Huawei’s P8 smartphone is the Chinese manufacturer’s effort to enter the high-end smartphone game. It’s a brave effort and succeeds in some respects.
High-end Android phones are becoming pretty indistinguishable from one another. They are all pretty much the same size at about five inches, they all have the same processing power and the latest thing is to try and pimp up the materials and design to at least look fancy.
What is missing from the argument is tone and personality of devices and from the get-go you get the sense that Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is trying to aim for the aesthetically-aware audience, people who like nice things, appreciate good design and probably know a thing or two about photography.
Look and feel
The Huawei P8 has a 5.2-inch screen protected by the usual Corning Gorilla Glass.
It is surrounded in polished metal body and the Titanium Grey model I reviewed feels pretty sturdy in your hand, but weighs just 144 grams.
First impressions are defined by the crystal clear display – an IPS-NEO LCD capacitive touchscreen – which has 16m colours and presents you with an array of fashionably arty photography.
From the very start it is putting its best foot forward. One of the first things you will notice is how close the edges of the screen are to either side of the phone. It really makes you feel like the information is just floating in the air.
The device is powered by Android Lollipop but there is a deliberate effort made to not make it feel or look like an Android phone. Using the Emotion 3.1 User Interface, the usual Android apps menu has been stripped away and the device feels and acts more like an iPhone, with all the apps stored on the various home screens.
Some have argued that this makes it cluttered, I believe it gives you better freedom to make the phone your own.
The screen is actually very responsive compared with other Android devices and moving apps around or deleting Facebook messages with your finger feels lighter than air.
It is quite a distinguished-looking smartphone that is cool enough to go with any outfit or trend.
Under the bonnet
The device is designed to work across GSM, HSPA and LTE (4G) networks and comes with dual SIM (nano-SIM and dual standby) slots, which can be handy for people who want versatility and the option to switch out of work mode.
The device is powered by a quad-core 2GHz Cortex A53 and a quad-core 1.5 GHz chipset and the SIM 2 slot can also be used to include a 128Gb microSD card.
Internal memory is either 16GB or 64GB.
It also has its own NFC chip for mobile wallet applications, an FM radio and has all the usual sensors like an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity and compass.
It does all the usual stuff in terms of wireless like Wi-Fi and DLNA if you want to interact with your TV at home.
As well as the elegant user interface, the winning feature for me had to be the camera.
The main camera is a 13Mp sensor and the secondary camera is 8Mp.
What won it for me was the elegant autofocus feature that intelligently focuses on what you are shooting at. The camera also comes with useful editing tools as well as geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection and a panorama mode.
Another winning feature had to be the 2680 mAh battery. A single charge held for at least three days and I found it a robust workhorse for staying alive during a busy week.
While the Huawei P8 is stylish and elegant, it is competing in a market where all the devices are now stylish and elegant.
In some respects it feels like it is pandering to the fashion crowd, while in other respects it is a business phone that belongs with a finely-tailored suit.
Ultimately it is a device that I think is trying to stand apart from the Android crowd and take on Apple’s iPhone 6 but I’m not convinced it ultimately succeeds. A brave, stylish effort though.
The structure of the Emotion 3.1 UI makes it feel just like an iPhone while the swipe up feature for tools like torch, calculator and settings is very iOS 8.
All in all, it is still a device that can hold its own against rivals like the HTC One M9 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 without breaking the bank.
The P8 will be available from Meteor on pre-pay for €429.99 and free with bill pay. It will also be available in Carphone Warehouse and Three stores later this month.