Huawei has announced that its HarmonyOS operating system is coming to its smartphones via an upcoming update. Huawei’s CEO of consumer affairs Richard Yu says: the company is updating about 100 of its devices worldwide to the new operating system, which also includes tablets like the MatePad Pro. In theory, it’s a big change from its previous phones, which used the open-source version of Android with Huawei’s own services to replace Google’s software that was unable to include it on new devices due to US sanctions.
HarmonyOS is initially coming to recent flagships such as the Mate 40, P40 and Mate 30 series, before launching on more devices later in the year. Older phones like the Mate 9, Mate 10, P20 and P10 will receive the update in the first half of next year, the company says.
The company advertises that HarmonyOS will enable its phones to offer more seamless connectivity across devices, including easier pairing with compatible headphones and speakers via a drag-and-drop interface. There’s also improved support for homescreen widgets, Huawei says, which look similar to what we saw with Apple’s iOS 14 last year. The OS would also be better at returning to previously opened apps without losing your place.
The Chinese tech giant first announced HarmonyOS in 2019, and the first device to be announced with the operating system was the Vision TV from then-sub-brand Honor (later sold the brand due to pressure brought on by ongoing US sanctions). However, at last year’s Huawei developer conference, consumer company CEO Richard Yu hinted that the operating system could arrive on smartphones in 2021.
Despite being marketed as a brand new operating system, reports have suggested that HarmonyOS shares a lot of code with the open source version of Android it replaces. Earlier this year, Ars Technica did a deep dive into HarmonyOS, and reported that it is “essentially an Android fork”. Huawei has not responded to our requests for comment on the report.
In addition to phones, Huawei has also announced new MatePad tablets with HarmonyOS, as well as the new HarmonyOS powered Huawei Watch 3 smartwatch.