Huawei journeying through the feud

In spite of the looming Trump Ban on China and Google’s revocation of Huawei’s Android license, the Chinese OEM has now rolled out its Android “skin,” EMUI 9.0, to seven devices: the Huawei Mate 10, Mate 9, Mate RS, Mate 20 Lite, P20, P10, and the Huawei Nova 3.

The Android OEM confirmed the new skin update rollout at Twitter on June 3rd. The new EMUI 9.0 update for these devices brings first, Android 9.0 Pie, Google’s major system update from 2018. Since EMUI is an Android “skin” or overlay, it lies upon Google’s vanilla Android.

What this means is that users get not only basic Google apps and Play Store access, but also new and unique features that Huawei wants its customers to enjoy. While skins provide features that Google doesn’t supply, some view skins as negative because they often weigh more in size than Google’s updates and can slow down phone performance.

EMUI 9.0, then, is an update to Huawei’s own feature set, along with Google’s own additions in Android 9.0 Pie. Android 9.0 Pie brings features such as Adaptive Battery, Adaptive Brightness, new screenshot notifications, redesigned media controls, app actions, and even digital wellbeing.

Adaptive Battery uses artificial intelligence (AI) to improve battery life by learning when you use apps and when your phone is at rest. Ultimately, AI learns to put your phone to sleep at times you don’t use it and have it ready to use when you do. New screenshot notifications allow you to share, save, and edit screenshots after you take them without forcing you to view your gallery or phone files.

Redesigned media controls are just a new take on what controls to volume and “power off” look like. App actions bring up apps you use at the specific times of day you use them so that you need not search for them when you want to do a certain action.

As for Huawei’s Android overlay, EMUI 9.0, fortunate users are looking at additions to Huawei’s own features such as GPU Turbo 2.0, AI video editor, HiVision, Simple Navigation Gestures, Wireless Projection, and Wireless Printing. GPU Turbo 2.0 not only helps games run smoothly but also adds advanced temperature control to keep your smartphone running cool during intensive gameplay.

AI Video Editor works to intelligently edit photos and distinguish between you and family members so as to create separate highlights for you and those you love. HiVision uses AI to tell you more information about a particular place you point the camera at (think of it as a starter to augmented reality).

Navigation Gestures allow you to enjoy the entire screen without software buttons occupying your screen real estate. Wireless projecting allows you to project what’s on your small smartphone screen to the big screen, and wireless printing lets you print anything from your phone on a wireless printer (sharing the same internet connection, of course).

For Huawei Watch GT users, the Chinese OEM has rolled out firmware update, bringing the much needed Always On Display to the Watch GT in a 3.2MB download. The new update not only brings the AOD but also improves heart rate monitoring and adds a new feature to turn off the screen when covered, among other things.

Huawei is still updating these devices because, despite the Trump Ban looming overhead, the Chinese OEM still has some three months (thanks to a government reprieve) before it is effectively cut off from Google’s Android.

On May 19th, Google issued an Android license revocation to Huawei in light of the US’s trade conflict with China and its fears that Chinese entities such as Huawei are merely “spy tools” for the Chinese Government.

Huawei has up until August 19th to update its devices to the very best of Android it can grab (minus the upcoming major system update, Android Q, mind you) before losing contact with Android altogether. This means that Huawei can still send security patches, and even update its EMUI 9.0 Android overlay because it still has access to Android 9.0 Pie.

Android Pie will be its last major system update unless the US and China reach a trade deal agreement sometime within the next two-and-a-half months.

Huawei has its own operating system in the works called Ark OS, but sources say that it isn’t anywhere near ready for market. Huawei filed a trademark request with the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) for the names Huawei Ark OS, Huawei Ark, Ark and Ark OS. 

The requests were only made recently – on 24 May – which comes quite soon after Google, ARM and other companies had officially ended their partnership with the smartphone manufacturer. 

The trademark request is currently under examination, meaning it hasn’t been approved yet by the European board, but, it would indicate that Huawei is, indeed, making plans to survive without Android in the EU. 

Huawei confirmed at the back end of 2018 that it has been working on a backup to its Android/Play Services based software experience for some time.

Of course, Huawei may have no choice but to go with it if the company intends to launch newer devices later this year. Samsung and Tizen have shown that, even with lots of financial resources at one’s disposal, launching a new OS that rivals Android is hard to do, if downright impossible.

Huawei would rather not give up on the benefits of a fully-fledged Android phone, but at the same time, with the US trade blacklist being on the cards for some time, it had to work on its own solution to prepare for the worst. 

It is worth noting, however, that only the name Ark OS (and variants of) have been applied for. There are no details as to what this is, or what device it runs on.

There’s the possibility that this could be a new category of device, but – given the timing – it seems likely Huawei is getting ready for the move way from Android in western markets, and getting its desired branding in place. 

Outside of Europe, the suggestion has been that Huawei is preparing to call its operating system either Kirin OS (to match its processor names) or HongMeng OS.

With the latter being a Chinese name, one can understand the desire to use a more anglicised name in Europe. Lite OS is also owned by Huawei.

It’s not only on the software side Huawei has had to prepare for the fallout with several trade partners. It even got kicked out of the SD Association’s approval list, so it can’t make use of industry standard microSD or SD cards, which brings the announcement of its new Nano Memory (NM) cards into a new light. 

We’re yet to find out if this is all fallout from the US simply posturing to get a better trade deal with China, or of genuine security concerns exist within Huawei. Which ever way, it’s likely to get messier before we see improvement. 

Unless China and the US reach an agreement, the cat and mouse would be very dramatic and entertaining. In the end we would find out whether US wants to bully China or China is being soar. I guess we would eventually.


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