The P10 cements Huawei as a premium smartphone manufacturer that should be taken seriously, and is a top notch allrounder that only makes a few omissions in keeping the cost down.
What we love
- Fun, innovative dual lens camera
- Excellent value
- 64GB of expandable storage
- Solid battery life
What could be improved
- No water-resistance
- No smudge-resistant coating
- Huawei's take on Android needs more polish
- Home button navigation is weird
What Is It?
Succeeding last year’s P9, the Huawei P10 is a case of refinement rather than revolution. And that’s not a bad thing: the P10 cements the fact that Huawei can make a great smartphone. While the changes are pretty small - new hardware, the fingerprint reader is now on the front rather than back, and an upgraded Leica camera - the P10 is a solid all round package.
The P10 isn't quite as striking as the bleeding edge LG G6 or Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s nonetheless an elegant, efficient device. Touting a clean design, it looks stunning in blue (available exclusively through Optus in Australia), and well, like any other phone in black. There's no real differentiating design elements other than a small glass frame around the camera module, and a red accent around the power button.
With just a 5.1-inch display, the P10 is a compact package; you've still got reasonably sized top and bottom bezels, but almost nothing on the sides of the screen. If you want to use your phone one-handed, the P10 is perfect. The screen itself runs at 1080p, and is bright enough to comfortable use is direct sunlight.
On a display related note, Huawei's also got a thing called the "Screen Promise". If you happen to break the P10's screen within three months of your purchase date, Huawei will replace it for free. It would be great if this period was a little longer than just three months, but I guess the first few are the ones where you feel the worst for breaking a new device.
Huawei's extended partnership with luxury camera manufacturer Leica seems to have paid off, as the P10 has a killer camera. Or should I say, cameras. There are two rear-facing cameras: one that shoots in colour, and one that shoots in black and white. Additional information captured by the monochrome sensor is then used to help with lowlight performance and increase detail in the resulting images.
The dual sensor setup also lends itself to a few tricks. My favourite is the ability to replicate DSLR-like bokeh (soft-focus backgrounds) using what Huawei calls "wide-aperture" mode. While this is generated via software, it looks convincing in most cases. Since the bokeh is created digitally, you're also able to modify the intensity and the focal point of an image even after you’ve taken it. This does however mean you end up with weird glitches from time to time, such as when you're dealing with complex shapes, glass, or liquids.
A dedicated portraiture mode also makes uses of the dual sensor tech combined with facial mapping, which helps reduce the likely hood of "glitchy" images. I found this to be more reliable than using the standard wide-aperture mode, which could result in partial ear loss, for example.
There's a mode that lets you shoot just using the P10's monochrome sensor. The monochrome sensor is able to capture more light information and detail than coloured lens, and can get you some lovely stylised shots as a result.
We don't normally spend too much time talking about selfies on WhistleOut, but Huawei's extended the Leica-branding to the P10's front-facing camera. In non-marketing terms, this gets you a wider aperture of f1/1.9 (which lets the camera take in more light), a portrait mode with enhanced depth of field, and some smarts that can reframe your shot based on the number of people in it. The automatic adjustment was a little hit and miss though, with the camera deciding to just keep zooming in and out on occasion.
There's also beautification options to smooth your skin, add fake tan, contouring, and what not, but they don't agree with my beard. I'm not exactly who Huawei had in mind with that feature.
The P10 runs like a flagship should; in my time with the phone, I didn't experience any stuttering, slowdown, or performance issues. Gaming was smooth too. In terms of battery life, I found I mostly ended up with just under 50% left at the end of a standard day of usage. The P10 got as low as about 25% after a heavy usage, but only when I accidentally left the wireless hotspot feature on all day with an iPhone and Apple Watch both tethered to it. Whoops.
What's Not So Good?
The biggest issue with the Huawei P10 is software: Huawei's customised take on Android - EMUI - still lags behind stock Android and the more vanilla solutions used by players like HTC and Samsung. EMUI has gotten better as of late, but you'll still find yourself going up against a couple of quirks.
Out of the box, Huawei's Health app constantly gave me notifications about how many steps I had taken, despite the fact I hadn't asked it to or opened it once. Uninstalling this nosey app fixed the problem. But, there's quite a few preloaded apps that you can't uninstall, even if you’re not using them.
One plus is that EMUI no longer bombarded me with notifications about apps using too much power, a feature that's been a bit of a bugbear for me with past Huawei smartphones. You know what's more annoying than an app using too much power? Another app constantly dobbing it in.
The P10's fingerprint reader is victim to an oddly quirky implementation. Despite sitting on the front of the phone, it doesn't act as a home button; it simply unlocks the P10. You can enable a setting to make the fingerprint reader work as a home button (this might be on by default, depending where you buy your phone) but this removes your software buttons entirely.
As a result, you'll need to use gestures for going back and opening up the multitasking menu. A long press takes you all the way to your home screen, a short press goes back, and a swipe opens your app switcher. Swiping across the fingerprint reader is far from natural, but the bigger issue is the fact that back and home use very similar gestures. It almost felt like what the button did came down to luck, rather than press duration.
Lastly, I'm really not a fan of Huawei's default iconography; the gradient heavy icons contrast heavily with Android's flatter aesthetic. Some of the pre-installed themes let you tone this down, but personally, I just installed Google's Pixel Launcher (which, admittedly, you'll need to get through an APK mirror) and replaced any app that I deemed ugly with either a Google-made or third party alternative. But I'm weird like that.
Otherwise, the P10's potential deal breakers mostly boil down to omissions. You don't get water-resistance, and there's no oleophobic (greasy finger-proof) coating on the display. At $899, the lack of IP certification isn't as damning as when you're going toe-to-toe with the iPhone and Galaxy S8 in terms of pricing, but no oleophobic coating is harder to swallow. It means the device is much more prone to fingerprints and smudges, which is a shame, given the otherwise polished design.
Who's It For?
The Huawei P10 is a great allrounder that's worth considering for a couple of reasons. It's a great phone on its own merits, but it's also one of the few remaining high-end Android smartphones with a reasonably small display. Most other devices now have screens starting at 5.5-inches, and they only go up from there.
The P10's also little bit more affordable than the usual suspects. Outright it's $300 cheaper the Galaxy S8, and you'll also save a bit month-to-month if you're looking at the phone on plan.
If you don't care about water-resistance and are okay with taking the time to familiarising yourself with Huawei's take on Android, the P10 delivers on almost everything else you could want from a smartphone, including performance, price, battery, and a killer camera.
What Else Can I Buy?
Huawei P10 Plus
The P10 Plus is pretty much the P10, but with a 5.5-inch screen rather than 5.1. You'll pay $200 or so more, but that will also get you 128GB of expandable storage out of the box, splash-resistance, and a higher resolution display.
If small size is one of the reasons you're considering the P10, the iPhone 7 is one of the only other flagship that fit the bill. Well, if you're happy crossing the Android-iOS divide.
HTC's U11 is a little more expensive than the P10, but could be worth the extra $100 if you're after water-resistance. At 5.5-inches, it's a little bigger, but it also runs a cleaner version of Android, if that's your thing.