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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  • Belldandy - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Just an interesting note: I have the Canadian version of the P20 Pro, single sim card.
    running version: CLT-L04
    I got scores of Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited graphics: 3114 Physics: 2821
    But T-Rex was 123fps
    Manhattan 3.1 Off-screen was 39 fps

    So maybe it has been fixed on my phone like the Mate 10 pro
  • arayoflight - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Are you planning to review the OnePlus 6 as well?
  • greenbat - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Great article. I was wondering about the AI benchmark. It would be intersting to see whether the android 8.1 on the p20 give better results compared to the android 8.0 Mate 10. Any change to test that?

    And the next firmware upgrade of the mate 10 gives night shot without tripod, just like p20
  • amouses - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    The Huawei P20 Pro is an awesome phone, especially for people whose usage includes predominantly photography. But as a Huawei fanboy or maybe ex fanboy beware. Huawei have a habit of providing poor Software upgrades (security) and OS upgrades for phones. And so my official requests to them about Android P support for a phone ironically named P20 have gone unanswered to date. So Huawei, do you commit to upgrading your flagship phone, say by Dec 31st 2018? or will users as per your previous flagship products be saddled with excellent hardware and totally out of date Android Software. Your call.
  • Trixanity - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Second paragraph in the conclusion "Huawei tried to take some design queues from Apple’s iPhone X" should be design cues I'd wager :)

    Are there any plans to revisit the GPU benchmarks later? Huawei's alleged black magic (which they call GPU Turbo that supposedly has significant improvements to performance and power efficiency) seemingly coming out of thin air will be released to a wide range of models including the P20 in July. Would really like to see not only benchmarks but a dissection of what it is and how it works if possible.
  • South_DL - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    These continental Chinese phones are nothing but a mix of plagiarism from both Apple and Samsung, how in earth such a thing can be legal in the US?
  • Retycint - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Because you can't trademark things like a notch or a glass back, that's why. And these phones are much more than just "iPhone/Samsung clones", unless you're telling me you didn't even read the review and skipped straight to the comments section to complain?
  • prisonerX - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    You can't copyright, patent or restrict an idea, only a specific instance, expression or design.

    Your notion of "plagiarism" is how people have been designing things forever, and it benefits consumers. Why someone would be worried about where ideas come from rather than whether they're good or bad, I'll never know.
  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    You are plagiarizing, because 1+1=2, and you can't use it EVER.
  • sonny73n - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    You’re such a shallow minded. Go on gsmarena and check the last 4 iPhone generations (6,6s,7 and 8) and Meizu see who stole design from whom. And the bezel-less design of iPhone X is also a steal from another Chinese phone.

    By the way, your beloved Apple trademarked “slide to unlock” and “tap center of status bar to scroll up back to top”. LOL

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