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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  • FreidoNumeroUno - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    Yes, but the review is about a phone, right?
  • FreidoNumeroUno - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    I think all the points are valid. You are a pretty good observer.
  • s.yu - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    I generally agree, though Samsung's oversaturation is an undersaturation most of the time compared to Huawei, 1020 does give very natural colors and there's a pretty clear advantage of the old 1020 sensor all round compared to this messed up quad-bayer crap. Allaboutwindowsphone made a simple but informative comparison while Android Authority made a comparison with somewhat telling samples though completely mess up analyses, they don't know what they're talking about and a few of the samples are outright misleading.
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    I still think that nothing beats the Nokia 1020 for photos. It's a shame that these phone makers are so very lazy and drip feed advancements. At least the P20 pro has a better camera.
  • Lau_Tech - Sunday, June 17, 2018 - link

    Thank you very much for the even handed review, Andrei.
  • wrkingclass_hero - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    "far too much blue shit"
    I normally avoid pointing out typos to those who are not native English speakers, but I believe "shit" should be corrected to "shift"
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    The worst kind of typo to make! Apologies.
  • erple2 - Sunday, June 24, 2018 - link

    Interestingly, it doesn't really change the meaning of the passage all that much, just the tone. :)
  • lucam - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    When the iPhone X review? your dream...
  • s.yu - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    Andrei, you're just wonderful! I've been a skeptic of Huawei's boasts since I saw the first samples on Anandtech, then going through dozens of samples across many reviews I reached my own conclusions, different from any single review out there, that the P20 Pro in auto loses to the competition in terms of detail retention consistently from daylight to dusk, and gains an advantage from low light to very low light(although with quirky interpolation artifacts), while the so-called 40mp "quad-bayer" alone struggles to render as much detail as a 20MP standard bayer. Sub-3x zoom is just interpolation and loses handily to the competition while 3x and beyond the optics win, as expected.
    You're the first reviewer I've come across who really pays that attention to detail to conclude the P20 Pro's performance to that extent, I couldn't hardly have written a better review myself!

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