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EMUI 5.1 Review: What’s new in Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 on the Huawei P10?

EMUI 5.1 vs EMUI 5.0 Review: We’ve been playing with the new Huawei P10 flagship phone for a few days, diving into the new features of Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 OS overlay. Here’s our full EMUI 5.1 review and what new features you can expect when your Huawei smartphone is updated to EMUI 5.1.

We’ve had our fair share of beef with Huawei’s Emotion UI in the past, from the lack of an apps tray to some rather bizarre themes and bolt-on features. But when EMUI 5.0 was first unveiled on the brilliant Mate 9 phablet, we instantly fell in love. Check out our in-depth EMUI 5.0 review to see precisely why it was so great.

Just a few months on and Huawei’s latest flagship phone, the Huawei P10, has launched over at MWC 2017. This is the first handset (alongside the bigger P10 Plus) to rock EMUI 5.1, the latest version of Emotion UI. And even though EMUI 5.1 isn’t as much of a jump over 5.0 compared with the leap between 4.1 and 5.0, there are still plenty of great features and tweaks packed away in this update.

Here’s our review of Huawei’s EMUI 5.1 and its best new features.

Read next: EMUI 5 tips and tricks for getting the most from your Huawei mobile

EMUI 5.1 Review: Better resource management

Huawei’s new machine learning algorithm sits away in the background of EMUI 5.1 and analyses your everyday phone behaviour. Huawei’s OS overlay can then use this information to smartly manage your smartphone’s resources and improve overall performance.

For instance, Huawei Ultra Memory allocates more RAM to your favourite apps, so they load more quickly and run smoothly.

This is a tricky feature to review, as the Huawei P10 offers silky smooth performance as it is. That Kirin 960 processor and 4GB of RAM keeps everything moving along nicely, even when multi-tasking. However, it will hopefully prove a useful feature when older handsets like the Huawei P9 and more affordable handsets such as the Honor 6X get the update to EMUI 5.1.

EMUI 5.1 Review: All-new multi-functional home key

Fed up of those on-screen virtual home, back and recent apps buttons? EMUI disposes of them, using a multi-functional home button instead.

This home button is sensitive to long-presses and swipes. So a single tap will register as a ‘back’, a long press acts as a ‘home’ gesture and swiping left to right or right to left across the surface brings up the recent apps menu.

It’s a neat little feature which saves you bringing up that bar when running an app – something which can be quite awkward. There’s definitely a period of adjustment while you get the hang of a single tap meaning ‘back’ instead of ‘home’. But after a couple of days, I found myself not having to pause and think before acting.

As a result of that virtual bar being ditched, the one-handed mode built into EMUI is now activated in a different way. Before, dragging your finger across that virtual bar would shrink your app or desktops towards the bottom edge of the screen, making them easier to play with one-handed. But now that bar’s gone, you need to employ a different method.

In EMUI 5.1, a flick of your thumb from the bottom corner towards the centre of the screen will perform the shrinking action. However, this is definitely a trickier gesture to master than the old virtual bar flick.

Sometimes I’ll nail the gesture first time and successfully enter one-handed mode. Other times it takes me four or five swipes before the screen shrinks. I’ve tried varying my technique and hopefully I’ll find a method that works first time, every time. But so far it’s proving elusive.

Note that EMUI 5.1 allows you to ditch the multi-functional home button if desired, replacing it with the usual virtual on-screen buttons. So fans of the old-school methods will be happy.

EMUI 5.1 Review: Highlights

Another new feature in EMUI 5.1 is the Highlights tool packed inside Huawei’s Gallery app. Like Google’s own Photos app, the EMUI Gallery app can group your snaps by location and so on. But now you also get auto-generated video highlights reels using your photos and video footage. Kind of like what Facebook and HTC have been doing for a while now.

Personally, we could take or leave this feature. Some people will no doubt get a kick out of it though.

EMUI 5.1 Review: Predictive touch tracking

Huawei has also added in a new ‘Ultra Response’ feature into EMUI 5.1, which can apparently register your touches even faster than before and give you close to zero latency. In other words, your swipes and pokes will result in action pretty much the instant they happen.

Now, we’ve found EMUI to be pretty nippy in its recent incarnations. We tried using the Huawei P9 side-by-side with the Huawei P10, with EMUI 4.1 still running on the P9 and EMUI 5.1 on the P10. Swipes seem to be registered at the same time on both phones, allowing you to skim through menus and desktops at the same speed with no obvious latency. So like the Ultra Memory feature, this Ultra Response tech is difficult to simulate in real life.

That doesn’t mean it’s pointless, of course. Perhaps Ultra Response will help to keep older handsets running smoothly when they get the EMUI 5.1 update. We just couldn’t notice any obvious improvement in our tests.

EMUI 5.1 Review: Bold new default desktop backgrounds and themes

As an added bonus, EMUI 5.1 packs some colourful desktop themes that match the bold new handset colours of the P10 and P10 Plus. You get pink, green, silver and plenty more backgrounds to choose between.

EMUI 5.1 Review: When will my Huawei phone get the EMUI 5.1 update?

Huawei hasn’t revealed when existing phones will get the EMUI 5.1 update, but you can expect all recent Huawei mobiles to get this new version in an OTA update very soon.

Those phones that already run EMUI 5.0, i.e. the Mate 9 and Honor 8, will probably be the first to receive the upgrade to EMUI 5.1. This will be followed by the Huawei P9, Huawei P9 Plus and other big blowers from 2016.