We had the opportunity to try HarmonyOS in the most unusual places: the first AITO M5 car developed jointly by Huawei, which was reviewed by our sister site ArenaEV.com. It’s great to see that automakers are taking advantage of smartphone manufacturers and their expertise to create smooth, fluid operating systems.
Huawei has gone further and made sure that its own HarmonyOS is shown for the first time in a car they have jointly developed. On the center console is the giant 15.6-inch entertainment information system that works with HarmonyOS. Huawei calls the screen 2k, the actual resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels and the panel is HDR with a screen-to-body ratio of 90%.
Huawei HiSilicon Kirin 990A
- CPU:4 Taishan V20 Lite (large core), 4 Cortex-A55
- GPU:8 Mali-G76
- AI / NPU:2 Ascend Da Vinci D110 Tiny, 1 Ascend Da Vinci D100 Lite
- Various : Supports 5G network connection; Calculation power: 3.5 TOP
The 990A is different from the Kirin 990 chip alongside consumer electronics, the Kirin 990A has essential changes to the CPU core performance, the number of GPU cores is halved and the NPU has also had some changes in the number of cores. . However, since the two chips are not used for the same platforms (one for cars, one for portable electronics), there is no way to directly compare their performance.
Reports indicate that Huawei plans to make the chip a small plug-in card, similar in size to a laptop’s RAM, that allows you to upgrade your own hardware. This is good news, considering that cars have a much longer service life than the chips that power their information and entertainment systems.
We’ll start by listing the main differences between Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and HarmonyOS:
1. Through screen projection, a rich application ecosystem is immediately available. Most of the apps installed on your mobile phone can be used in your car, and playing great mobile games is no problem.
Scroll through HarmonyOS
2. Phone calls can be seamlessly transferred to the car upon entering, and the car call can use the car’s camera, microphone, and speaker. Two HarmonyOS cars can even make video calls.
3. The voice assistant has the ability to recognize the area of voice separation and can control almost all equipment in the car, including windows and air conditioners. In addition, it also has advanced features such as continuous dialogue and visible speech.
Using HarmonyOS in a car is a node in which Huawei can display one of the best and most practical IoT (Internet of Things) applications. Huawei has an extensive catalog of smart home products, ranging from smart cameras, smart locks / doorbells, TVs and more. After signing in to your Huawei account, the same products in the account can also be controlled by car, voice activated, or otherwise. “Turn on the living room camera”, “Turn off the TV”, “Call video on the living room TV” (yes, that’s right! Huawei has a TV with a camera on top to call directly to the video!), all this can be achieved through the infotainment system.
The configuration menu
After using HarmonyOS for a while, we can say that the system works incredibly well, the whole system is very customizable and Huawei has certainly made it smart. The driver’s side camera can recognize faces and automatically change the themes / home screens for the driver when he enters the car.
Whether it’s paired with Huawei phones, smart watches, or just about anything else in the Huawei ecosystem, it all fits together perfectly – do you want to go somewhere and have the location on your phone? Send it to your car and the Maps app will open.
Most things are intuitive, for example, the controls most used by the driver will be on the left to facilitate access and almost anyone using a phone will be able to use this infotainment without too much difficulty. However, being too similar to a phone / tablet experience made us swipe several times from the bottom to the home page, instead of clicking the Home button in the lower left corner as needed.
Control panel and home screen
The home screen has what Huawei calls a “Smart Dock,” similar to your phone’s app dock. You can change and edit applications to track in the bottom row. There are also widget-style apps like weather, music, and news that show you the latest weather updates, news updates, and real-time music. This home screen is also what makes the system so easy to pick up because it looks like your phone.
Smart docking station, assistant, home screen
The App Store is Huawei’s AppGallery, but apps must first be given the green light to be compatible with cars. As a result, the number of apps you can normally download to your Huawei phone has dropped dramatically, but there are still quite a few according to the car’s entertainment information standards. The user experience is key here, if you prefer a specific music app or navigation app, download it and make it the default. Even decent entertainment information systems like Tesla’s system can’t match HarmonyOS in terms of customization.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the Maps app is also in this “Smart Dock”. It is on the left side so that the driver can access it quickly, but it is even less important than in most other cars where “maps / navigation” is usually an independent selection or is the same home page.
Does it affect the driver’s ability to use infotainment? No. When you use the Maps app for navigation and you want to open another app, a split screen will open where the navigation will always be on the left and the app open on the right. This split screen ratio can also be changed in different proportions, and apps can be swapped on both sides.
What happens if I accidentally press the home button? In the upper left corner, a medium-sized route widget will appear showing the next turn, travel time, and so on.
In the configuration applications, under the system, we can see that the car is running HarmonyOS build 18.104.22.168 and, like your phone, you can access the storage management and much more information in the system. Many things can also change: Huawei Assistant allows you to customize the activation order to your liking and is much better than other systems that require you to use a generic phrase “hey ___”.
Then there are the usual settings you will see in other cars. Driving allows you to change your driving profile, driving mode, auto-hold, and ESC. Power tells you the remaining mileage, scheduled charging times, and more. Although we have used these settings in other cars a million times, when used on the AITO M5 it feels very different: no delay, intuitive and the user interface is also nice to see.
There was, however, an interesting scenario that stood out to us, and it was the nap mode, with three configurations: nap, meditation, and breathing. Sometimes when you have a stressful morning at work, you just want to relax. So go into your HarmonyOS-powered AITO M5 and press Nap mode – the car plays sweet bird and water sounds, and the driver’s seat tilts to an almost horizontal position. This feature allows you to relax and immerse yourself, we felt more rested after using only the “Breathe” mode for 3 minutes.
Now let’s talk about the voice assistant: as mentioned above, the activation order can be changed and the wizard is able to “listen intelligently”, what it does is that when you wake up the wizard for the first time, you can have a continuous conversation. with him and he will listen to all the commands in a given time. This is something other voice assistants can do as well.
What sets this apart is the recognition rate, the speed, and what you can do with the voice assistant. The voice assistant can control everything on the screen, “scroll down” in the settings, say “screen”, “HUD brightness set to 0” and “set to 100%”. Voice commands are instantaneous and you do not need to activate the wizard.
The way it handles the context is also amazing, after setting the HUD brightness to 0 and then saying “set to 100%”, it will change the brightness of the HUD to 100, knowing that’s what you wanted. to say. Having a random conversation with your friends won’t turn on AI either, it almost magically knows you’re not talking and will ignore you – the “smart listen” feature waits 1 minute after the wizard wakes up. it will listen for 1 minute after the last voice command and then switch to sleep mode or you can cancel it at any time.
All in all, this version of HarmonyOS shows that Huawei has optimized it for use in the car and it’s great to see so much effort in its usability and not be complicated to use while driving. While there are differences and limitations on what can be done, the underlying configuration and user interface design are the same as on a Huawei phone.
HarmonyOS has been adjusted to be able to use the Kirin 990A chip set to its maximum limits with perfectly fluid applications and other functions to use without any problems in our times. Some carmakers like BYD and Geely have already expressed interest in adopting the operating system, so much more could be seen in the future.