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Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei has been upping the stakes with improved hardware on a model-by-model basis over the past few years, resulting in the release of flagship-standard devices, such as this 64-bit variant of the Huawei P8, available unlocked for just under $600, that we’re looking at today.

But why would you choose this over, say, a Samsung Galaxy S6 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Gear VR Review and Giveaway Samsung sells more Android devices than any other manufacturer, and thanks to some aggressive marketing, the Galaxy brand is almost synonymous with Android. Read More ? Read on to find out, and at the end of the review we’re giving our review unit away to one lucky reader.

Striking, Memorable Packaging

Hardware unboxing has kind of lost its sheen in recent years. Perhaps it’s the products; perhaps it’s the boxes. Since Windows laptops and tablets started shipping in more ecologically responsible packaging, the effort from manufacturers across the board seems to have gone up. The end result is that everyone wants their product to look good in unboxing videos on YouTube.

A company that doesn’t seem to have got the memo with regards to making their packaging socially responsible is Huawei. When you receive a new smartphone, you expect it in a standard box, where after breaking the seal you lift the lid, take the plastic off the phone and find the device ready to use with 40% charge or so.

What you don’t expect is that the box should resemble a 5.25″ disk drive with the smartphone as the disk.

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Yet that is exactly what Huawei has produced here, in one of the slickest pieces of packaging ever seen for a smartphone launch. On first glance, it’s just a standard smartphone box, with a card sleeve, waiting for you to slip the interior box out and lift the lid. It’s only when you remove the sleeve and see the Kyoto treaty-threatening plastic box, that you notice this is a quite different unboxing experience.

A glance at the lid reveals a long thin strip of silver, like a brand new Parker pen about to be released from its case. It is when the lid is lifted that we see the disk drive-style slot, complete with thumb-sized recess to remove the Huawei P8 within. Classy.

What’s Inside the Huawei P8?

While it might be recognizably a Chinese smartphone, this 64 bit Huawei P8 is put together with good hardware and a customised Android user interface.

The 5.2 inch 1080 x 1920 pixel Gorilla Glass 3 display sits on a body weighing 5.08 oz, and although the phone is comfortable to hold with its quarter inch width (and 5.70 x 2.84 inches along the other dimensions), it is a mix of a plastic back, and metal sides.

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Inside, the LTE, single SIM device (dual SIM is available, but we’re reviewing and giving away the single SIM variety) is powered by the HiSilicon Kirin 930/935 chipset, 8 core ARMv8 CPU (VFPv4 NEON) and Mali-T628 MP4 GPU. Internal storage on this device is 16 GB, with 3 GB of RAM. The microSD slot is expandable up to 128 GB, and the phone has all of the expected Wi-Fi Direct, NFC, DLNA, USB host, FM radio and Wi-Fi hotspot support.

In an age of unibody smartphones and tablets, the plastic back was quite a surprise, but as a “mid-range flagship”, the costs have to be cut somewhere. The end result of this, however, is a light phone that doesn’t quite feel as impressive as Huawei would like.

Special Features on the Huawei P8

Some software bonuses come with the Huawei P8, such as short-but-free trials of some games and more advanced utilities such as Phone Manager for looking after storage and performance, as well as the Director Mode tool, which requires friends with similar phones (or the Director Mode app). Using this, you can record the same event or incident from multiple devices over local Wi-Fi, selecting the preferred angle in real time.

Like freebies? The device also comes with a free 12 month subscription to the Todoist productivity app Automate Your Life And Job With ToDoist And IFTTT Automate Your Life And Job With ToDoist And IFTTT Play creatively with ToDoist's notification features, and IFTTT's ability to accomplish really cool automations with them. We show you how combining the two powers your productivity. Read More , and free access to the Zinio newsstand Read Magazines On Your Android Device With Zinio [2.2+] Read Magazines On Your Android Device With Zinio [2.2+] I really enjoy reading books. I have a Kindle and I use it all the time. But sometimes a book isn’t always what I need. There are times when I have just a couple of... Read More .

Don’t Be Swayed By Emotion UI

Huawei has admitted a huge elephant into the room as far as the P8 goes. In some ill-advised attempt to make the phone look even more attractive, it has essentially cloned iOS for the phone’s UI. Until you hit the Settings screen or some other menu, everything closely resembles iOS (useful if you just migrated to Android Switching From iOS To Android? Here's What You Need To Know Switching From iOS To Android? Here's What You Need To Know Having recently decided to abandon my iPhone in favor of an HTC One X, I'm in the unique position of being "behind the enemy lines" already. If you're as frustrated as I am by Apple's... Read More , which is clearly the target market given Apple’s dominance in China), even down to the lack of a separate app drawer (installed apps are viewed by wiping through the home screens, as per iOS).

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Don’t like the sound of an iOS theme much? Then be worried. The P8 comes with a single alternative theme, inspired not by Android, but by Windows Phone.

No, really.

Even as a former fan of Windows Phone Why I Quit Windows Phone And Switched To Android Why I Quit Windows Phone And Switched To Android In 2010 I bought my first Windows Phone device, beginning a love affair with the slick user interface and writing endless posts and user guides, generally evangelising the platform. So why have I switched to... Read More (and for a time, one of the web’s most prolific writers on the subject) I just cannot get to grips with the thinking behind this.

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Android 4.4 KitKat and 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More both have excellent UIs. Why on earth would any manufacturer want to discard these, let alone abandon any genuine selling point, by releasing a phone that looks like it is running a totally different operating system?

Sure, Samsung has TouchWiz, and HTC has Sense UI. But these are unmistakably grounded in Android. Huawei’s Emotion UI, meanwhile, just looks and feels wrong. Moreover, it makes coming to the P8 from another Android device unnecessarily uncomfortable. While you might install a third party launcher, general stability issues with Emotion UI make this a little uncertain.

However, I’m not the only person to have noticed these problems, and several ROM developers have been at work for month providing alternative ROMs for the P8, in particular stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, which can be installed once the phone is unlocked.

General Day to Day Usability & Performance

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Being honest, I like this phone. But it really is a funny thing to use. It feels like Android, but looks like iOS, and yet these things don’t get too much in the way of using the phone if you can get over them. Battery life is good, although the camera seems to eat into this quite a bit, so you’re best advised to leave mobile photography to a minimum. A full charge will get you through a full day (ready to charge overnight).

With Antutu Benchmark installed, the Huawei P8 reveals itself to be something of a workhorse. While the hardware gave a hint of this (especially the 64-bit chipset) it’s quite impressive to see.

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Despite the jarring nature of the UI, it remains usable, but it is the size of the screen and the weight of the P8 that make it a particularly handy smartphone. Nothing is out of reach for single-handed use, which means you can spend less time using the phone, keeping it safely put away when not in use.

Undoubtedly the P8 would benefit from a standard Android UI, but you can work with what’s on offer.

What Does the Camera Bring to the Equation?

Snapping photos with the P8 is ridiculously simple, although the results aren’t always quite what you would expect from a 13MP camera. Along with the usual stills and video mode, Huawei have packed in software for time-lapse photography and making beautiful selfies with the 8MP front camera, the latter using some automated tools for smoothing out wrinkles and making you look slightly unnatural.

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Also on offer is a “live” filter, which shows you just how your photo or video will look with Instagram-esque filters Meet Instagram's Five New Filters (And Learn What They Are Best For) Meet Instagram's Five New Filters (And Learn What They Are Best For) Photography social network Instagram has issued a new update, which brings five new filters, the ability to reorder the filters, and thumbnail previews. Instagram is releasing new filters for the first time in two years. Read More applied before you click record.

From the camera, you can press a hamburger menu to open additional options, for taking panorama shots, recording audio notes, adding watermarks and using the phone’s display as a mirror. These are all useful, but the collection of options available in the camera software are littered around various screens, making things a little confusing. Opening Settings from the same screen displays options to manage ISO and white balance, change resolution (by default, 6MP is set) and set a selfie timer, have smiles captured automatically (useful for photographing children) and even using the volume button as the shutter.

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Quality wise, the main camera is good, compared above with the Nokia Lumia 930’s 12MP sensor. But as you can see, the P8 gives a paler reproduction, compared to the more colorful results of the Lumia 930.

A Solid Phone That Doesn’t Quite Deliver

The essence of the Huawei P8 is that of an underdog company issuing a flagship phone. But the P8 is not a Samsung Galaxy S6, or HTC One M9; rather, it is a very good piece of hardware lumbered with a frustrating user interface. While fans of installing custom ROMs might be happy enough with this, experienced Android users without that particular interest may find the P8 lacking.

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Given the build quality and the hardware on board, this is a fault that can be placed squarely on the manufacturer’s shoulders. Whatever passes for a user interface development team should be completely restaffed or abandoned entirely on the basis of Emotion UI.

Huawei P8 GRA-UL10 EMUI 3.1 with 5.2 Inch Screen 3G RAM 64G ROM 13.0MP Camera 4G LTE Smartphone (Gold) Huawei P8 GRA-UL10 EMUI 3.1 with 5.2 Inch Screen 3G RAM 64G ROM 13.0MP Camera 4G LTE Smartphone (Gold) Display size: 5.2-Inch TFT Capacitive screen Buy Now At Amazon $468.50
Our verdict of the Huawei P8:
The P8 is a phone that does everything you want it, from calls, messaging and email to video editing, media consumption and gaming. It just gives you all of that from behind a pair of clumsy user interfaces, and in 2015 that’s simply unacceptable.
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Huawei P8 Giveaway

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

  1. Lori
    March 6, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Love the Huawei brand phones have the huawei y538 I think that's the model... Had it awhile and am impressed compared to any of my old phones from the past... I would absolutely love to have this phone!!!! Actually would greatly appreciate a new phone that way I could give my daughter the one I have now and that way I wouldn't worry as much about her after school until I get home from work!!! Need need this phone looks awesome and sounds great!!!! Thanks Lori & Maddie lou

  2. luka3rd
    November 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    It is a metal uni body! So the back is from the same material as the sides, so all METAL!

    • Christian Cawley
      November 22, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      Funny, never come across an oil-based metal before....

  3. Abdullah Ziafat
    October 18, 2015 at 5:02 am

    hey #MakeUseOf ho is the winner ???

  4. Lovely Gonzales
    October 17, 2015 at 9:25 am

    please.. choose me to win this phone :( I badly needed it. i really really want to have a phone.

  5. alfred chan
    October 16, 2015 at 9:29 am

    It looks great. Can't wait to have it. :) Thanks

  6. Carolyn Banks
    October 14, 2015 at 2:06 am

    I NEED THIS PHONE!!!!

  7. Luis Rafael Jacobo Ramos
    October 12, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    i want to win, i need the phone!

  8. Kisp Wolf
    October 11, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    hope to win and good luck to you all :)

  9. snake eye247 (snakeeye247)
    October 10, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    I wish my self for a awesome phone and a awesome man thank you if i win i hope my self luck

  10. Keizylyn Mariano
    October 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Wish to Win ....

  11. Rolf Hu
    October 6, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    At least this mobile phones battery holds a day. On my sisters Samsung S6 the battery holds only about half a day. The hardware seems to be OK and for the softwaresoftware, there are many options to change. Good luck to all.

  12. alfred chan
    October 5, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    Finger crossed and good luck guys!!. :)

  13. Jens Ken Lundstrom
    October 4, 2015 at 5:29 am

    I cross my fingers!
    Would love o win this phone for my son!

  14. Cindy Carnes
    October 3, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I've been looking for a phone with more internal memory, this sounds like a good fit.

  15. Javier Mejia Torrenegra
    October 2, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Desde que lo vi me gusto y ahora con todo esto que describes me gusta mucho más, pienso positivamente en ganarmelo. Saludos.

  16. mark goldspink
    October 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    My Huawei died earlier this year, loved it. That's why i'd love to win this one, and yes, i'd stick on Buzz launcher.

  17. Kaushik Medhi
    October 2, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Many Many Thanks for this Incredible Giveaway ! Wish to be Luckiest of all and grab the opportunity to WIN this awesome Smartphone :)

  18. Gacem Bekhira
    October 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    That's cool

  19. Tamsyn Michael
    October 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Hmmm, I have a friend who'd love this (she misses iOS, but loves her Android phones). She's about due for an upgrade, so I'll point her towards this beauty.

  20. Prabhath Kaushalya
    October 2, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Hope I win! this time

  21. Lak Paldo
    October 2, 2015 at 4:12 am

    That's a nice and wonderful smartphone, I love it. wish to win it.

  22. kerreoot
    October 2, 2015 at 3:56 am

    Hope I win!

  23. thrtk3
    October 2, 2015 at 2:05 am

    I would love to win as I need a new phone and did want to try this one.

  24. Howard Blair
    October 1, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    This looks like a decent phone; my first phone was a Huawei Glory H828C, which (barely) ran Android 4.0.4.
    The homescreen isn't that big of a deal - I usually run ADWLauncher anyway.

  25. Dexter Cruz
    October 1, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Good luck everyone we all have a good chance.

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