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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    After reading this review I'll simply keep the Mate 10 Pro and carry on. I was truly hopeful to finally have a Nokia 1020 killer but... it's not to be. Now THAT was an amazing camera (Especially with the grip).

    Years fly by and all we're seeing is small little jumps in camera tech while the 1020 had it all.
  • s.yu - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    I don't think it's a matter of making jumps or steps but rather Huawei intentionally made a jump backwards. They have at least half of the original Pureview imaging team yet the rendering bears no resemblance to the 1020 nor the 808. They were probably explicitly ordered to bump up saturation to 11, and sharpening, NR to 13. The quad-bayer also does more damage than good, they could have gone for a 40MP bayer proper and ended up with much fewer false interpolation color and smearing. Now P20Pro RAW is gigantic (close to 80MB, larger than my a7RII's output) yet good as useless as it doesn't stand to clarity boost and sharpening (current algorithms are simply ineffective in extracting data from that interpolation pattern) and probably won't merge well in LR mobile's HDR RAW mode either.

    Speaking of which, LR mobile's HDR RAW is a real revolution. Although an exposure takes about half a minute to process (on the slow side, but its nothing if you got your shot) and may be more prone to shaking (as all auto HDR are), it yields DNG files from my Note 8 with DR in the range of APS-C sensors so far with imperceptible loss in sharpness from the merge. It hardly solves low light performance(shutter speed is automatically determined and doesn't seem to go very low) but it does help bring back highlight DR in low light, and in daylight it often substitutes a professional compact like a Coolpix A or Ricoh GR.
  • peevee - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    A73/A53 are so last year...
  • p51d007 - Friday, June 22, 2018 - link

    Shame...I started out with a Huawei Mate2 years ago, then upgraded to the Mate 8, then the 9 after someone bought my 8.
    Sadly, due to the U.S. government telling retailers, carriers "you better not", the 9 might be my last Huawei phone. If I can't get the software to run it in the U.S. without jumping through hoops, support and what not, I'll have to start looking elsewhere.
    Shame...I've loved every one of them! Very stable, LONG battery life and good value.
  • pruthviraj - Saturday, June 23, 2018 - link

    i am waiting and i want to <a href=””>Buy Redmi Note 6 Pro</a>
  • djayjp - Saturday, June 23, 2018 - link

    Btw, author, OIS has nothing do with exposure lol
  • albert89 - Saturday, June 30, 2018 - link

    Oh yeah, that's that Chinese Co's that was fined by the U.S for breaking trade embargo's and stealing technology. I don't care how popular they were over seas. They arnt going to get my business and many people feel the same way. Do you wanna reward the Chinese communist party for stealing ? You either stand for something or nothing at all.
  • max123 - Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - link

    Now that we know <a href=" Huawei Y3 2018 and Huawei Y3 2017</a>
    (Y5 Lite 2017) are basically the same phones with different software, we think that it’s likely the outgoing 2017 edition could also get Android Go features via an update.
  • max123 - Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - link

    <a href=" Huawei P20 Pro is one of the primary cell phones</a> we have seen with three separation camera focal points on the back. The best one is a 8 megapixel zooming focal point, the center one is a 40 megapixel RGB focal point, and the last one (set apart independent from anyone else) is a 20 megapixel mono focal point.
  • Freedom11 - Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - link

    Thank you for a brilliant review. I am between the P20 and P20 Pro. My question is whether the differences between the P20 Pro and the P20 is worth the price difference. I would truly appreciate if someone could summarise the advantages of the Pro over the standard P20. From reading the review, I see the main advantage in being the 5x zoom and the very, very dark lighting situations, which I guess both would be used more rarely. But even so the P20 performs very well in night shots! Thank you very much!!

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now