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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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    I meant to say that I emphasised it in the S9 piece by bringing it up, praising Samsung for keeping it. I'll reword it here.
  • djayjp - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    I personally found the noise vs noise reduction smear balance of the s9 much more appealing in the night shots
  • s.yu - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    Me too. Huawei NR smears the most out of all the flagships (HTC's seems to smear the least, surprisingly) and the only thing in auto propping up that low light performance is that second 20MP monochrome, because the 1/1.7" 40MP main on its own is horrible, its low light performance alone is completely out of proportion with its sensor size (easily hands the win to S9 and Pixel2), even if you manually bin the 40MP's output down to 10MP its low light performance is good as useless, Phonearena already did such a comparison size-matching the output of the P20Pro 40MP and a regular Pixel2XL low light shot.
  • djayjp - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    Agreed! I think the author is out to lunch on this claim of his about the Huawei's supposed dominance in night shots. It clearly looks worse.
  • nrecob - Saturday, June 16, 2018 - link

    New Cameraphone: Huawei P20 Pro. Old phone" iPhone X.
    Enjoying my P20 Pro immensely! My regrets: not buying the "Twilight" version & buying an iPhone X in the first place.
  • banvetor - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    Why no comments or comparisons to the Google Pixel 2 in the camera pages? For me they still look the best in many cases (no pro photographer here though)
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    I didn't want to comment on every single phone and kept the phones to a minimum - personally I did not like the Pixel 2's shots - too much tendency towards unnatural HDR processing in daylight and too much noise and fuzziness in the night shots. Colour accuracy is the Pixel's forte I must admit though.
  • banvetor - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    They look good to me exactly because of their HDR! And their colour of course. Anyway, appreciate the reply! Cheers
  • Quantumz0d - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    No excuse for Huawei on their glaring 3 major flaws.

    1- Design copy of EMUI as iOS
    2 - Extended too deep as they just want to make the phone damn like an iPhone X with this Notch, camera module, the phone aesthetics, the plasticky frame look of that metal with polish like Apple again.
    3 - No Headphone jack, another inspiration from Apple.

    They want to be in serious front lines and all about their own AI powered notification system was a damn mess, I don't think it's going to be fixed anytime, Their lack of updates and price it to the north with tons of SKUs. After seeing the GSMA samples of Lumia 1020 Pureview, No camera comes close to that phone, they had Xenon flash, bigger massive sensor true lossless zoom and perfect natural colors unlike Huawei's AI crap or Samsung's oversaturated processing.

    Their recent fiasco of no bootloader unlock is another middle finger. Removing the jack driling holes like Apple. sheesh this phone doesn't even deserve any praise on the design front, and should be called out for it's cheap design, Only Huawei phone which is a true flagship was Mate 10 standard edition, no rounded drama, no notch, has a headphone jack, front scanner, 16:9 panel, SD slot. This phone doesn't have any of those or any phone from Huawei.

    Chinese phones nowadays have flooded the market with this obnoxious chin + notch BS and all phones are looking the damn same. A shame to the whole industry which Apple brought with their always fancy style over substance.

    No wonder no ones cares about audio anymore, soon LG will stop bleeding and ditch that ESS (half baked anyways needs mods to enable the HIM - High Impedance Mode as they crippled it unlike the older days SGS - Wolfson Linux driver compatible DACs) as they did with V20's removable battery and made an abomination G7 ruining the perfect balanced design, 19:9 is so impractical and useless, adding the chin (yeah I've said it by 3 times) it's just insane and stupid.

    Andrei shouldn't excuse them for adding a battery, Samsung's Note 8 has more tech inside it (ofc they played a stupid safe game of absurdly small battery) the stylus tech, Iris scanner, better construction and quality yet has a 3.5mm jack, S9+ improves on it, Note 9 rumored to have 3800+ mah (maybe it will help that failed Exynos 9810's custom kernel optimization) and have a 3.5mm jack again with SD Slot and all bells and whistles.

    Upcoming Pixel 3 XL having a notch, just ruins the Android now. Every OEM on the planet want to be like Apple. Sigh, Sorry for the long rant.
  • GREAT Expectations - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    Wow... It's just a phone. You sure do have strong opinions about this. Maybe use more full stops next time? Also IMHO, go get a life :)

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