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Huawei officially launches HarmonyOS 2 to replace Android OS for its smartphones

By Liu Hongzuo - on 4 Jun 2021, 9:17am

Huawei officially launches HarmonyOS 2 to replace Android OS for its smartphones

Launch of Huawei's HarmonyOS 2 during the keynote. Source: Huawei.

Huawei officially launched a new operating system for its IoT, mobile, and wearable devices. Collectively referred to as HarmonyOS 2, the new and updated operating system is set to replace Android OS on Huawei-made devices, among other OS needs for other connected gadgets by Huawei.

As of this week, nearly 100 Huawei-made devices are compatible with HarmonyOS 2 in China. Smartphones and tablets that support the new operating system include the Huawei Mate 40 series, Mate 30 series, P40 series, Mate X2, nova 8 series, and MatePad Pro series.

The main sell of HarmonyOS 2 is Huawei's multi-device integration approach, where the operating system is said to support simple and intuitive connections via drag-and-drop across devices, on top of connectivity to IoT gadgets and appliances running on HarmonyOS 2.

The operating system adopts a similar approach to its predecessor for Huawei's IoT devices, but the first iteration of HarmonyOS was not built for smartphones and tablets. This makes HarmonyOS 2 a 'new' operating system for Huawei mobiles.


What, so it's a brand new operating system for smartphones made from scratch?

Yes and no. The new HarmonyOS for smartphones and tablets is a fork of the Android operating system, and it uses the Linux kernel, according to Ars Technica. Notably, HarmonyOS also ships without Google Mobile Services, and it uses a multi-kernel design that pulls the appropriate operating system for the right apps and services.

However, Android apps and AppGallery apps (which are Android-based) are still compatible with HarmonyOS 2. German tech website ComputerBase spoke to Huawei about using existing Android apps on HarmonyOS 2, and the Huawei spokesperson they've interviewed said that Huawei "uses the open-source code from AOSP (Android Open Source Project) in HarmonyOS on the condition of complying with open source license rules and fulfilling related responsibilities and obligations".

Android app compatibility was further confirmed by The Verge, where the publication managed to install a copy of WhatsApp on a Huawei MatePad Pro with HarmonyOS.

However, documentation on HarmonyOS 2 by Huawei showed that the company takes great lengths to avoid mentioning that the HarmonyOS 2 for Huawei mobile devices is a fork of Android.

Source: Huawei, Ars Technica, ComputerBase, The Verge, TechCrunch, et al.

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