Adios Android: some non-Huawei phones are getting HarmonyOS 2

When HarmonyOS 2 was unveiled as Huawei's brand-new gadget operating system to rival Android or iOS, we expected to see it in new devices from the company, and it was a surprise when older handsets were allowed to upgrade. But an even bigger surprise just landed.

Now, a selection of Honor devices has been added to the HarmonyOS 2 compatibility list (via RealmiCentral). Some of these phones were already eligible to download the operating system's beta, but now they're allowed to use the full-fat version of the software.

These phones include the Honor 20 series and Honor View 20, which currently run Android, as they launched before the Huawei ban and prior to HarmonyOS being unveiled.

All the devices are from before Huawei sold Honor, which means it's not wholly shocking that they're now allowed to get HarmonyOS, but we still would've imagined Honor wouldn't want its legacy devices associated with its ex-parent company.

It's not clear if people using an eligible Honor phone can upgrade straight away, or if HarmonyOS 2 is rolling out to these devices slowly; current reports of people getting the upgrade are from China, which would likely be the first place to receive the upgrade.

If you've got a flagship Honor phone from the past few years, you can find out if the upgrade is available by heading to the Settings app, going into the About Phone menu, and seeing if you can find an upgrade here.

HarmonyOS 2

(Image credit: Huawei)

Analysis: bye-bye Android?

The older Huawei phones which were eligible for the HarmonyOS upgrade used Android, but this is the first time non-Huawei phones running Google's operating system have been granted access to the update.

Furthermore, unlike the Huawei devices, some of these Honor phones actually have access to Google Mobile Services, including the Play Store, Gmail and Maps, which the Huawei ban removed from devices from the company (including Honor) in mid-2019.

Since Huawei devices, and HarmonyOS, still don't have access to GMS, they rely on Huawei's AppGallery, as well as Petal Search, which lets you install apps straight from the web. It's a good workaround for the 'lack of apps' problem, though some popular apps are missing.

So if you upgrade from an older Honor phone to HarmonyOS, you might be losing access to some key services and platforms.

Will other brands follow Honor's suit? A while back we heard rumors that Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Meizu were all considering offering HarmonyOS on their phones. A later report suggested Nokia phones could use it too. Honor allowing its legacy devices to make the step is a big sign of confidence for the fledging operating system, albeit a confusing one given Android has far more apps than HarmonyOS.

We imagine most brands will wait until HarmonyOS has access to a bigger range of apps, including premium and paid ones, before seriously considering letting their phones use the operating system. But Honor phones getting the upgrade is a small step that increases the likelihood of that future.

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