Huawei announces the Huawei P8 and Huawei P8 Max

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Chinese phone maker Huawei has today announced two new flagship smartphones – the P8, an update to last year’s P7, and the P8 Max, a phablet too.

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Both devices sport a metal unibody design (so no removable battery), 3GB of RAM and a Kirin930x935 64bits Octa-core chipset (with a processor architecture that scales with need), and they run Android. The P8 has a 5.2″ screen and the P8 Max has a 6.8″. Like the Galaxy Note series, the Max can work in landscape mode, and also multi-task apps running next to each other. In other words, so much, so ordinary – but on top of that, there’s some interesting ideas in terms of new features.

First up, there’s the rear camera, which clocks in at 13MP, and in the presentation the presenter made a big point of comparing it to the iPhone 6 Plus – with a number of close-ups showing greater detail. Obviously we can’t verify at this point.

The cameras are said to have better optical image stabilisation than the iPhone – correcting for up to 1.2 degrees of wobble instead of 0.6, and the image processor will apparently give more vibrant and brighter images, like every phone maker ever claims.

Perhaps most interesting is a long-exposure mode which Huawei call “light painting”. The company showed several examples of how people can “draw” using a long exposure (like with sparklers on bonfire night) – water in this mode looks silky, for example.

What amused me most is that the company has doubled down on the “beauty” features. One of the funniest aspects of last year’s P7 was after you’ve taken a selfie, you could apply different effects – such as controversial face whitening and even make your nose more “slender”. On the P8, you can not only do this still, but you can also save your beauty pre-sets, with facial recognition. So you can shoot a group photo (or a “groupfie”, as Huawei is attempting to call them), and the phone will automatically pick out your face and slenderise your nose automatically. Crazy.

For shooting video there’s also a “director” mode, like we’ve seen on a few third party apps before – where you can connect up to three other phones to your P8 (presumably using a Huawei camera app – it doesn’t have to be a P8), and it will let you film with multiple camera angles, with the ‘director’ choosing the shots. Sounds battery draining but could be very interesting indeed.

Oh, and if you want to take a screenshot, Huawei has invented what it is hilariously calling “Knuckle Sense”. In other words, you use your knuckles to tap on the screen, and the a screenshot will be popped out of whatever you’re looking at for you to save. I’m not sure “knuckle sense” is going to catch on.

To make the most of the metal unibody design, rather than leave a gap in the case to let signal escape, Huawei thinks it has solved the “dead hand” problem, whereby your hand blocks signal getting to your phone (most famously seen on the iPhone 4). It has done this by installing two antennas – at opposite ends of the device, and apparently the phone will automatically switch to the one that gives the best signal, and it will be super quick so you shouldn’t notice. There’s also a “signal trend detection algorithm”, which will apparently manage switching between cell towers more easily. The example Huawei’s CEO gave was for when travelling on a high speed train. So there’s probably no need to worry about this feature in Britain.

A feature called “Huawei Wifi+” will apparently automatically connect you to the “best” wifi, and “Huawei Roaming+” will use an on-board database to help your phone connect when roaming internationally more easily. I’m presuming the CEO was complaining about that, so they devoted a team to solving problems that only really affect the 1%. (The phone is also dual SIM, and will automatically figure out which country you’re trying to call, and add the most appropriate country code).

For calling in loud areas, there’s a feature called “Huawei Voice+” (are you spotting a pattern with these names?), which will automatically boost the volume of your call when you’re in loud areas, and automatically noise-cancel your speech too. From the example that was played on stage at the event, I’m not entirely convinced by the noise cancellation – it didn’t just get rid of noise, it chopped the harsher edges off of the sound too, making it slightly harder to figure out what was being said.

Finally a feature called “Voice Wake Up+” has apparently been designed for when you can’t find your phone. To find it, you just have to say “Hey Buddy” (mercifully this is user configurable), followed by “Where are you?”, and your phone will literally say “I’m here!” whilst playing music.

Accessories for the device include an e-ink display case that will show your calendar/clock/widgets without having to switch on the proper screen, as well as a rip-off of HTC’s Dot View case.

So what about the two most important things? Battery and price.

Battery is said to be 1.5 days of “normal” use and 1.5 days of “heavy” use, but I’m going to take that with a rather large pinch of salt until I’ve had a chance to have a go myself. Interestingly, Huawei claims it has invented what it calls an “app power consumption firewall”, that will monitor the battery usage of other apps, and shut them off if they start consuming too much power.

And as for price, both the P8 and the P8 Max will come in standard and premium versions.

P8 Standard – with 16GB storage – will set you back €499 (we’re still waiting on UK prices), and the premium – with 64GB storage – will be €599.

The P8 Max Standard – at 32GB storage – will be €549. The Premium variation with 64GB storage will be €649.

We’ll hopefully have a review coming over the next few days. The Huawei P8 and P8 Max will be available worldwide in the next month.

James O’Malley