Huawei’s new OS isn’t an Android replacement… yet

If making an Android alternative was easy, we’d have a lot more of them. Huawei’s HarmonyOS won’t be replacing the mobile operating system for the company any time soon, and Huawei has made it pretty clear that it would much rather go back to working with Google than go at it alone.

Of course, that might not be an option.

The truth is that Huawei and Google were actually getting pretty chummy. They’d worked together plenty, and according to recent rumors, were getting ready to release a smart speaker in a partnership akin to what Google’s been doing with Lenovo in recent years. That was, of course, before Huawei was added to a U.S. “entity list” that ground those plans to a halt.


Android – TechCrunch

Huawei’s P30 Pro excels on the camera front

It’s been a month since Huawei unveiled its latest flagship device — the Huawei P30 Pro. I’ve played with the P30 and P30 Pro for a few weeks and I’ve been impressed with the camera system.

The P30 Pro is the successor to the P20 Pro and features improvements across the board. It could have been a truly remarkable phone, but some issues still hold it back compared to more traditional Android phones, such as the Google Pixel 3 or OnePlus 6T.

A flagship device

The P30 Pro is by far the most premium device in the P line. It features a gigantic 6.47-inch OLED display, a small teardrop notch near the top, an integrated fingerprint sensor in the display and a lot of cameras.

Before diving into the camera system, let’s talk about the overall feel of the device. Compared to last year’s P20 Pro, the company removed the fingerprint sensor at the bottom of the screen and made the notch smaller. The fingerprint sensor doesn’t perform as well as a dedicated fingerprint sensor, but it gets the job done.

It has become hard to differentiate smartphones based on design as it looks a lot like the OnePlus 6T or the Samsung Galaxy S10. The display features a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a 2340×1080 resolution, and it is curved around the edges.

The result is a phone with gentle curves. The industrial design is less angular, even though the top and bottom edges of the device have been flattened. Huawei uses an aluminum frame and a glass with colorful gradients on the back of the device.

Unfortunately, the curved display doesn’t work so well in practice. If you open an app with a unified white background, such as Gmail, you can see some odd-looking shadows near the edges.

Below the surface, the P30 Pro uses a Kirin 980 system-on-a-chip. Huawei’s homemade chip performs well. To be honest, smartphones have been performing well for a few years now. It’s hard to complain about performance anymore.

The phone features a headphone jack, a 40W USB-C charging port and an impressive 4,200 mAh battery. For the first time, Huawei added wireless charging to the P series (up to 15W).

You can also charge another phone or an accessory with reverse wireless charging, just like on the Samsung Galaxy S10. Unfortunately, you have to manually activate the feature in the settings every time you want to use it.

Huawei has also removed the speaker grill at the top of the display. The company now vibrates the screen in order to turn the screen into a tiny speaker for your calls. In my experience, it works well.

While the phone ships with Android Pie, Huawei still puts a lot of software customization with its EMUI user interface. There are a dozen useless Huawei apps that probably make sense in China, but don’t necessarily need to be there if you use Google apps.

For instance, the HiCare app keeps sending me notifications. The onboarding process is also quite confusing as some screens refer to Huawei features while others refer to standard Android features. It definitely won’t be a good experience for non tech-savvy people.


(P30 Pro on the left, P30 on the right)

Four cameras to rule them all

The P20 Pro already had some great camera sensors and paved the way for night photos in recent Android devices. The P30 Pro camera system can be summed up in two words — more and better.

The P30 Pro now features not one, not two, not three but f-o-u-r sensors on the back of the device.

  • The main camera is a 40 MP 27mm sensor with an f/1.6 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a 20 MP ultra-wide angle lens (16mm) with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • The 8 MP telephoto lens provides nearly 5x optical zoom compared to the main lens (125mm) with an f/3.4 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • There’s a new time-of-flight sensor below the flash of the P30 Pro. The phone projects infrared light and captures the reflection with this new sensor.

It has become a sort of a meme already — yes, the zoom works incredibly well on the P30 Pro. In addition to packing a lot of megapixels in the main sensor, the company added a telephoto lens with a periscope design. The sensor features a mirror to beam the light at a right angle and put more layers of glass in the sensor without making the phone too thick.

The company also combines the main camera sensor with the telephoto sensor to let you capture photos with a 10x zoom with a hybrid digital-optical zoom.

Here’s a photo series with the wide angle lens, the normal lens, a 5x zoom and a 10x zoom:

And it works incredibly well in daylight. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use the telephoto lens at night as it doesn’t perform as well as the main camera.

In addition to hardware improvements, Huawei has also worked on the algorithms that process your shots. Night mode performs incredibly well. You just have to hold your phone for 8 seconds so that it can capture as much light as possible. Here’s what it looks like in a completely dark room vs. an iPhone X:

Huawei has also improved HDR processing and portrait photos. That new time-of-flight sensor works well when it comes to distinguishing a face from the background for instance.

Once again, Huawei is a bit too heavy-handed with post-processing. If you use your camera with the Master AI setting, colors are too saturated. The grass appears much greener than it is in reality. Skin smoothing with the selfie camera still feels weird too. The phone also aggressively smoothes surfaces on dark shots.

When you pick a smartphone brand, you also pick a certain photography style. I’m not a fan of saturated photos, so Huawei’s bias toward unnatural colors doesn’t work in my favor.

But if you like extremely vivid shots with insanely good sensors the P30 Pro is for you. That array of lenses opens up a lot of possibilities and gives you more flexibility.

Fine prints

The P30 Pro isn’t available in the U.S. But the company has already covered the streets of major European cities with P30 Pro ads. It costs €999 ($ 1,130) for 128GB of storage — there are more expensive options with more storage.

Huawei also unveiled a smaller device — the P30. It’s always interesting to look at the compromises of the more affordable model.

On that front, there’s a lot to like about the P30. For €799 ($ 900) with 128GB, you get a solid phone. It has a 6.1-inch OLED display and shares a lot of specifications with its bigger version.

The P30 features the same system-on-a-chip, the same teardrop notch, the same fingerprint sensor in the display, the same screen resolution. Surprisingly, the P30 Pro doesn’t have a headphone jack while the P30 has one.

There are some things you won’t find on the P30, such as wireless charging or the curved display. While the edges of the device are slightly curved, the display itself is completely flat. And I think it looks better.

Cameras are slightly worse on the P30, and you won’t be able to zoom in as aggressively. Here’s the full rundown:

  • A 40 MP main sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization.
  • A 16 MP ultra-wide angle lens with an f/2.2 aperture.
  • An 8 MP telephoto lens that should provide 3x optical zoom.
  • No time-of-flight sensor.

In the end, it really depends on what you’re looking for. The P30 Pro definitely has the best cameras of the P series. But the P30 is also an attractive phone for those looking for a smaller device.

Huawei has once again pushed the limits of what you can pack in a smartphone when it comes to cameras. While iOS and Android are more mature than ever, it’s fascinating to see that hardware improvements are not slowing down.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Watch Huawei’s MWC conference live right here

While Huawei isn’t going to show the P30 at Mobile World Congress, the company says it is going to “reveal the unprecedented”. Like other manufacturers, Huawei has been trying some new designs. The conference starts at 2:00 PM CET (1:00 PM GMT, 8:00 AM EST).

Huawei doesn’t unveil its flagship devices at MWC anymore. The company usually holds its own press conference after the show. This time, Huawei will unveil the P30 in Paris on March 26.

But it doesn’t mean that the company is skipping the show altogether. So maybe Huawei is going to show a foldable phone?

You can check it out live via Huawei’s official stream above, and stay tuned on TechCrunch.com for ongoing coverage of all the news coming out of MWC.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Review: Huawei’s P20 Pro is a shiny phone with a strong personality

It’s been a month since Huawei unveiled its latest flagship device. I’ve played with this phone for a few weeks and it’s one of the most interesting Android phones currently available.

The P20 Pro is a solid successor to the P10 and a good alternative to other flagship phones, such as the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9.

But it isn’t the perfect phone either. Some features are missing for no apparent reason. Some of Huawei’s choices are also questionable.

Looking for the perfect Android phone

A few years ago, many Android phones paled in comparison with the latest iPhone. Most of them were made out of plastic. And Android was simply too clunky back then.

2018 is a completely different story as you have a lot of options. Maybe you like Samsung devices or the pure Android experience of the Pixel 2. And maybe you’ve been looking at Huawei devices from afar. But if you live in the U.S., you won’t be able to buy the P20 Pro any time soon.

Let’s start with the overall design of the phone. It features a gigantic 6.1-inch OLED display with a now familiar notch at the top. It’s not as prominent as the one in the iPhone X, but it’s clear that Apple has started the next trend in smartphone design.

The frame of the design is made out of polished aluminium. It’s shiny and looks like stainless steel — but it’s lighter than steel. It feels good in your hand and is a great indication of what an iPhone X Plus could be.

The glass back comes in multiple colors. My review device had the twilight back. It’s a nice gradient from purple to blue that makes the P20 Pro stand out from the crowd. It’s much more distinctive than unified (boring) colors.

You can also use the P20 Pro as a portable mirror to fix your makeup or your hair when you’re on the subway. But the back of the device is so shiny that it was covered in fingerprints most of the time. That’s increasingly the case when you have a smartphone with a glass back.

Below the display, you’ll find a good old fingerprint sensor. In my experience it works well and I like having it on the front of the device when my phone is resting on a table. Unfortunately, it makes the phone quite tall overall.

Why stop at two when you can have three cameras

Everybody laughed when smartphone manufacturers started putting two camera sensors at the back of their devices. And yet, many people upgrade their phone to get a better camera. Some people even choose their next phone based on the camera exclusively.

And Huawei went a bit crazy on this front as the company integrated three cameras at the back of the device. There’s a 40 megapixels lens combined with a 20 megapixels monochrome lens and an 8 megapixels telephoto lens. And the phone supports super slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second.

On paper, it sounds like a bit too much. But it’s true that those three cameras are the most important and remarkable feature of the P20 Pro.

I used both an iPhone X and the P20 Pro on my last vacation to Cambodia. And here’s a gallery of some sample photos:

Let’s be honest, I’m not a great photographer. So I wanted to use the P20 Pro in the most normal use case. The P20 Pro has so many options and manual triggers that it feels a bit overwhelming for a normal user. But Huawei keeps saying that the P20 Pro is smart and can automatically capture the best shot for you.

If you use the normal photo mode, the camera tries to detect the content of the photo and adjust the settings automatically. For instance, if you’re shooting a portrait of a person, the P20 Pro automatically switches to Portrait mode. If you’re shooting at night, the phone will take a night mode photo by capturing multiple under- and overexposed photos and recompositioning the scene.

In my experience, the camera performed extremely well. It was quite hard to get a blurry, unfocused shot. But it was also something completely different from the iPhone X camera.

Colors are oversaturated in most cases. It looks too bright, too shiny and quite far from reality. And that wasn’t just the case on the smartphone itself (by default, the color profile of the display is quite saturated too). It was particularly true with nature shots. And I prefer the more natural tone of iPhone X photos.

When it comes to night photos, the P20 Pro is the best performing smartphone I’ve used. It performed incredibly well and it’s quite impressive that you can shoot these photos with a smartphone.

You can feel the strong personality of the P20 Pro when you’re taking selfies too. The camera app has a built-in beautifying effect that makes you look better. It is enabled by default, and you can’t disable it completely. Even when you set it to 0, it’ll make your skin smoother.

Overall, I’m impressed with the P20 Pro camera. But that doesn’t mean I like it better than the iPhone X. In some ways, it feels too complicated to get the perfect shot. In other ways, it corrects photos with software features that make them look a bit fake.

Many people will love the P20 Pro camera. It just depends on what you’re looking for.

Fine prints

Let’s go through some miscellaneous items. The P20 Pro doesn’t feature wireless charging. While it’s not a dealbreaker, it’s hard to go back to plugging a cable if you were already using wireless charging.

The system-on-a-chip is a Kirin 970 made by Huawei. Instead of boring you with benchmarks, let’s just say that it was perfectly fine and I didn’t feel limited at any moment. The P20 Pro is on par with other flagship Android devices. But it was particularly well optimized for power consumption. Battery life on the P20 Pro was very good.

The P20 Pro doesn’t have a microSD slot, but comes with 128GB of internal storage by default. There’s a single USB Type-C port (no headphone jack) and you’ll find both USB Type-C earbuds and a USB Type-C to headphone jack adapter.

My device had two SIM slots, but be careful if you plan on buying the P20 Pro. Huawei said that some versions of the device will only have one SIM slot.

When it comes to software, the P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom skin. I’m not a fan of EMUI as the company regularly pushes you to create a Huawei account. The company has also developed its own version of many of Google’s apps.

It can be confusing if you’re just looking for Google’s own apps. But this is understandable as all Google services are still blocked in China. Chinese users need Huawei’s alternatives.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the P20 Pro. It ticks all the right boxes to become a strong Samsung Galaxy S9 contender.

But more importantly, Huawei didn’t just build a safe phone. The P20 Pro has a strong personality and the company made some polarizing choices. You can see it across the board, from the back of the device to the beautifying effect when you’re taking selfies.

Huawei has been using the camera as the main element of its advertising campaign for the P20 Pro. The company is right to brag about its camera as it performs incredibly well. But software correction and saturated colors sometimes go too far, depending on your taste.

For years, most people looked at the new Samsung Galaxy S phone and the new iPhone to see what’s next in the smartphone world. But Huawei is now also pushing the needle forward with this phone.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Huawei’s P20 is a shiny, extravagant phone

Huawei just unveiled its brand new flagship phone — the P20. It’s a solid, well-designed Android phone with a shiny design, an iPhone X-like notch and some extravagant features, such as not one, not two but three cameras on the back of the P20 Pro.

I’ve played with the phone for a few minutes yesterday, and I would consider it one of the most polished Android phones out there. It’s a good successor to the P10, a good alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and a good incarnation of Android.

The P20 and P20 Pro

Huawei is launching two different phones. The P20 is the most affordable version of the devices. It features a 5.8-inch LCD display with an 18.7:9 aspect ratio. In other words, the screen is more or less just like the one on the iPhone X.

The P20 Pro is slightly larger with a 6.1-inch display. And, for the first time in a Huawei phone, it has an OLED display. This feature alone makes the P20 Pro much nicer than the P20.

Phone manufacturers shouldn’t even try selling a phone with a notch combined with an LCD display. It just looks bad.

Both phones have a glass back and an aluminum frame, just like the Samsung Galaxy S9. It doesn’t feel as heavy as the iPhone X with its stainless steel frame, but it feels nice in your hand.

It’s a bit surprising that Huawei opted for a glass back even though the P20 and P20 Pro don’t feature wireless charging. Many manufacturers switched to glass cases to facilitate wireless charging. With those new devices, you get the fingerprints on the back of the device without any additional feature.

There are five colors for the P20 and four colors for the P20 Pro. In addition to standard colors (black, midnight blue for both devices, champagne gold for the P20), Huawei has created two gradient colors that look great — twilight and pink gold.

Another thing that differentiates the Huawei P20 from other Android phones, Huawei has kept the fingerprint sensor on the front, below the display. Many manufacturers have put the fingerprint sensor on the back, which works fine if you have the phone in your hand. But if the phone is on the table, you have to pick it up to unlock it — you don’t have this issue with the P20.

Throwing more cameras at the problem

But the real craziness is on the back of the device. The P20 Pro has three camera sensors because two cameras weren’t enough.

There’s a 40 megapixels lens combined with a 20 megapixels monochrome lens and an 8 megapixels telephoto lens. All of this should help you zoom further, take portait photos and take super slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second.

While that sounds like an overkill, Huawei thinks this is the best physical representation of its work when it comes to photography.

The company automatically detects objects and scenes to adjust the camera settings. The selfie camera automatically enhances your skin so that you feel comfortable sharing selfies with your friends. Long exposures are automatically stabilized for those long dark winter nights.

I could go on and on with Huawei’s special camera features, but it’s hard to judge if it’s actually useful without using the phone for a few days.

The P20 is a bit more reasonable as it only has two rear cameras.

Let’s go through some fine prints. Both devices are powered by an ARM-based Kirin 970 system-on-a-chip designed by Huawei. It runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom skin.

It comes with 128GB of internal storage, no microSD slot, no headphone jack and a USB Type-C port. There will be dual SIM versions of both devices.

The company says that you can unlock the device with your face, but it’s nowhere near as good as Face ID. It takes a 2D photo of your face so you can easily bypass it with a photo.

Trying to be different

When you see the shiny P20, it has a distinctive look. That hasn’t always been the case with Huawei phones. The company has chosen to embrace the notch. It makes the P20 look much different from the notch-less Samsung Galaxy S9.

In many ways, the P20 isn’t groundbreaking. It’s a faster, more capable smartphone. But it’s hard to keep innovating after more than a decade of smartphones. So the P20 feels like a solid Android phone.

The only issue is that you won’t be able to buy the P20 in the U.S. That’s why Huawei introduced its smartphone in Paris with videos featuring Orange, Vodafone, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom.

Gadgets – TechCrunch