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Huawei's first Harmony OS tablets have a very familiar interface (Updated)

Huawei's first Harmony OS tablet will be more than a little familiar to iPad fans, not to mention Android 10 users.

Published onJune 2, 2021

huawei matepad pro 2021 harmony os 3
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
  • HUAWEI has unveiled its first tablets running HarmonyOS, the MatePad Pro and MatePad 11.
  • The new interface will be more than a little familiar to iPad fans, not to mention Android 10 users.
  • HUAWEI has disputed suggestions that the platform is an Android fork.

Update: June 7, 2021 (2:16 PM ET): HUAWEI has come back to us following the publication of this story, disputing suggestions that Harmony OS is an Android fork.

HarmonyOS 2 is a commercial version developed by HUAWEI based on the open-source project OpenHarmony 2.0 for smart devices used in different scenarios and inherits HUAWEI’s differentiating capabilities and proprietary technologies from EMUI.

“In order to protect existing mobile phone and tablet users’ digital assets, HarmonyOS 2 currently allows existing Android apps to run on some HarmonyOS 2 devices, and HUAWEI has abided by the relevant open source licensing rules. Android apps that have integrated HMS Core can continue to function on HarmonyOS,” the company added in an emailed response to Android Authority.

Original article: June 2, 2021 (8 AM ET): HUAWEI has unveiled its first tablet line based on Harmony OS, and the standout feature may be the interface — or rather, the one it borrows. The company has introduced MatePad Pro and MatePad 11 slates whose defining feature is an extremely iPad-like software layout.

The 12.6-inch MatePad Pro, its 10.8-inch counterpart, and the 11-inch MatePad 11 all boast a new “tablet desktop” clearly influenced by iPadOS, complete with a dock section for recently used apps as well as a not-so-subtle replica of Control Center. You’ll have a more free-form layout for app icons and widgets, of course, but the HUAWEI tablet experience will be more than a little familiar if you’ve ever used Apple hardware.

The familiarity with existing mobile software doesn’t stop there though. Despite HUAWEI’s claims that this is an all-new operating system, Harmony OS in its current state ultimately appears to be a spin on Android 10 AOSP with a slight rebrand. In fact, based on our early testing it appears to look and act a lot like an updated version of EMUI.

The screenshots below were taken on the original MatePad Pro (running EMUI 11 on top of Android 10) and the new version running Harmony OS 2.0. As you can see, the differences are slight at best — there are plenty of references to Android and the UI is near identical. HUAWEI may have some “new” tablet functionality, but this appears to currently be an Android fork rather than a true software reinvention. We’ve contacted HUAWEI for clarification.

You will see some unique features, of course. HUAWEI says you can turn your MatePad into a drawing tablet for your PC, and drag content from a Windows computer directly to your Harmony OS device’s desktop. There’s an M-Pencil stylus for drawing, too. The OS also includes some iPad-style features, such as using a tablet as a second monitor (like Sidecar for the Mac) or answering calls from a paired phone.

Appropriately, the MatePad Pro line supports a full-size magnetic keyboard attachment with more desktop-like 1.3mm key travel.

The 12.6-inch MatePad Pro is the flagship of the HUAWEI tablet range. Its OLED screen (albeit only 60Hz) is the centerpiece, but you’ll also find a Kirin 9000E processor, eight speakers, four microphones, and a triple rear camera setup. The 10,050mAh battery can handle up to 14 hours of local video playback, and you’ll have options for 45W wired charging, 27W wireless charging and 10W reverse charging to power phones and earbuds.

Related: The HUAWEI ban explained

Other HUAWEI tablet models are based on Qualcomm hardware. The 10.8-inch MatePad Pro is built around the not-quite-flagship-class Snapdragon 870, while the mainstream MatePad 11 uses the older Snapdragon 865. The non-Pro device has a 2,560 x 1,600 120Hz display, though, and it still has the M-Pencil and keyboard support as well as a four-speaker, four-mic audio setup.

The company announced pricing for China, and you can expect to pay 3,799 yuan (~$595) for the 10.8-inch Wi-Fi-only 128GB MatePad Pro. The 256GB Wi-Fi model will set you back 4,299 yuan (~$673), while the 256GB variant with a stylus and keyboard case will retail for 5,299 yuan (~$830).

The 12.6-inch MatePad Pro starts at 4,999 yuan (~$783) for the 128GB Wi-Fi variant, while the 256GB Wi-Fi variant will retail for 5,499 yuan (~$861). You can also get a 256GB Wi-Fi only version with a keyboard and stylus for 6,699 yuan (~$1,049), while a 256GB 5G model with a keyboard and stylus is available for 7,999 yuan (~$1,253). The firm didn’t disclose pricing for the 11-inch slate.

HUAWEI hadn’t offered global prices or availability for the tablet range as of this writing. It did say the MatePad Pro would come to Western Europe. However, cost may not matter so much as the app ecosystem. Without Google apps or services, the MatePads may be tough sells unless you can live with their included software.

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