Huawei’s P10 smartphone series is about to hit the market. Can it really give the Apple iPhone 7 a run for its money?
The P10 and P10 Plus, the successors to the Huawei P9 line that brought the ‘bokeh effect’ to the smartphone world, are the Chinese tech and telecoms giant’s flagship phones for 2017.
And, straight away, it is obvious that they are designed to compete with the Apple iPhone 7.
Mustering all the showmanship in its powers, Huawei has created two new colours for the handsets with the Pantone Colour Institute – greenery and dazzling blue – and, in an enduring partnership with Leica, revealed a device that once again is pretty much more camera than phone.
Huawei has set a benchmark for affordable but high-end smartphones, and it wants to prove that you don’t need to spend almost €1,000 to get a decent smartphone.
The 5.1in P10 comes with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage, with expandable memory of up to 256GB, while the larger 5.5in P10 Plus has 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and 256GB of expandable memory, with MicroSD slots and dual SIM slots.
The battery capability is almost double that of the iPhone 7, with a 3,200mAh battery on the P10 and 3,750mAh for the P10 Plus.
As well as greenery and dazzling blue, the new P10 comes in a number of nice finishes, including ceramic white, graphite black, prestige gold, mystic silver and rose gold.
The devices are just 6.98mm thick and have Gorilla Glass 5 panelling, with almost no bezel to the sides.
The device runs on Android 7.0 and has a Huawei Kirin 960 quad-core processor inside.
The key feature of the phone is its camera, which sports SLR-like settings and modes for night-time and daytime photography.
Both phones have a Leica-branded dual camera system, which consists of a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, as well as a 12-megapixel sensor for colours.
It is capable of shooting in 4K video and, thanks to a H.265 codec, videos can be compressed by 50pc.
Huawei has also beefed up the capabilities of the 8-megapixel front camera, which includes a new F/1.9 aperture and a sensor that captures more light.
The first impression of the 5.1-inch P10 I reviewed is just how light and bright it feels. It boasts a nice clean design and smooth finish.
The fingerprint sensor kicks in instantly and the Kirin processor does its work in a swift, snappy way as you flit around the screen. Everything just feels smooth and fast and elegant.
The model I reviewed was the mystic silver version, which out of the whole gamut of colours is probably the most ordinary looking of the range. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a very attractive phone, but the problem these days is that smartphones all look the same and, in its zest to take on the iPhone 7, the Huawei P10 doesn’t look too dissimilar from Apple’s flagship handset.
Apart from coming up with some dazzling hues of green, blue, gold, rose gold and even a kind of black that unashamedly takes on the iPhone 7’s jet black, Huawei knows it needs to knock it out of the park to compete.
That’s where the camera technology really kicks in.
The winner here is the portrait mode. This uses 3D face detection and a cocktail of bokeh and beauty effects to really bring photos out of themselves. It’s a kind of magic.
The reality is that people want good photos and selfies, but they don’t really understand all the wizardry that involves figuring out the SLR settings.
Under the hood, if you want that kind of complexity, it is all there in spades.
Another notable detail is the radio technology. At Mobile World Congress, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s consumer business group, described the P10 as the world’s first 4.5G smartphone, with four LTE radios in a quad-antenna/MIMO array providing stronger connectivity. This, he said, promises not only faster speeds but a 60pc less chance of dropped calls in areas of weak signal.
There is literally very little to fault with the P10.
You get the feeling that Huawei has upped the number of apps that come with the device, so it feels less Spartan than the P9 and comes with useful tools like a torch and notepad. My only niggle with the bolted on apps was unnecessary limitations. Take, for example, the sound recorder app – you can record perfect audio but there is no way to share it, either by social media or basic email; it stays on the device. Instead, you need to get around this by downloading your own recorder of choice from the Play Store. First world problems, eh?
Minor frustrations aside, Huawei is swiftly becoming an affordable alternative to the established order of Apple and Samsung smartphones and, if it keeps going at the present pace, it will be the established order.
That is as soon as people learn how to pronounce ‘Huawei’ properly. It’s ‘Hoo-wa-way’. Alright?
The critical thing is that, in just five years, the Chinese company has come from nowhere in the mobile space to really challenge the top players. It will be interesting to see where Huawei goes next in terms of devices like tablets, VR and wearables. The company also launched Watch 2, which comes with 4G connectivity, at Mobile World Congress.
If you want a smartphone with a high-end camera, a blisteringly fast processor and pretty much everything that the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy can offer – at a reasonable price – then the P10 is the one for you.
It looks the part, it feels the part and Huawei knows it can play the part.
Pricing and availability
The new flagship phones will retail at €649 for the P10, which has a 5.1in display, and €699 for the P10 Plus, which will have a 5.5in display.
The Huawei P10 will be available in Ireland in graphite black and mystic silver from mid-March via online pre-registration, with an exclusive Huawei Accessory Gift Box worth €149.99 – which includes selfie stick and tripod – from all major providers.
You can pre-order the phone from 23 March and it will be available in retail stores from 4 April.
The Huawei P10 Plus will be available in graphite black exclusively from Three for a limited time from mid-April, and all other major providers from May.
There are plans to make the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus available in greenery and dazzling blue later in the year.
Huawei P10 smartphone. Image: Kirill Nastasin/Shutterstock