled at the Huawei Developer Conference on September 10, 2020. At that time, HarmonyOS was jokingly referred to as "the system that exists on slides" because most people could only view this system from its PowerPoint slides.
As of June 2, 2021, Huawei released HarmonyOS 2.0, enabling the public to interact and use the system.
There may be some who wonder where the 1.0 version has gone. In fact, HarmonyOS 1.0 is not open-sourced but only has a developer beta version. According to the disclosed information, HarmonyOS 1.0 was developed and produced based on EMUI, aiming to integrate Android features into HarmonyOS so that Harmony can be easily compatible with Android. HarmonyOS only became a genuinely separate operating system from Android until HarmonyOS 2.0.
Now, as HarmonyOS 3.0 has been released, users may begin to think about upgrading their phones. However, what are the differences between the 3.0 and the 2.0 version?
- Co-optimization of software and hardware:
HarmonyOS 3.0 adds software and hardware co-optimization, vertical acceleration file system, and high-performance IPC, resulting in significantly better overall system performance.
- Heterogeneous networking and distributed task processing:
Compared to version 2.0, the device connection, connection stability, and cross-terminal operation performance of HarmonyOS 3.0 increased by 50%,100%, and 20%, respectively.
- A number of new features (such as multi-device access to the Super Device, distributed collaborative computing, and device performance sharing)
By adding these three features, users will benefit from the free combination of multiple devices, application flow, and performance sharing between devices.
Additionally, HarmonyOS 3.0 has also made other detailed optimizations:
1. Streamlining the interaction between small windows for smoother operation.
2. Speeding up the opening of large files by optimizing the large file function.
3. Enhancing the animation of horizontal screens and facilitating smoother vertical and horizontal screen switching.
4. Making the screen performance more natural by including a full half-global Gaussian blur calculation.
5. Adding adaptive resolution to task flows so that the screen resolution can be switched according to the application.
Be more than Android?
HarmonyOS has received widespread attention since its launch. Based on Huawei's official data, as of April 28, 2022, there were 240 million Huawei devices equipped with the Harmony system, 730 million monthly active users of Huawei terminals worldwide, and 150 million ecological devices shipped.
This is a good performance for a newborn system in such a short period. However, despite the spectacular growth of HarmonyOS, there remain some doubts. One of the central questions in this dispute is whether HarmonyOS is merely a fork of Android.
According to some supporters of HarmonyOS, the system is not a copy of Android for the following reasons:
First, HarmonyOS and Android are very different in terms of their positioning on the market. A major focus of HarmonyOS is the "Internet of Everything," in pursuit of building a distributed operating system that covers full scenarios. While for Android, mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are the most common users of it.
Second, the technical implementation of the two is also different. Android is based on Linux's macrokernel design, which is fast, but the scalability is not that great. In contrast, HarmonyOS is based on a microkernel architecture design, which may not be as efficient as a macro kernel, but is inherently safer, more reliable, and more scaleable, making it more suitable for IoT platforms. Additionally, Android is coded in Java and requires a virtual machine to communicate with the underlying operating system. While HarmonyOS developers can also use Java, Huawei has developed the Ark compiler, which replaces the virtual machine so that direct communication with the underlying operating system is possible.
Third, the compatibility with Android is just a stopgap measure. With more HarmonyOS native applications being developed, HarmonyOS will undergo a transformation accordingly. The success of popular operating systems may require more than 100,000 applications of various types to support. For a brand new operating system to reach such achievement, it must find irreplaceable yet rapidly expanding markets. Historically, the emergence of PCs and smartphones once brought excellent opportunities, but Chinese players seem to have missed them. Huawei is capable of creating a very different system, but this will not contribute to the successful rollout and expansion of the new system.
Opponents believe that ownership should not be claimed for a system that has been created using open-source code, even if some modifications have been made and considerable personal code has been incorporated. In this regard, there is only one way to achieve the public's expectations for the domestic operating system: in-depth development to generate a system that one day could compete with iOS or Android.
According to Mr. Wang Chenglu, former president of Huawei Consumer BG Software Engineering Department, that people question whether HarmonyOS is a fork of Android stems of an inconsistent understanding of open source software. Google does not develop all Android code; the open source community produces the vast majority. HarmonyOS incorporates some best technologies and code from the community and utilizes the open-source code of AOSP (Android Open Source Project); however, to say that HarmonyOS is a fork of Android based on this information indicates that some commenters are unaware of the nature of open-source software.
HarmonyOS 3.0 seems to be Huawei's response to these concerns—HarmonyOS 3.0 has removed Android open-source code from the underlying development structure. This may indicate a more extensive cutting of the cord with the Android system to a certain extent.
There may be some who believe building on the foundation of a previous operating system may not sound as exciting as "starting from scratch". However, in reality, modifying open-source code and developing a completely independent system can both be reasonable ways to create a "home-grown system".
There is a great deal of work involved in HarmonyOS's growth. It is indeed a difficult task for Huawei to develop a system by itself and one that requires great determination and perseverance to reach the goal. In addition, the public's eagerness for "national products" also raises expectations for the HarmonyOS.
According to Huawei's official announcement, the upgrade to HarmonyOS 3.0 will cover nearly all Huawei phones manufactured in the past five years, demonstrating the company's confidence in HarmonyOS 3.0.
Whether the upgrade represents a breakthrough or an intensification of the controversy remains to be seen. Despite this, there is no doubt that HarmonyOS has filled a gap in the Chinese market in this field, and with its expansion of the HarmonyOS ecosystem, we can move a step closer to the future of the "Internet of Everything".