Huawei became one of the largest telecommunication companies in the world thanks in large part to Android. It was an early supporter of the open-source platform, selling phones in its native China without Google services before expanding internationally. Huawei peaked as the second-largest smartphone maker in the world this year, but a US trade ban threatens to sink the firm. Huawei has toyed with replacing Android on its phones, and it’s reportedly talking to Russia about making some devices with its Aurora OS.
Things started to go south for Huawei in May of this year when the US Commerce Department added the firm to the “Entity List.” US companies can only export technology to entities if they have special licenses from the government, none of which have been granted in the case of Huawei. Many companies have already cut ties as well. The company currently enjoys a 90-day reprieve from the ban, the second such delay. When that expires, Huawei won’t be able to certify device updates through Google. It would only have access to the open-source parts of Android.
To plan for this eventuality, Huawei has developed its own homegrown software called HarmonyOS. It claims it could switch to HarmonyOS in a matter of days if it loses access to the desirable parts of Android. That’s not the only avenue it’s pursuing, though. Huawei confirms it has been discussing the possibility of making devices running Aurora OS.
Aurora OS is a version of Sailfish OS developed by Russian telecom firm Rostelecom. That company is controlled by the Russian government, making Aurora essentially state-sponsored software. It’s unclear what Huawei has in mind, but Rostelecom says it’s exploring “various options for collaboration” with the Chinese telecom giant.
Sources claim that Rostelecom and Huawei are currently discussing installing Aurora OS on hundreds of thousands of tablets for use in Russia’s 2020 population census. Huawei is reportedly very interested and has already provided tablet samples running to OS. The original report cites individuals who see this as a pilot project that could lead to consumer Huawei devices running Aurora OS.
It seems unlikely Huawei would give up on HarmonyOS, but Aurora could be a shortcut to wider distribution in Russia. Google services are less popular in Russia than in most countries, and that could make for an easier transition away from Android.