Huawei EMUI 12 brings a taste of HarmonyOS 2.0 to Android phones

Despite and in spite of all the setbacks, Huawei continues to make smartphones and push its new Google-less mobile ecosystem to its customers. Sadly, that ecosystem, led by its homegrown HarmonyOS 2.0 for smartphones, is so far limited to dozens of devices in China only. That's just a small fraction of the number of phones it already has in the wild. Its stop-gap solution is to bring a glimpse of HarmonyOS to those smartphones through a new EMUI 12 upgrade that is coming soon.

EMUI has and will always be Huawei's custom experience built on top of Android. With its move away from Android, however, the role that this skin plays has also become less important. That said, Huawei does have a commitment to continue supporting its existing Android phones, and it's definitely reassuring that it hasn't given up on those just yet.

Unsurprisingly, EMUI 12 diverges significantly from the core Android aesthetic and leans toward visual consistency with HarmonyOS 2.0. It's probably not a stretch to compare this aesthetic to iOS, though, especially with a predominantly light minimalist design language. Even the Control Panel looks and feels like a nod to the old iOS panel that you can summon with a swipe up from any screen.

There are, of course, more functional features, mostly those that tie Huawei phones closer to the company's device ecosystem. New MatePad and MateBook buttons, for example, let you access some phone features from those devices. A new Distributed File System also promises instant wireless access to your phone's files from a Huawei MateBook laptop.

This is probably exciting news for Huawei phone owners who feared they had been abandoned in light of the HarmonyOS push. That said, Huawei hasn't yet revealed when EMUI 12 will roll out and to which phones, though that will most likely be made available to global handsets that won't be getting HarmonyOS 2.0 anyway.