Here at Ausdroid we get to review a lot of high end phones and it’s what we all love to do. The problem is that the high end phone is not for everyone. Some people just need a phone that does the basics and manages to do that with relative ease.
For example, everyone has a friend or a relative (read father/mother/grandmother here) who is either technologically challenged or doesn’t care about how good/fast/pretty their phone is. It is these people that we often forget to cater for, and it’s these people that we with some technical sense need to look after.
A couple of weeks ago I received a Huawei P8 Lite and thought I’d do a little write up on it. Read on to see if this phone is right for you or someone you know.
- Small form factor
- Solid build
- Minimal software additions
- Small form factor
- EMUI is average at best
- Android 5.0
The hardware on the Huawei P8 Lite is how a flagship would have looked just a year or two ago. It does not purport to be a 2015 flagship-style device but instead a mid to low end device that is more on the affordable side of things. With phones becoming more expensive there isn’t much in the way of quality out there for those who do not want to spend large sums of money. This is where the Huawei P8 Lite fits in.
The hardware is solid if nothing else. The build quality of the phone is quite good and to me feels very similar to LG Optimus G in build style and quality. The hardware inside is more advanced but the shell has a very similar feel to it.
The P8 Lite is small by today’s standards. While the display is 5 inches, still it seems to be one of the smaller phones on the market. Measuring in at 143.0 × 70.6 × 7.7 mm it was easy to fit in the hand. It is slightly smaller than the Nexus 5X and as such very little hand gymnastics are required to operate the phone comfortably. Weighing a solid 131 grams, the P8 Lite is certainly not a wieldy, heavy phone but it still felt like a very solid build.
The front of the phone is fairly sparse with just the Huawei label down on the lower bezel. It is a stylish look that I definitely prefer in my devices. The left hand side of the phone has nothing on it at all with the right hand side house not only the power button, the volume buttons but also the SD card slot and the SIM card slot. The speakers for the phone are located at the bottom of the phone which put out half decent sound but personally I much prefer the front firing speakers of the Nexus 6P. For a phone hitting the mid range though these are decent speakers.
Under the hood is Huawei’s Hisilicon Kirin 620 octa-core processor, with each core clocked at 1.2GHz which is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Combined with 2GB of RAM the phone felt smooth most of the time I was using it. While not as snappy as a Nexus device it didn’t have the slow lag that some 2015 flagships have and considering this isn’t meant to be a flagship it was a nice surprise.
Huawei have included the ever-inadequate 16GB of internal memory that so many manufacturers still do. The presence of an SD card slot helps to overcome this but the experience with an SD card is not the same as that with larger internal memory. Obviously this is a cost-cutting measure but I hope in the future Huawei (and other manufacturers) manage to find an extra few dollars in the budget to include 32GB of memory as the base memory option.
The P8 Lite includes the usual Wi-Fi b/g/n and Wi-Fi Direct as well as Bluetooth v4.0LE. These work fine, actually better than that in my Nexus 6P where the Bluetooth connection is often average at best. Huawei’s main omission when it comes to connectivity is NFC. With Android Pay and other NFC tap to pay solutions growing in popularity this is disappointing but the demographic that this phone is aimed at are unlikely to adopt new technologies such as these any time soon.
The display is a meagre 5 inches. I say meagre as much as many people are trying to fight it we live in a phablet world, where large displays are the norm. A 5in display is not going to cut it as a multimedia device for a consumer of large amounts of media. Once again, this is not who the device is aimed at. The 5in display is only 1280 x 720 pixel resolution and by itself looks perfectly adequate without being stunning. It works perfectly fine for basic multimedia consumption, displaying the colours well without being oversaturated like some devices.
I am a power user when it comes to my mobile phones. I do not see the point in eking out every little bit of battery power out of my phones, trying to make them last longer by using them less. I just use the hell out of it and just charge it as required. I use my phones to their potential.
The P8 Lite, using it as I would normally was easily able to last throughout the day, while connected for most of it to my new Huawei Watch. Often my Nexus 6P will last until about 5pm for me, starting at 6am. The P8 Lite on the other hand was still going strong at 5pm, and lasted at least a couple of hours more each day on top of this. The display only being 720p obviously makes a fair bit of difference when it comes to battery life.
The P8 Lite has a 13 megapixel rear camera and a 5 megapixel front camera which are average cameras. The rear camera struggled in low light situations but was good in daylight. Huawei have included some manual camera settings in their camera app (ISO, etc) but no matter the setting the camera still struggled in the low light environment. Outside, in the daylight the camera worked as well as many other cameras on average phones. While the camera doesn’t pack the quality of the Nexus 6P, Samsung Galaxy S6 or the LG G4, it was certainly adequate. For those wanting a phone to take high quality snaps I recommend you look elsewhere, towards the higher end of the market.
There is also the now commonplace selfie modes that can soften the harshest of features, although it did little to improve my appearance.
One of the key differntiators between the P8 and the P8 Lite is the lack of the light painting in the P8 Lite. In the P8, you get interesting effects you can create with star trails, light movement with car or other moving light sources. Light Painting isn’t a make or break feature, but it’s an interesting form of photography and Huawei have implemented it quite well on the full version P8.
In a world where Google and Huawei have released a device with Android 6.0.1 pre-installed it is disappointing to see Android 5.0 on the P8 Lite. There were a lot of quality improvement changes from 5.0 to 6.0.1 so we would hope that Huawei are working on updating their devices ASAP – though it didn’t make the list of devices announced by Huawei which they intended to update to Marshmallow. Whether this lower-end Huawei device will ever see an update is unknown and is risk you take yourself if you purchase this phone. Huawei do not have the best record of updating their phones just yet, let alone one this far down their list.
If Huawei want to continue their upsurge in the hearts and minds of consumers, they need to make updating devices a priority.
Huawei do not build their software for us Australians. Their main market is the Asian (in particular Chinese) market where it seems that users prefer their software to look a certain way and behave a certain way. Huawei’s skin is called EMUI (Emotion UI) and has not changed much since last year when I reviewed the Huawei Ascend Mate 7. That is not a good thing. Ultimately the UI is not intuitive for me as I am used to a Nexus device and do actually prefer the way Google set up their software.
For a detailed review on EMUI see Dan’s more recent review on the Huawei P8.
I have to agree with him on pretty much everything he wrote. EMUI is ugly, bland and very meh. There are a few value-added pieces of software Huawei have included including the double tap to wake, the drawing of a letter on the display while it is off to launch a specific app, and I do like the way they put the time next to the notifications in the notification drawer. This is all they need. They do not need to try and include the whole EMUI experience in my opinion. Their value-added software seems useful and no gimmicky unlike some other manufacturers. Keep the rest of it simple, people will love them for it (well, I will anyway).
I am not sure if Dan touched on this but it is a big bug-bear of mine. The launcher. Very few manufacturers make a decent launcher. Huawei are no exception. It is better than the buggy version I used on the Ascend Mate 7 but it is bereft of many options included in every single open-source third party launcher out there. I still don’t understand why manufacturers don’t just fork one of these open source launchers and build their own. Or pay someone to do it, obviously they already pay someone to hobble the launcher in their own factory. Why not pay for one (eg. Huawei have a Huawei version of Swype keyboard, why not a Huawei version of Nova Launcher etc) or build a decent one yourself?
Huawei include the same bundled apps on the P8 Lite that they do on the P8, minus the NFC tag writer app for obvious reasons (there is no NFC capabilities within the P8 Lite.
Huawei don’t do their own keyboard. They use a Swype version made specifically made for them by Nuance Communications Inc. I commend this decision but this decision continues to boggle my mind why they don’t do it for their launcher.
Huawei have included an offer with the P8 Lite which I congratulate them for. If you crack or shatter the screen of your P8 Lite, Huawei will replace the screen for free (terms and conditions apply- only 1 screen is available and only in the first year after purchase). For the clumsy people out there or just the plain unlucky this is a great idea, something I wish all manufacturers did. This offer is valid for Huawei P8 Lite’s purchased in Australia and more information can be found on the Huawei website.
If you purchase the P8 Lite from Telstra, Huawei will also include their fit band http://consumer.huawei.com/au/wearables/features/huawei-band.htm in the box (limited availability). It may not have the capacity of their top of the line Huawei Watch but it is able to track your activity as well as give you notifications etc from your watch so for it to be included is a nice bonus.
|Display||5 inch, 12800×720 resolution (~294 ppi), Corning Gorilla Glass 3|
|OS||Android 5.0.1 Lollipop|
|Processor||HiSilicon Kirin 620, Octa-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53, Mali-450MP4 GPU|
|Storage||16GB, microSD card up to 128GB|
|Rear camera||13 MP, f/2.0, 27mm, autofocus, dual-LED flash, Geo-tagging, touch focus, face/smile detection, panorama, HDR, Video 1080p@30fps|
|Battery||2200 mAh non-removable|
|Band Support||UMTS:850,2100; LTE:700/900/1800/2100/2600|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, FM Radio, MicroSim|
|Speakers||Dual bottom edge speakers|
|Dimensions||143.0 x 70.6 x 7.7 mm, 131g|
ConclusionThe Huawei P8 Lite is a phone that does not hit the high notes that it’s big sibling does but it is not meant to. It is not meant to be a high end device. It is meant to be a good, middle of the road device that is for the average person not after the expensive high end device. It does this and does it well. The hardware is definitely decent enough with an above average display (albeit only 720p) and Huawei’s own CPU that performs admirably, unlike some flagship devices running high end Snapdragon processors. The build quality is what I now expect from Huawei, having used their last few devices (and currently have a Huawei Nexus 6P as my daily driver). It is solid without being wieldy. The size of the phone is where it may attract some users. Having “only” a 5in display means a much smaller phone that fits into the hand of most people comfortably allowing one-handed use without any finger gymnastics.
Unfortunately, once again Huawei let down their great hardware with very very average software. When I say average here I mean disappointing. We have seen what happens when we combine Huawei hardware with Google software, the Nexus 6P. The results are phenomenal. Huawei miss the mark on so many levels. I will give it one thing though, even though the software is ugly and confusing (why is there no app drawer?), it does not lag. Replace the launcher with a third party launcher and many of the misgivings from the EMUI are gone. There is still the ugly settings menu but most people don’t visit here very often so using a Nova Launcher or something similar will improve the experience vastly.
If you are after a high end phone with all the bells and whistles then this isn’t the phone for you but if you are after a decent phone that doesn’t break the bank but performs admirably in a day to day situation then give this device a close look.