Many have been quick to dismiss Huawei's latest mobile operating system, EMUI 5.0, as an less desirable rework of its Android Nougat base. It's because, by default, the system flings a lot of repeat alerts in your general direction in a bid to better refine user experience and save battery.
Over time, however, and with some digging around and personal adjustments, you'll not only learn to love EMUI 5.0, you'll begin to appreciate some of the Huawei-only features that embellish the latest iteration of this OS.
Here's how to boss EMUI - which stands of Emotion User Interface (don't cry now) - and make your Huawei phone the very best it can be.
EMUI 5.0 availability: Which Huawei handsets have the latest OS?
Right now EMUI 5.0 is available for:
- Huawei Mate 9
- Huawei P9
- Huawei P9 Plus
- Region-limited Huawei Mate 9 Pro
- Limited edition Mate 9 Porsche Design edition
- Honor 8
To check for an update from EMUI 4.1 swipe down from the top of the home screen, select the Settings cog icon to the top right, then scroll all the way to the bottom of the Settings and hit System Update. This screen will auto-check for an update, as signified by the large spinning wheel, assuming a Wi-Fi connection.
EMUI 5.0: Lockscreen shortcuts
Quick-access Recorder, Calculator, Flashlight, Stopwatch, QR code. Simply swipe up from the bottom edge of the lock screen and it will reveal an iPhone-style arrangement of circular shortcuts. Click the relevant icon to activate. This is not possible when the phone is unlocked and you're viewing its home screen or in any other apps.
Shortcut: wallpaper change, affix, share. Again, no need to unlock: a swipe up from the lock screen and the upper row allows you to:
- remove a wallpaper cover (x symbol)
- fix one in place rather than it cycling through (heart symbol)
- share a cover (requires app access and, therefore, unlocking)
- select a new wallpaper cover (again, requires an unlock).
There's also a play/pause symbol which does nothing of use; furthermore if music is playing (which we assume this icon to be for) via Google Play Music it will override any of the wallpaper shortcuts from the lock screen.
Quick camera launch. As per stock Android, a swipe from the bottom right corner of the lock screen with load the Camera app. To load the app and immediately capture a shot a double-tap of the volume down button will be your new best friend (within the Camera app this can be set to just open the camera, or deactivated entirely).
Set PIN / Pattern / Password to unlock. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Screen Lock & Passwords. Here you can set pattern, PIN, password or remove lock methods.
Instant lock / auto-lock by sleep time. When you press the power button it will lock your phone instantly by default. If you would rather this not happen, head to Screen Lock & Passwords (via the method above) > Secure Lock Settings > Power Button Instantly Locks. It's also possible to set automatic lock from 5-seconds to 30-minutes after sleep.
EMUI 5.0: Fingerprint features
Fingerprint unlock. In addition to a pattern, PIN or password lock you can register multiple fingerprints to login to EMUI. On the Mate 9 the rear-positioned scanner is near instant to operate. It's possible to add up to five individual fingerprints.
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Fingerprint ID > Fingerprint Management (enter PIN as prompted) > New Fingerprint, then follow the enrolment process.
Use fingerprint to take photo / answer call / stop alarm. Access Fingerprint ID (method above), then under the Touch And Hold Gesture tab these options can be individually activated.
Use fingerprint scanner to display notifications / swipe through images. The scanner isn't just capable of reading your fingerprint, it can be used as a gesture pad too (without a fingerprint being registered). Top-to-bottom swipes can reveal the notifications panel (opposite way to hide it), while left-to-right or right-to-left swipes can flick through images in the gallery.
Access Fingerprint ID (method above), then under the Slide Gesture tab these options can be individually activated.
EMUI 5.0: Home screen adjustments and organisation
Shortcut: Wallpaper, Widgets, Transitions. To adjust your homepage wallpaper, adjust the way the animations perform between screens, or add widgets from installed apps, simply press-and-hold anywhere on the home screen (not over an app icon) to load these shortcuts.
More/fewer app icons. To select between a 5x5, 4x5 or 5x4 icon grid layout, again press-and-hold anywhere on the home screen > select Settings to the bottom right corner. To the top of the settings page is Home Layout with these options available.
App drawer vs apps everywhere. If you're content with your app icons being scattered everywhere across your homepage and other pages, the default Standard layout will suit you fine. If you prefer an App Drawer - where all apps are contained to tidy up the home screen, in an iPhone-like style - this can be activated too (it lacked from some earlier versions of EMUI).
To access swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > tap Home Screen Style (visible within first page) > choose between Standard and App Drawer options.
Create a folder. Press-and-hold an app icon, after a short moment the device will give a short vibration feedback, now slowly drag the icon over anothe, release and they'll be combined in a folder. Huawei folders are arranged 3x3 per page, with multiple pages possible.
Add apps to a folder. Multiple app icons can be dragged into an existing folder. A simpler way is to hit the 'Add +' icon (which will be at the furthest point in an existing folder).
Remove an app from a folder. Open the folder, press-and-hold the app icon in question and drag it out of the folder onto a home screen.
Change a folder colour or name. Open a folder and enter the name you want at the top. If you don't want a name, leave it blank. To change the folder background colour, tap the palette in the right-hand corner and select a new colour.
Stop adding new app icons to home screen. If you don't want new apps you install cluttering up your home screen, head into Play Store > hit the three horizontal lines to the top left > Settings > Add Icon To Home Screen.
EMUI 5.0: Custom controls and soft keys
Adjust soft keys layout. Don't like the way your trio of soft keys - back, home, open apps - is arranged, then you can swap them around. It's possible to switch left and right soft key positions, plus add a fourth settings shortcut soft key which saves you from swiping down from the top of the homescreen to view notifications (handy for a larger device, or smaller hands).
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Navigation Key.
Add Floating Dock. Another handy feature for a larger phone is the activate the Floating Dock, a side-positioned shortcut (which you can drag to position) that contains the trio of Android soft keys, plus a lock screen button and quick tidy-up (for closing unnecessary apps). It only comes with the five shortcuts, though, and there's no way to edit these.
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Smart Assistance > activate Floating Dock. Alternatively, swipe down from the top of the screen, expand the shortcuts and Floating Dock is within here.
Motion control. Also contained within Smart Assistance is a Motion Control tab. This allows control over:
- Flip to mute the phone when it's ringing or the alarm is sounding.
- Pick Up to reduce ring/alarm volume by lifting the device.
- Raise to Ear which auto-answers calls.
These three options can be independently switch on or off and each have deeper customisation for calls and alarm settings.
Knuckle gestures. Don't worry, it's not a new meme sensation, it's a Huawei special. By using a hard knuckle to write on the screen rather than a softer finger, a "second layer" of commands can be instructed:
- Double tap for screen shot (using one knuckle - does what it says on the tin)
- Draw where knuckle-drawn letters activate apps (C for Camera, M for music, and so forth - each can be customised from a fuller list of apps).
- Split-screen gesture where a knuckle-drawn line across the screen when in an app screen will open the recent apps to the lower portion.
EMUI 5.0: Live record the screen
Another Huawei specific feature is the ability to live record your device - which could be handy if you wanted to make a how-to video to share with a friend. It's activated by tapping two knuckles twice on the screen.
The resulting video is saved in your Files > Videos area (not Screenshots as the system claims). It's a nifty feature, albeit one with limited application.
EMUI 5.0: Business card scanner
Another EMUI special - it's possible to capture business card information and render it as a contact using the camera. Open Dialler > hit Contacts > then either hit Business Cards at the top of your contacts list, or hit the Scan button on the floating widget bottom centre. A QR-like reader will pop up allowing a card to be scanned in to render a new contact. It's not always 100 per cent perfect, but it's a clever little idea.
EMUI 5.0: Quickly free-up space
Running low on space? If you're not using two SIM cards then there's a slot for a microSD card.
Alternatively there's a quick and easy (albeit uncouth) way of clearing out the app cache and other settings which can often relieve a good few hundred Megabytes of space, possibly into Gigabytes.
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Memory & Storage. Here you can see the calculations of your various files - Firmware, Cached Data, Apps, Images, Videos, Audio, Other - and select the Storage Cleaner option in Storage Settings.
The Storage Cleaner automatically selects what it thinks you won't want. A word of caution here: deleting all your cached data in Chrome might just end up annoying you when certain things aren't quickly available. Fortunately, you can check boxes per suggestion to tailor a clean-up as you see fit.
EMUI 5.0: Dual SIM options
Enable/disable a specific SIM. If you've popped two SIM cards into your phone - say one for personal, one for business - and want to switch one off for a vacation, holiday or over the weekend then you can. It's possible to determine if a SIM is active, enable call forwarding between two numbers and assign default mobile data to either SIM.
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > Dual SIM Settings.
WhatsApp/Facebook per SIM card. Now here's a smart feature that few other phones can offer. Huawei calls it App Twin. It's possible to have WhatsApp and Facebook twins at present, but in the future there could be more twin options (that will take third-party development and approval before it's possible).
Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > App Twin (at the bottom of the Settings page).
EMUI 5.0: App notifications and display
Alert notifications are useful, but you won't want to necessarily receive them all the time from every app. Notifications can be individually dismissed, by swiping them away, but you can also setup an individual app's level of notifications too, to apply to all future settings.
Allow/silence/block notifications from an app. If an app keeps popping-up notifications and you don't want it to, press-and-hold the notification which will raise the a trio of immediate options:
- Don't make sound and vibrate (silences notifications, but still allows them to display).
- Sound and vibrate (the default setting).
- Block all from this app (effectively ceases an app's notification powers).
Adjust where/how an app can display notifications. There are two ways to access the deep-dive settings: from the press-and-hold of a notification, select More Settings; or swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Apps. From here it's possible to see all your installed apps, individually select them, within which there is the Notifications setting:
- Display in the status bar. This is where you'll see little icons appear to the very top left of your home screen. Letter icons for mail, hash icons for Slack, and all manner of other custom icons. You might want to switch off notifications from obscure apps you don't use much, to keep things neater.
- Banners. These are the floating mini views that some apps present, such as Mail. They're a great quick access point, but if you don't want them here's where to switch them on or off.
- Display on lock screen. Keep the lock screen totally private by hiding all notification displays.
- Priority display. For those key apps; allows notifications to ring with preference.
- Ringtone/Vibrate/deactivate. If you want no notifications at all, turn off the Allow Notifications button. If you want only ringtone, vibration or both then toggle the necessary Ringtone and Vibrate buttons on or off.
Apps drawing over other apps. Some apps have special permission to draw over other apps. The Facebook Messenger pop-up bubble being one prime example. This can be deactivated by accessing Apps (method above). Within your list of apps each can be selected individually, within which is an Advanced tab (for relevant apps only), with Draw Over Other Apps selectable within.
Not receiving notifications when you should be? Here's a Huawei oddity that we've found to be irksome with some apps not sending alerts/notifications even when all settings are apparently correct (WhatsApp is our problematic one). It's to do with EMUI's strict power efficiency. If you stop receiving notifications try this (to access Ignore Optimisations): access Apps (method above) > hit the blue settings cog icon to the bottom > select Special Access under the Advanced tab > Unrestricted Data Access. Here apps can be granted always-on data irrelevant of what other settings state.
Allow system wakeup. Additionally, try this: access Apps (method above). Specific apps will have a System Wakeup button within their Battery tab, which you'll want to leave active for an app alert to trigger even when the phone is in sleep mode.
Notification light and status bar settings. You can select if you want a pulsing notification light, display carrier name, network speed, battery percentage, and whether notifications are icons or numbers. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Notification & Status Bar where all these settings can be found.
EMUI 5.0: Do not disturb and volume settings
Activate Do Not Disturb. This lets you silence your phone, without interruptions - except for specified exceptions. You can schedule DND, add additional time rules (custom, per day), event rules (from calendar), or allow alarms and priority interruptions only. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Do Not Disturb.
Allow designated apps to interrupt. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Apps. Select the desired app from the list, within which there is the Notifications setting, choose Priority Display.
Set ringtone, media, alarms and calls volumes. These can be individually adjusted. Simply hit the volume up/down button, which will adjust the ringtone volume from loudest down to vibrate (or there's a mute button). This pop-up banner has a blue arrow to its top right corner, hit this to open the other individual settings to adjust.
EMUI 5.0: Battery optimisation and power-intensive prompts
Here's where EMUI goes a bit heavy on its alerts. If an app is using higher-than-normal energy levels in the background, the system will prompt you to close said app with a notification alert. These can be dismissed individually, but will keep repeating without taking further action. Or you can take the advice of the system and click the close button within the alert to enhance battery life.
Deactivate power-intensive prompt. This can only be activated per app, and actively used ones at that. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Apps. Select the desired app from the list, hit Battery and deselect Power-intensive Prompt.
Find out which apps are power-intensive. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Battery and under the App Power Saving Tab is Power Intensive Apps. Within here the phone will show you the active apps running in the background. It's possible to select them and close them should you want.
Close app after screen has locked. If you don't want a certain app to be eating battery life when it's not fully active and in use, follow the above step and select Close After Screen Locked.
Battery optimisation. There are three battery modes:
- Normal. The default setting, which doesn't throttle the CPU or background activity.
- Power Saving. Select this for a slight lift in battery life. It will limit background app activity, such as push notifications, and limit the CPU.
- Ultra power saving. For when battery life is really low as you'll get more than double life from this setting. It sets the phone into a simple mode, with only basic call and SMS apps available. One for emergencies/festivals. It can also be activated from a swipe down from the top of the screen and selecting from the expanded shortcuts.
Show battery remaining as a percentage. Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Battery. The bottom option is Remaining Battery Percentage (the font of which differs to the active Theme).
EMUI 5.0: Display adjustment
Adjust brightness / set auto-brightness. Swipe down for the top of the home screen and you'll see a sun symbol with slider. Slide this up/down to desired level, or hit the Auto box to the side for auto-adjustment based on ambient light reading.
Customise colour balance. Too warm or cold for your eyes? Swipe down from the top of the home screen > hit the settings cog icon > select Display. Under the Screen tab is Colour Temperature where it's possible to select pre-defined Warm or Cold, plus use the colour wheel to specifically customise the colour balance to your preference.
Change font size. Within the Display settings (method above) under the Personalised tab is Font Size. Choose between Small, Normal, Large, Huge and Extra Huge (the last is only available for Messaging, Contacts and Dialler).
Eye comfort (for night reading). Within the Display settings (method above) under the Screen tab is Eye Comfort. This filters out blue light to relieve visual fatigue when reading for long periods. It makes the screen look rather yellow, though, so you won't want it on all the time. It can be activated as you please or even scheduled per day, plus a slider between Less Warm and Warmer allows for comfort customisation.
EMUI 5.0: Camera tips (for dual-camera phones)
The last piece of the puzzle is Huawei's push into dual camera technology, which is present on many of its top-tier phones.
Activate Monochrome shooting. Open the Camera app, swipe from left side of the screen to open the Modes menu. Select Monochrome from here to use the true black & white sensor to full effect.
Activate Pro Mode for full control. By defauly the Camera app is a point-and-shoot affair. There's a small tab with an upwards arrow just above the virtual shutter key, however, which when pulled upwards activates Pro Mode. This offers metering, ISO, shutter speed, exposure compensation, focus type and white balance control. It's available in both Colour and Monochrome (the latter minus white balance of course).
Create fake depth of field (blurred background). Part of the reason Huawei has opted for two cameras is that it can offset the data between them, creating a depth map and the ability, via software, to blur the background as if it was taken with a much wider-open aperture. The Leica-endorsed camera of the Mate 9, for example, supports f/0.95 to f/16 in post. The results aren't always perfect, but it's fun. Simply click on the circular aperture setting at the top of the screen.
Mute camera for silent shooting. Swipe from the right edge to left to load the settings. Within here it's possible to mute the focus and shutter sounds.
Activate a grid and horizon level. Also located in the settings (method above).
Shoot raw images. In addition to JPEG files there's support for DNG. Simple go into the camera settings (method above) and hit the Raw button.
Image adjustment presets. In settings (method above) there's Image Adjustment, where +/-2 adjustment can be pre-set for saturation, contrast and brightness.
Capture a burst of images. Simply press-and-hold the screen to whirr off a rapid burst of capture, which is saved as an image stack. Useful for fast-moving or high-speed subjects. This press-and-hold can also be used to activate focus control, adjusted within the settings.