Huawei smartphones: what happens after the goodbye to Android

In 2021 will arrive the first Huawei smartphone without Android, with HarmonyOS: what will happen to the smartphones already in the range? Will they be updated?

It has raised a lot of concern in the owners of Huawei smartphones the announcement, by the Chinese brand, of a new cell phone without Android and with HarmonyOS already from 2021. What many fear is a quick abandonment of the Android ecosystem by Huawei, resulting in the impossibility for users to update their smartphone to the next versions of Google's operating system.

To aggravate this feeling there is also a further announcement by Huawei: smartphones that will get EMUI 11 will be able to be updated in 2021 to HarmonyOS 2.0. The questions, at this point, are twofold. The first is: which Huawei smartphones will be able to upgrade to HarmonyOS? All of them or only those launched in the coming months? The second question, even more important, is: will the upgrade to HarmonyOS be mandatory or optional? There are no official answers to these questions yet, but several signals from Huawei that could turn out to be important clues.

Huawei Mobile Services increasingly advanced

The first signal to take into consideration to try to understand what will be the future of Huawei smartphones after the goodbye to Android is the growth of Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), that is, the services developed by the Chinese giant since it can no longer use the normal Google Mobile Services (GMS).

These services act as a glue between the various apps installed and, for example, allow you to share through an app a content created with another, or to open with the browser a link received from a messaging app.

They also serve as an alternative to the Play Store (replaced by AppGallery) and the Google system to find apps and keep them up to date (replaced by Petal Search). The Huawei P40 doesn't have GMS but HMS and, all in all, it works very well.

Huawei is spending a lot of money to incentivize developers to create apps that can also take advantage of HMS, so they can work even without official Android support. From November 2019 onwards, in fact, the company has made available $1 billion in incentives to cover the costs of developing compatible apps.

The incentive program has already yielded great results, with nearly 100 thousand apps already on AppGallery. But we're still talking about apps running on Android, even if without Google Mobile Services.

Petal Search and Celia

Not all HMS-compatible apps are published on AppGallery: many developers publish them on alternative stores. That's why in June Huawei launched Petal Search, a specific search app that finds these apps and proposes them to users. But, lately, Petal does more: it offers search results from Microsoft Bing or other alternative search engines to Google.

There are already those who claim that Huawei wants to say goodbye not only to Android but also to Google Search, replacing it with Petal. The hypothesis is not entirely far-fetched, since the Chinese company has long developed a voice assistant named Celia, which is going to integrate with Petal. This means that, sooner or later, voice searches made by Huawei users might no longer go through Google Search but Petal Search.

Huawei smartphones, what's up with updates

If you're wondering which Huawei smartphones will continue to receive Android updates even when Huawei has unveiled the first smartphone with HarmonyOS, then to get an answer you still need to be patient: Huawei hasn't officially announced it.

And it probably won't do so before the US presidential elections in November, from which a US President other than Donald Trump could come out and loosen the famous ban that caused all this.

All the long premise made so far, however, shows that Huawei is preparing the "plan B" to be put in place sooner rather than later if the situation goes down. One of the most credible hypotheses is that Huawei will continue to update Android smartphones as long as it can, but that in 2021 it will show the world a phone without Android with top features, enough to make quite a few users want to try it.

If Huawei can continue to update the EMUI of its smartphones it will certainly do so, because it has no interest in running away from Android. But if it can no longer do so due to the worsening of the U.S. ban, then it will try to make itself ready with a top-of-the-line Android-free smartphone with great features and a robust app ecosystem ready to use.

Worst case scenario there will be a transition period during which Huawei smartphones with Android will only receive security updates while new devices with HarmonyOS 2.0 will show the world what Huawei can do without Google.