Smartphone giants in race to shrug off Android image

Updated: 2016-07-12 07:49

By Zhou Mo in Shenzhen(HK Edition)

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 Smartphone giants in race to shrug off Android image

A woman checks a smartphone in front of a wall with Shanghai's skyline at the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai on June 30. Some smartphone giants have been reportedly developing their own smartphone operating system (OS) to reduce their reliance on Google's Android OS. But, in the short term, it's difficult for them to beat Android, experts say. Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

Following Samsung's development of its own smartphone operating system (OS) Tizen, it's been reported that Huawei is also setting up its own system with ex-workers of Nokia.

Although Huawei has denied the rumor, it seems that smartphone makers worldwide are becoming increasingly nervous about using the open Android system.

James Yan, research director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said manufacturers have begun, or are planning to develop their own operating system because smartphone makers (which have to go through rounds of Google Play licensing talks) are worried that Google may one day close its Android system to outsiders.

"A key reason they're making such a move is self-defense, to avoid being contained by others," he said.

"At the same time, developing their operating system is also a way of perfecting their internal ecosystem. Manufacturers' products and services can be better connected or coordinated with the system. Huawei, for example, has launched its Lite OS system used in the 'Internet of Things' area."

Reports of Huawei creating its own operating system have sparked concern that the leading Chinese smartphone maker is following in the footsteps of Samsung, which has launched Tizen, and plans to adopt the system in all its devices, reducing its reliance on Android.

Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei's consumer division, dismissed such talk, saying Huawei will continue to use the Android system as long as it's open to the company.

For Samsung, the Tizen system has already been used in some of its smart watches. The South Korean company's Z-branded phones currently sold in India are also carrying the Tizen system.

Smartphone giants in race to shrug off Android image

Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice-president of Android, Chrome OS and Google Play, said Android is an open system that is "not about one single company".

"So far, on the mobile phone side, they (Samsung) have chosen Android and they have done very well. They are a very big partner of ours and they've built a lot of good devices," Lockheimer said.

"But, there are many other companies that adopt Android as well. The idea behind Android is that it's not about one single company, but about everyone."

Android has been leading the world's platform market with more than 1.4 billion active users globally. According to market research firm Kantar, the operating system took up 78.8 percent of market share on the Chinese mainland between February and April, compared with 74 percent a year ago.

Even in the US, where Apple's iOS dominates, Android's market share had grown from 62.4 percent to 67.6 percent over the same period.

In the short term, it's difficult for Samsung, Huawei or other companies to develop an operating system that can beat Android, Yan said.

"Android has already developed into a sound system. It will be hard for a newcomer to gain a foothold in the market unless it has fundamental innovations," he told China Daily.

For Chinese smartphone makers, he said, the biggest challenge in developing their own operating system lies not in technology, but in creating an ecosystem that facilitates their plan.

"From the hardware side, they need to cooperate with chip companies. From the software side, they need to gain support from a large number of application developers to ensure there are sufficient apps being developed in the system that are convenient and easy to use."

(HK Edition 07/12/2016 page9)