Most premium Android phones are more or less the same these days. For the past couple years, phone makers have been trying to find differentiation anywhere they can — battery size, camera quality, clever uses for the fingerprint sensor, and whatever else. Well, the Huawei P10 announced this weekend at Mobile World Congress has another idea — pretty colors! Lots and lots of pretty colors.
That’s a bit of an overstatement — as usual, Huawei has paid a lot of attention to the phone’s cameras, which look like they’ll be excellent performers. But, it’s the colors that will definitely make the P10 stand out this year — they’ve got Ceramic White, Dazzling Blue, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, and Greenery on the P10, with the P10 Plus getting all of the above minus Prestige Gold. We haven’t seen color options like this since the Nokia Lumia heyday, and we’re all about it. If nothing else, the debates over the light green Greenery option will be fun for the next week or so. Also, Rose Gold is pink. Can’t we just call it pink? I’m sick of all this pink-shaming.
How serious was Huawei about colors? Well, they enlisted the help of the Pantone Color Institute to create the Greenery and deep Dazzling Blue options. Apparently, Greenery is the official Pantone color of the year for 2017, which I just learned is a thing. The special colors are also getting what Huawei calls a hyper diamond-cut finish on the back, which gives the metal phones a sandblasted feel (others, like the white and black, have glossier finishes). Like last year, Huawei has gone with rounded corners on the aluminum frame.
Beauty isn’t just skin deep with the P10. Last year, the P9 was one of the first phones with a dual-12 MP camera system, using one as a black and white sensor for light levels, and the other for color. Notably, they also had f/2.2 lenses with Leica branding. Leica lenses are still here this year, along with a 20 MP monochrome camera, a 12 MP color camera, and a the whole spate of premium camera features — optical image stabilization, dual-tone flash, phase detect autofocus, continuous autofocus, laser autofocus, and depth autofocus, plus 2x hybrid zoom and 4K recording. The P10 will still have an f/2.2 Leica lens, which might not be as great for low-light shots, but the P10 Plus will get a wider-aperture f/1.8 Leica lens.
On the front, you’ll find an 8 MP sensor with an f/1.9 Leica lens and autofocus — as we’ve learned, Huawei takes their selfies very seriously. One advance in selfie technology comes from the software side — the phone can choose to take a wide-angle shot based on whether it detects just you or a whole group of people in the selfie. There’s also a portrait mode that blurs the background a bit, something Huawei has been playing around with on some of their cheaper phones in the past couple of years.
The most immediately noticeable difference between the P10 and the P10 Plus is size — a one hand-friendly 5.1″ display for the former, a 5.5″ display for the latter. While the P10 is still rolling with a 1080p display, Huawei has finally introduced a 1440p display on the P10 Plus, which will be a better choice for VR headsets. Both will run Android 7.0 on Huawei’s own Kirin 960 chipset, which debuted on the Mate 9. That should give both phones much better graphics performance than the P9, and is terrific for both CPU performance and battery life. Configurations will vary by market, but the P10 will have 4 GB of RAM and between 32 GB and 128 GB of storage, while the P10 Plus will have between 4 GB and 6 GB of RAM and between 64 GB and 256 GB of storage. The P10 has a 3,200 mAh battery, while the P10 Plus will have a pretty big 3,750 mAh battery, both of which will be charged using a USB Type-C connection with Huawei’s SuperCharge technology.
For connectivity, both have dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz and the faster/shorter range 5.0 GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, and LTE with speeds up to 600 Mbps — not as proficient as the modem on the competing Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, but it’ll probably still max out speeds from most networks in operation today. There’s also an IR sensor, so the phone can double as a universal remote.
Along with Android 7.0, the P10 and P10 Plus will run Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 overlay. As we noted in our Mate 9 review, EMUI improved by leaps and bounds in the 5.0 update, so if you didn’t like what you saw on the P9, it’s worth looking into the P10 — it’s much closer to stock Android, and adds some behind-the-scenes optimization algorithms to help make the battery last longer.
One big change is that the fingerprint sensor is on the front, something Huawei did with the premium version of the Mate 9. This time around, the fingerprint sensor can replace the Android navigation buttons — a tap will go back, a long press will go home, and a swipe up will being up active apps. It’s a way to save a little screen space, if nothing else.
But, Huawei wasn’t done! They’ve also upgraded the Huawei Watch for the Android Wear 2.0 release. The big news here is the addition of GPS, NFC, and 4G LTE connectivity, meaning the watch can be used without a smartphone. Huawei has made the design a little sportier, making it an viable option for runners. It’s IP68 dust and waterproof, too. There’s also an optical heart rate monitor and a physical button on the side for starting and stopping workouts, with fitness stats that can be viewed at a glance (including advanced stats like VO2 Max). It ticks all the boxes for a good exercise smartwatch — it just might be a bit bigger and heavier than you’d like for a workout or a run.
Interestingly, the case will now be made of plastic, although the Huawei Watch 2 Classic will add some stainless steel (both will have ceramic on the bezel). Problem is, it’s still massive at 45 mm with a 20 mm strap (leather or silicone) — forget about it if you have smaller wrists. The bezel is also larger than it was on the original, and there’s less fancy design flair than we’re used to from Huawei. Seems they’re going for more of a practical look and feel this time around.
Huawei says the Huawei Watch 2 should get about two days’ worth of battery life. With Android Wear 2.0, it’ll also have the new Google Assistant, along with apps that can be installed on the watch itself. That mostly sounds too busy, but in general, Android Wear 2.0 has a much more streamlined and user-friendly interface than the original version.
The Huawei P10 and P10 Plus will start at €649 and €699, respectively, and will come to a handful of markets worldwide starting in March. Sadly, despite the Mate 9 getting a United States release, it doesn’t sound like that will be the case for the P10. The Huawei Watch 2 will be $350 when it arrives in the U.S. in April (it will come to Europe in March). Expensive as usual for Huawei, in other words.