Software UI - EMUI 8.1

On the software side the P20’s ship with Android 8.1 out of the box and they use Huawei’s EMUI 8.1 customisation. I’ve never had large issues with EMUI and generally the only real thing that bothered me was Huawei’s horizontal multi-tasking menu that ended up being ditched a few versions ago.

EMUI 8.1 on the P20’s is extremely conservative in terms of its customisations to Android and is I think Huawei’s lightest variant to date. The default launcher has no application drawer, rather opting to store the apps in its right-hand homescreens. In particular this global version of the firmware seems very much very “Googly” as the default launcher even includes the Google feed when swiping right from the homescreen – just like on the Pixel phones.

In terms of UI design, EMUI 8.1 is also very clean and pleasant to look at and honestly I didn’t see anything really bothering me – with the only nitpick being that some elements didn’t quite follow my customised reduced text size, such as for example the Google feed or a few other UI elements throughout the interfaces.

An interesting feature that’s hidden in the battery settings and only available on the P20 Pro is the ability to switch to a dark UI. Huawei here clearly gives the users to take full advantage of the AMOLED screen on the P20 Pro and it does give a very slick look to the settings menu for example. Naturally Huawei offers a full theme store with custom themes that you can apply.

The notification and quick access menu was also kept very clean and again, there’s not much to say here as everything was functional. The only thing that I feel was missing was an additional switch to toggle auto-brightness as that would avoid the trip into the settings menu.

In regards to the notch – I did not encounter any issues in any applications with it. Here Huawei’s firmware clearly separates the notch area from the regular application space and I didn’t see anything having issues with it. In fullscreen applications, the apps stop at the edge of the notch so effectively the notch ears aren’t used in landscape mode, giving the impression of balanced bezels on the sides of the phones, although the bottom bezel is still ever so slightly bigger. For all the noise over the last few months in regards to notches, this was by far the least controversial experience I had. Huawei’s choice of going for an extremely wide aspect ratio and then actually dedicating that added area to notch functionality works very well.

I could go into more depth of the various Huawei system applications – but there would be nothing exciting to read there as there’s nothing controversially different in EMUI 8.1 – it just offers a good out-of-box experience with no surprises.

All in all EMUI 8.1 is pretty non-eventful. It delivers a very fast and streamlined experience, while still adding in Huawei specific touches to it that elevates it from stock Android. Huawei devices have over the last few years been historically been one of the fastest in terms of overall UI snappiness and again the P20’s here don’t disappoint.

Introduction & Design System Performance
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  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    * doesn't
    There, fixed it for you.
  • close - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Take it easy guys, Lord of the Bored is just trolling. A lighthearted chuckle is always good :).
  • JackieKu - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Welcome return to smartphone review! I don't particularly interest in Huawei's device due to its ecosystem (of SoC), but a full review is still very welcome.
  • psychobriggsy - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    18.66:9... i.e., 56:27
  • Lord of the Bored - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    2.074:1, you mean?
  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    What a moron! It's 611:300. And who wants those ridiculous numbers? Anybody can tell which of 18.5:9 and 18.66:9 is wider in under 0.5s, almost nobody can say the same for 56:27 611:300 and 37:18.
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    One question I would have liked addressed in this review: what is Huawei's official position on providing security and other OS updates for their phones and for how long do they guarantee the release of timely updates. I had an older Huawei Mate phone, and their utter lack of support (OS or even just security updates) obsoleted that phone in under 2 years. As long as Huawei has this abandonware approach to these, quite pricey, phones, count me out.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Huawei's update record have not been good, in fact, it's been pretty atrocious, so it's a good point to make. I'll ping them for an official stance on this.
  • greenbat - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    On the mate 10 pro I get a monthly firmware upgrade. The security updates are 1 month behind googles. And new features are added by huawei face unlock was recently added, night shot will be added in next firmware upgrade. And also in the near future Gturbo (faster gpu), cloud computing, and android 8.1 upgrade are expected. Finally android 9 is in testing phase. So far I am happy with the updates.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    I haven't received any update yet on the M10. The P10 still sits on a February 2017 firmware. But maybe that's something limited to my review devices.

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