From the Editor’s Desk: Understanding EMUI
There's a method to Huawei's UI madness, even if you're not a fan of it.
I've become a pretty decent fan of Huawei's phones over the past year or so. It started with a brief look at the Honor 6 Plus. I didn't really get it at the time. Interesting hardware, weird software, and this was a pure China model, full of features I'll never understand. Months later, in Berlin, I snagged and reviewed a Mate S. It may be my favorite design since the HTC One M7. (Erm, for somewhat obvious reasons.)
And not too long after that we got the Nexus 6P, which remains atop our list of the best Android phones you can buy. Then there's the Mate 8, a big beast that goes all day but takes some work to get the software where it's usable. And now we have the budget-friendly Honor 5X. Again, decent hardware, but software that leaves us trying to figure things out.
But I've decided it's just not that complicated.
When I'm trying to figure out what it is that Huawei's up to, I remember one thing: If the phone's dead, it doesn't matter. That's particularly true with the Mate line, which is aimed at business-type folks. That's why it's got a big battery. And a lower-resolution display. And that's why the software does everything it can to conserve battery. That's why the phones default to a lower performance setting. That's why EMUI is always asking if you want to kill the app you're using because it's using battery. (Usually in the background, but EMUI is still really aggressive about things.)
In other words, battery above all.
None of this is new. The scary dialogs you'll find on the Mate 8 are also on the Mate S. And a good bit of it goes back to the Mate 7 (a little before my time, though I did have one for a while), if not sooner.
And it's not even about the Springboard-esque user interface. I don't have a traditional app drawer with Action Launcher 3. I'm really interested to see how folks react to the launcher on the Nexbit Robin, which won't have an app drawer, or widgets on the same home screen. You can (and I do) disagree with some of EMUI's design decisions. You can (and I do) try to undo as much of that as I can. And there have been (and still are, on certain phones) features that are all but broken. A lot of work needs to be done there.
But I get it now. All the headaches. All the "WTF?!?!?" ... It all has to do with making these things run as long as they possibly can. On powerful hardware, it shows. On lesser hardware, it maybe slows things down too much. But it all makes sense to me.
A few other things that make sense (or not) ...
- One hell of an interview from Google's Kirill Grouchnikov with Timothy Peel, who's worked on user interfaces (some real-ish, some not quit as real) in TV and movies. Fascinating stuff.
- I love the idea of the UA HealthBox. But I know how that story ends after I shell out $400. I'm already questioning my latest FitBit purchase.
- Not as excited about using my phone as a hotel room key as I thought I might be.
- Colbert on Palin was as spot-on as it was sad.
- Russell was right. Probably. We'll see what happens when I'm on the road and don't want to deal with not having the account service installed.
- (By the way, Reddit blew that post way the hell up. Impressive.)
- Yeah ... not sorry I canceled Friday's New York trip.
- Two variants of an HTC phone isn't exactly a new thing. At all.
That's it for this week. Hope everyone stayed safe in all this crazy weather. Can't quite express how glad I am I canceled Thursday's trip to New York.