Huawei's latest software update is called EMUI 10 and it's rolling out to devices from the last couple of years now - for a full list of compatible devices see the bottom of this article.
EMUI is a Huawei-designed user interface that sits on top of Google's Android. In this case, EMUI 10 works on top of Android 10.
Will I get Google Play?
The Huawei-Google relationship has been a major challenge recently because of the US trade ban on Huawei.
Because Huawei has existing licenses/agreements in place for pre-existing devices, anything launched before the Huawei Mate 30 series will have full Android, with Google Play Services and everything that entails: the Play Store, Play Movies, Play Games and all the other Google apps that require Google Play Services in order to function.
The Huawei Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro don't have Google Play Services, and we're expecting the same to be the case for the upcoming P40 and P40 Pro. That means you're relying on the Huawei App Gallery in order get your apps and games, and you'll be missing some core Android default apps.
This will be true of any new Huawei or Honor device going forward until the situation between the US, China and Huawei is resolved and the trade ban is lifted.
This version is the biggest visual overhaul to EMUI for a few years. With that said, it's still very clearly Android. In fact, it looks more like pure Android than it ever has before.
Despite that, there's no way you'd confuse it with the vanilla Android experience you'd find on the Pixel or Android One phone. It retains its own sense of style. There's isn't an identical Android skin out there, but the most similar one from recent memory is the OneUI skin that Samsung uses on its most recent smartphones.
There's also a full, system-wide dark mode.
The way Huawei speaks about EMUI 10, it wants all of our smart devices to be speaking to each other seamlessly and efficiently, while apps and programs that work between them with minimal work from app developers. It's a bold dream, and one that we're yet to see if it will take off.
Magazine influence and minimalism
EMUI 10 has been visually designed, from the ground up, to take its influence from the principles of magazine design. What that means, is there appears to be a clear hierarchy of headlines, lists and content. In reality that means a lot more blank space.
Like Magazines, the titles are big and bold, taking up a good portion at the top of the screen. That's true whether you're in the Settings app, Calendar, Contacts or any other pre-installed Huawei app. They all have a clean, well-spaced look that's uniform and all tie in together nicely. It feels less cramped than before.
This same approach is also applied to the drop-down menu which loads on top of any screen you're on. The quick settings tiles have been completely redesigned, turning them into a more stock-like grid of solid circle icons, similar to what you'd find on the Pixel. However, taking inspiration from the Magazine theme again, when you drag the quick settings all the way down, you the time and date taking up the top half acting as that headline, with the toggles and controls at the bottom, within easy reach of a thumb.
The minimalist approach extends into the Settings menu, where Huawei has drastically reduced the number of main settings options. Similarly, if you open a contact card, you'll now get a subtle pastel coloured card at the top. Huawei took inspiration from Italian artist, Giorgio Morandi, who was well known for using quite muted colours in his still life paintings. We can certainly see the resemblance.
If you've taken a lot of photos using Huawei's flagship Leica engineered cameras, you'll no doubt have come across the skeuomorphic look of the camera app, complete with its fake leather-textured panel at the bottom. That's now gone, replaced by a much cleaner black and white minimalist UI.
It's 2019, so naturally any new software has to come with the option for toggling on a system-wide dark theme. Like the new magazine-style spacing UX design, it permeates through all of the stock pre-installed Huawei apps once it's been activated.
Any backgrounds go completely black, essentially switching off all of those individual pixels to conserve battery, while the headlines and titles go a light shade of grey in order to contrast and be clearly legible, but without going too bright and being uncomfortable to look at.
The aforementioned Morandi-inspired pastel colours go a much darker shade. So instead of greens, pinks and oranges, you get darker shades of grey and brown with hints of blue, orange and green.
Apart from looking cool Dark Mode has actual benefits, like helping your eyes relax and helping reduce your time staring at bright white screens with lots of blue light. As already mentioned, it also helps conserve phone battery. So it's a win-win.
Another element Huawei was keen to point out was the new fluidity and natural movement of its animations. It's mostly focussed on when you dismiss an app, returning to the home screen by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
As you're swiping the app away, it works out the trajectory and the speed that you're moving the app and then moves in that direction, spring back to wherever the app icon sits on the screen. All in all, it certainly feels and looks fluid and smooth. It helps add a sense of cohesion, removing any slight abruptness that you may have felt before.
One other much more subtle animation is when you tap on anything on the screen, or launch an app. Look at an icon as you tap the app to launch it, and you'll notice a very slight spring animation, almost as if you're pressing an actual button.
It's almost as if it is pushed down, before you release and the app launches. The same happens if you select a photo in the Gallery app. It's only very subtle, but there's something remarkably pleasing about it once you notice it.
AI smarts and device interoperability?
Moving away from the visual aspect of its changes and on to AI: Huawei has done a lot of work to not only make the overall user interface snappier, but is also building the structures in place to make it work well with a whole ecosystem of products. Huawei wants the smartphone to act as a sort of hub that connects seamlessly with other devices. The realisation of that is in the future, but it begins with the way it works with Huawei's Matebook laptops.
It's also very similar to the Continuity features that Apple has for seamless integration between macOS, iOS and other devices.
By connecting a Huawei phone with the Matebook, you get a virtual smartphone screen on the laptop display, so you can easily and quickly copy and paste text using your keyboard and mouse. You can even drag and drop files between the phone and laptop, while messaging friends, colleagues and family, using the same keyboard.
The base that EMUI10 is built on could mean that - in the future - app developers can develop an app once for EMUI, and it'll instantly work, adjusting and optimising its appearance and layout to match whatever screen it's on: whether that's an in-car entertainment system, TV or smartwatch.
When will EMUI 10 come to my phone?
We first knew about EMUI last September when Huawei announced a beta version. But that wasn't the announcement of the full roll-out. There were some reports that rollout had started in November, but it's only now (January 2020) that Huawei has confirmed that many of its key phones will get EMUI 10 over the next few weeks. These are:
- Huawei P30 Pro
- Huawei P30
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro
- Huawei Mate 20
- Huawei Mate 20 X (4G)
- Huawei Nova 5T
Phones getting EMUI 10 later on
These devices will get EMUI 10 "in later months" - a timeline that could do with a bit more certainty considering many phones from 2017 and 2018 are included in it, specifically the very successful P20 Pro.
- Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS
- Huawei Mate 20 X(5G)
- Huawei P30 lite
- Huawei Nova 4e
- Huawei P20
- Huawei P20 Pro
- Huawei Mate 10
- Huawei Mate 10 Pro
- Porsche Design Huawei Mate 10
- Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS
- Huawei Mate 20 lite
- Huawei P Smart 2019
- Huawei P Smart + 2019
- Huawei P Smart Pro
- Huawei P Smart Z
- Huawei Nova 4
- Huawei Nova Lite 3