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article imageHuawei uncomfortable about Android dependence, building own OS

By James Walker     Jun 23, 2016 in Technology
Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei is said to be developing its own mobile operating system as a contingency plan if Google were to tighten its hold on Android. The company is one of a growing number of brands who want to loosen their reliance on Android.
Android's rise to dominance in the smartphone market has led to the creation of tens of thousands of devices by hundreds of manufacturers worldwide. While the operating system is currently freely available for use, Google maintains some controls. It is thought the company could tighten these in the future, preventing phone companies from using Android in the way they do today.
According to a report published by The Information today, Huawei is quietly building its own mobile platform from scratch. People briefed on the project said the company is working in secret. It is apparently building the operating system because it "doesn't want to be on the crutch of Android."
Huawei could use the OS on its future smartphones should the situation surrounding Android begin to deteriorate. It's feasible that Google could begin to seek high royalties for the use of future versions of the platform, leading to manufacturers paying the company to continue using Android.
Alternatively, Android could enter a sudden decline, losing popularity with consumers looking for something entirely new. Although it may seem implausible today, such falls have occurred in the industry in the past. Less than a decade ago, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile led the way forward. Today, both platforms have almost entirely faded away.
Google has already indicated it seeks to gain more control over the Android ecosystem. It has expressed frustration at manufacturers' inability and frequent refusal to regularly issue software updates and hinted at a desire to build its own Nexus phones in-house. It currently subcontracts to brands such as LG, Motorola and Huawei for hardware construction.
Huawei isn't alone in making plans for a future without Android. Recently, reports emerged that suggested Samsung may use its own Tizen operating system on future smartphones. It too is uncomfortable with its reliance on a platform that a third-party controls.
In the more immediate future, Huawei is said to be planning a major overhaul of its Android skin, EMUI. EMUI has been criticised by Western reviewers for removing many of Android's key elements and using a design reminiscent of Apple's iOS. The icons are very similar and there is no standard Android app drawer. Apps are added directly to the home screen in the same way as iOS.
Huawei has reportedly hired ex-Apple mobile UI design lead Abigail Brody. Brody's role, somewhat ironically, will be to make EMUI look less like an Apple creation, utilising a design that will look a lot more like stock Android. The app drawer will be back and the interface will be themed using Google's Material Design palette.
According to 9to5Google, the revised experience will be a "bold departure" from Huawei's current iOS rip-off. A person "familiar" with the design said it's "much closer" to stock Android as Google builds it. The changes may make Huawei a more attractive brand to Western consumers.
There's no word yet on when either project will be completed. The EMUI overhaul will likely be ready by the fall, in time to launch with Huawei's next-generation handsets next year. The company's in-house operating system will take much longer to come to fruition though. Huawei will need to build something of comparable quality to Android if it is to have any chance of success, a tall order for a brand that's still relatively obscure in the West.
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