Impressions of HarmonyOS 2.0: is it possible to live without Android and iOS?

For a long time, the smartphone and tablet market has been dominated by two operating systems: iOS and Android. A few years ago, Windows tried to compete with them. But the market share was negligible – in 2017 the project was closed. Around the same time, Huawei, under the threat of sanctions, began developing its own OS. Two years ago, the release version was released, and a year later – already HarmonyOS 2.0. Let’s see what this system is and compare it with more popular competitors.

Android in Chinese?
Creating a modern operating system from scratch is an almost impossible task, even for such a large telecommunications corporation as Huawei. Therefore, AOSP (Android Open Source Project) was taken as a basis. This is an open source project. In fact – the same Android, but without Google services. Since an American corporation banned their use due to sanctions, Chinese developers made HMS (Huawei Mobile Services). Instead of Google Play, it uses its own App Gallery store.


Design with minor changes was transferred from EMUI. At first glance, it is almost impossible to distinguish HarmonyOS from a regular shell on Android.

If you look closely, you can see many small changes. Let’s analyze them using the example of the Huawei MatePad 11 tablet with the current version of HarmonyOS 2.0.

10.9″ Tablet HUAWEI MatePad 11 128 GB gray
Moreover, against the backdrop of recent events, gadgets with a Chinese operating system have become more relevant than ever. Apple has stopped sales of its equipment in the Russian Federation, and Russian cards are no longer accepted in the App Store . Only free apps can be downloaded from Google Play . Contactless payment does not work for Apple, Google or Samsung Pay.


Design and unique features
The desktop is clearly inspired by iPadOS. The icons are very similar, and the bottom dock and widget designs are copied from Apple. As they say, find ten differences.


Gesture control is standard for Android, nothing unusual here. The control center is pulled from the top right of the screen, notifications from the left.


The search menu is called up by swiping down in the center of the screen. Everything is exactly like on the iPad. With the exception of embedded advertising, Huawei decided to follow the path of Xiaomi, which only causes sadness.


The settings are very similar to Apple’s, but there are some tricks.


For example, using the Super Device, you can connect your tablet to a Huawei laptop or monitor and use it as a second screen. Unfortunately, there were no other devices of the Chinese company at the disposal, it was not possible to test the function.

Tablet as a second monitor

Various themes are available, changing icons – all the benefits of regular Android.


There is a split screen, as well as the ability to open applications in windows.


Switching between recent apps looks exactly like on iPadOS. But the implementation is worse. So, Apple can close two or three programs at the same time with two or three fingers, respectively. On Huawei, you have to swipe on each application, multi-touch is not supported.


iOS-style widgets are only available for standard apps like Notes and Calendar.


They are called “mini-programs” here. You can change the size and display information.


Another HarmonyOS proprietary option is large folders that give access to program shortcuts in one click. Very convenient, competitors have no analogues yet.


There is a special overlay for games. It is accessible by swiping from the top of the screen. You can slightly increase performance, take a screenshot, temporarily disable notifications and record the screen.


Application situation
As already mentioned, there are no Google services and a company store in HarmonyOS. Instead, Huawei is developing its own App Gallery app catalog. So far, there are much fewer programs than on Google Play, and updates may arrive late.

You will find the most popular programs, but there may be problems with specialized ones.

Let’s take a look at a specific situation. We wanted to install a couple of games. A Call of Duty query does not find anything in the store, but at least offers to download the apk from a third-party site In the game itself, it is not necessary to log in through Google, we logged in using a Facebook account (at that time it was still available in the Russian Federation).


There were much more problems with the Hearthstone card toy. Store search turned up nothing.


I had to actively “google”, the solution was found on the game forum. You need to download a third-party Amazon Appstore, the application is only available there. In the same market, they found Twitch, which is also not in the App Gallery.


There are also unofficial catalogs of applications Aurora Store, Aptoide and others. You can find almost everything in them. If you are not ready to dance a little with a tambourine, then devices with HarmonyOS are definitely not for you. Another thing is that American stores may be blocked for good in the near future. In this case, the situation will turn upside down.

In the case of a tablet, the pain of not having Google services isn’t all that bad. Yes, you won’t be able to use Gmail, Notes, Drive, Photo, and other services. But this is true, rather, for smartphones.

Some applications have analogues or unofficial versions, which are sometimes much better than the original. YouTube Vanced allows you to disable ads – both contextual and within the videos themselves. Instead of Chrome, you can install Bromite – the same browser, but without Google account support.

Outwardly, Bromite is a complete copy of Google Chrome

There is still a workaround for installation – the Gspace application. In fact, this is an emulator of another device on which you can download Google programs. I found the layout inconvenient. You need to go to Gspace every time to launch a specific shortcut, and the applications themselves are slower than native ones (tested on YouTube).

Gspace app

If we compare directly MatePad and iPad, each device has its pros and cons. So, some Android apps are poorly adapted to the big screen. Compare for yourself what looks like on Harmony and iPadOS.


On the other hand, optimized programs like KinoPoisk look great. But Apple has no such problem at all.


The MatePad’s wide screen makes it easier to watch movies and videos. iPad with its 4:3 aspect ratio leaves huge black bars – usable space is greatly reduced.

YouTube on MatePad 11 and iPad 2017

Summing up, I want to say: the situation is ambiguous. HarmonyOS has significant problems finding and installing apps. The system is clearly not worth recommending to inexperienced users who do not know what apk and are.


On the other hand, the geopolitical situation is now complicated. Huawei may remain one of the few players in the Russian smartphone and tablet market. And it is the Chinese company that will be able to provide users of the Russian Federation with at least some content.