User Interface - Emotion UI 3.0

We've seen our first taste of Huawei's direction in UI design in my Honor 6 review. With the Mate 7 Huawei also introduced their new design language and overhaul of Emotion UI. Version 3.0 is basically a complete fresh take in terms of looks while still keeping the additional functionality that Huawei seems to be very good at to differentiate themselves from other vendors.




The basic skin that covers the notification shade and the settings menus employs a very minimalistic and white colour scheme. Simplistic icons throughout the interface offer one of the more conservative interface experiences on Android. I'd even be pressed to say that I preferred the more colourful icons in EmUI 2.3 as they added more diversity. This might not be at all an issue to most users as the main interface and colours in most applications is determined by the user applied theme.

The phone comes with a theme manager and allows for download of a wide variety of skins offered in its online browsing catalogue. Themes now also are able to set basic colour schemes of the built-in applications, meaning there's something there for everybody's taste. 

The recent tasks menu has also received a unique design, instead of having a linear list of screen caps or a card design as found in Android 5.0, Huawei offers a "tabbed" interface, showing 4 applications per screen and swipeable screens to be able to scroll through the tab windows. Swiping a tab up closes the application, swiping it down locks it from being closed by the memory manager. Alternatively you can swipe from the bottom of the screen to close all apps.

I find this very convoluted and actually impractical compared to the stock Android recent tasks screen, it adds nothing in terms of usability and even prevents you from quickly reaching an application which was less recently used as you have to swipe screens to search for it.

I've praised Huawei's modification of Android in EmUI 2.3 - luckily we find the same functionality again here in EmUI 3.0. Huawei provides fine-granularity controls over installed applications on the phone. As such, you're able to determine network access (WiFi or mobile data) on a per-app basis in the Network Manager, while also monitoring their data usage. A Notification Manager enables you to control which applications are allowed to push notifications to the system, giving the possibility to have apps prompt, or directly whitelist or blacklist them.

The Permission Manager is also extremely competent, almost totally foregoing Android's built-in permission settings. You can have an application prompt for specific permissions whenever they actually need them, and accept or deny them on a per-app, per-permission basis. The Android app ecosystem has an issue with applications requesting a lot of, sometimes dubious permissions. I see this as Huawei's attempt at alleviating user concerns about security. For those who think this might be a too bothersome system - I strongly disagree; it is not very intrusive, while still being able to provide lots of power of control.

The Battery and Power Consumption managers again offer lots of information - Huawei seems to be very strict in trying to reign in power abusive and misbehaving applications. If you have an application which is running in the background and taking up a more-than normal amount of CPU cycles a notification warning will tell you about it and give you the possibility to kill the app. A manager dedicated to listing the background power of all applications on the phone enables you to identify power drains.

A totally new feature in EmUI 3.0 is the introduction of a vast array of new security and privacy features. With the introduction of the fingerprint sensor, Huawei is able to implement easily accessible privacy features on the phone. Beyond the obvious unlocking via the fingerprint sensor, you can also use your fingerprint to protect contacts, and message conversations, private albums and even per-app locking mechanism.

The album and application locking mechanisms is what I see people actually would be using pretty often. Being able to lock certain parts of your phone while still being able to not fear to give your phone to your friend or family member is a great feature that should avoid many embarrassing moments for some people. How it works is that the OS asks for a fingerprint scan (or passcode fallback) any time you access a given album or application.

Overall Huawei offers a lot in terms of software. EmotionUI 3.0 is a great overhaul over version 2.3 and might subjectively be one of the more attractive Android OEM skins. Aside from the recent tasks screen I don't have much critique in terms of functionality of the OS. Huawei continues to pack in unique features into the OS without affecting performance or overly bloating the device. 

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  • tipoo - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Ach, and that storage performance...Yup, all interest gone.
  • massig93 - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the great review! I'm so thankful you review products that are noto exclusively Samsungs, Apples or HTCs. I'd love to see more chinese phones reviews on anandtech (Xiaomi Mi4, Meizu MX4, Nubia Z7, Nubia X6, Huawei Honor X1)
  • protomech - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Any comments on wifi performance? No 802.11ac so not expecting much.

    The Ascend Mate 2 was an interesting device: inexpensive and fantastic battery life, due to the 2011-class resolution and SOC performance. If you wanted a physically large display and were okay with the lower performance then it was easy to recommend.

    There's no reason to recommend this phone.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    I'm still lacking the proper equipment for Wifi tests, but from what I can see the Wifi reception and performance didn't change from the Honor 6.
  • alfredska - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Especially for Android devices, it would be great if you could spend more time discussing a manufacturer's historical commitment to long-term support on their products. This includes: how regularly a product receives OTA updates; how recent the base operating system is (version of Android); whether kernel source is released in a timely manner following each update.

    In the case of Huawei, I'm very leary, because their first US phone offering, the Mate 2 which was just released this year, still runs Jellybean. While they claim a Lollipop is in its future, this only came after a barrage of harassment from users complaining about abandoned support. Even then, I don't want to give them praise until the update actually exists.

    Reference 1:
  • Despoiler - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Huawei has been caught numerous times straight up stealing other company's intellectual property. They deployed an exact copy errata and all of Cisco's IOS in their routers. They are in a lawsuit with T-Mobile for corporate espionage. They also got caught siphoning non-anonymous user data from their cell phones and then they lied about doing it. Huawei is a government sponsored corporation and the Chinese government uses it to do whatever they want. I wouldn't anywhere near any Huawei product.
  • pgari - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    The performance charts should have included the Nexus 6 and OnePlus One results, which have already been reviewed by Anandtech
  • pichemanu - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    Hi, just today I read another review and they didn't encounter any overheating nor did they have problems in low light photography. Also the autonomy was quite good (5h of gaming if I recall correctly)

    Is the terminal you reviewed on the latest firmware? Maybe a defective unit or another hw revision could explain this.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - link

    It was on the a late October released firmware.

    I'm getting the same gaming battery life of 5h (5.6h!) as pointed out in the review, I don't think there's changes in that regard.
  • pichemanu - Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - link

    Sorry for the gaming autonomy number, I mistakenly remembered around 2h.

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