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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  • sonny73n - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    Anyone from the US can purchase any phone online, from eBay or Aliexpress.

    Your ideal government has a stupid patenting system. Everyone suing everyone’s ass. Crooks get rich by buying patent license and resale them. No wonder a new iPhone costs more than 3 times the actual cost of itself, manufacture and labor included.

    If Americans aren’t so financially irresponsible, other countries would never want to go thru troubles to sell their products here.
  • prisonerX - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    I think notches are great. The top of the phone is a great place to put the earpiece, sensors and camera along with the status symbols on either side. Including it in the background is ugly though.
  • beginner99 - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Nice small bezel. But again too large + on-screen buttons. no thanks.
  • mayankleoboy1 - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Slightly off-topic:
    What is the GTurbo(GPU turbo) thingy they have announced? Sounds something like automatic quality/resolution reduction to increase FPS, or reduce FPS to save battery.
    I am very suspicious of software that automagically improves performance.
  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    And you sound like a judgmental piece of sh*t who base your option on something pulled out of your a**.
    GPU Turbo has been out for days, and compared to P20/Mate10, Honor Play shows ZERO degradation on image quality/resolution.
  • kingson K - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    I won't buy any mobile made in commie china, they have lots of hacking devices
  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    That leaves you with only Samsung SONY and LG.
  • levizx - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Enjoy your life in you tinfoil
  • GaysDisgustMe - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    Agreed, China can gft.
  • thesloth - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    “As I did in the Galaxy S9 review, I have to call out Huawei on removing the headphone jack...”

    The S9 has a headphone jack, as far as I’m aware.

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