Huawei has announced that its HarmonyOS operating system is coming to its smartphones via a forthcoming update. Huawei’s consumer business CEO Richard Yu says the company is updating around 100 of its devices globally 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 have run the open-source version of Android with Huawei’s own services replacing the Google software it’s been unable to include on new devices as a result of US sanctions.
HarmonyOS will initially come to recent flagships like the Mate 40, P40, and Mate 30 series, before releasing 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 allows its phones to offer more seamless connectivity across different 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 have a similar look to what we saw with Apple’s iOS 14 last year. The operating system is also said to 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 announced with the operating system was the Vision TV from its then-sub brand Honor (it later sold off the brand due to the pressures created by ongoing US sanctions). However, at last year’s Huawei developer conference, its consumer business CEO Richard Yu hinted that the operating system could appear 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 that it’s replacing. Earlier this year, Ars Technica did a deep dive into HarmonyOS, and reported that it “is essentially an Android fork.” Huawei did not respond to our requests for comment on the report.