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Best new features in EMUI 8: Huawei’s latest Emotion UI software explored

Huawei has just revealed its latest Emotion UI update, EMUI 8, which delivers a lot of new features compared with the current EMUI 5.1 overlay. Here’s all of the big new features you’ll find packed inside.

The Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro have finally been officially unveiled and one of their most interesting aspects is undeniably the software that they’re running.

As usual with Huawei devices, Android is the operating system of choice, although the Chinese manufacturer has once again performed a full surgical procedure on Google’s OS. You’ll find the latest version of Huawei’s Emotion UI (or EMUI for short) lovingly slathered on top of Android, which does much more than add a fresh lick of paint. EMUI also crams in loads of extra features, including smart gesture support, resource management and plenty more.

Current Huawei smartphones rock EMUI 5.1, which helped to speed up everyday operation as well as adding gesture support to the fingerprint sensor. That gesture support replaced the virtual back, home and recent apps buttons on your screen, meaning less clutter.

The fifth version of Emotion UI made its appearance on last year’s Mate 9 handset, so we were looking forward to checking out EMUI 6 on the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. However, Huawei seriously surprised us by skipping not just EMUI 6 but also EMUI 7, instead revealing the all-new EMUI 8 overlay.

This jump in numbers could be considered the fashionable thing to do, as OnePlus recently leaped straight to the OP5 and Apple just unveiled the iPhone X with no number 9 in sight.

However, Huawei says that this choice of names was reached to bring Emotion UI in line with Google’s Android OS, which also just hit version 8 (codenamed Oreo). In addition, this version of Emotion UI is apparently such a big leap forwards that it deserves to skip a couple of generations.

So what are the new features in EMUI 8 and is it really such a massive step up? Here’s all you need to know.

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Best new features in EMUI 8

The overall look and feel of Emotion UI 8 is quite similar to previous versions, at a quick glance. You once again get impressive customisation, including the ability to switch up themes and tweak pretty much every part of the interface. An apps tray is once again present and correct, you can play around with the display output and there’s a nifty one-handed mode, which is pretty much essential with the mighty 6-inch Mate 10 Pro.

However, EMUI does deliver quite a lot of smart new functions and features too. Here’s some of the biggest changes compared with EMUI 5.1.

Artificial Intelligence

One of Huawei’s key messages when it launched its Kirin 970 mobile chipset was how it designed the platform with AI in mind. This new Kirin ‘combines the power of the cloud with the speed and responsiveness of native AI processing’, to help its mobiles ‘become more cognitive of user needs’.

In other words, Huawei phones rocking the new Kirin 970 and EMUI 8 will pay close attention to the way you use your mobile and learn your habits. In this way it can offer a personalised experience, so you’re as satisfied as can be with your trusty mobile.

Apps that you use the most will enjoy improved performance, as resources are thrown their way, while lesser-used apps are pushed into the background. Your experience within Huawei’s own apps can also be boosted, using similar tech. For instance, if you swipe quickly through your photo gallery, EMUI will register this quick swipe and ensure that images are loaded as quickly as possible, so you aren’t left staring at a bunch of buffering blank squares.

Helpful advice

EMUI already pops up little nuggets of advice here and there, especially when you’re first getting to grips with your Huawei handset. However, with EMUI 8 you’ll see even more tips on using your phone, based on your current circumstances.

For instance, your blower can suggest switching on the Eye Comfort Mode when you’re reading a big chunk of text and the ambient light sensor detects that the room is dark. With just a tap, you’ll be able to make the display warmer and easier on the eye.

The floating navigation dock

First, we had physical navigation buttons built into our phones, just beneath the display. Then Android updates allowed manufacturers to replace these buttons with a virtual on-screen toolbar, giving a greater freedom of design.

This year (on the P10 and P10 Plus) Huawei introduced fingerprint sensor gestures to perform the back, home and recent apps commands, to make even that navigation bar redundant. This allowed you to go back with a quick tap of the fingerprint sensor, home with a long press and open the recent apps menu with a swipe across the surface. This method worked well and proved impressively intuitive, as the scanner was positioned just beneath the display.

However, with the Mate 10 and the Mate 10 Pro, we have two different designs; the standard handset keeps the sensor beneath the screen, while the Mate 10 Pro shifts it to the back for a more edge-to-edge display. As a consequence, Huawei has come up with a whole new method of navigation in EMUI 8.

The floating navigation dock is a grey button that can be moved to any position on your desktops. This is like a virtual touchpad, allowing you to go back, home or open recent apps with a poke or a swipe, just like the sensor gestures on the P10 phones. You can place it wherever is easy to reach and most convenient for you; or simply remove it and use that traditional virtual navigation bar instead.

Translate any text, anywhere

With Microsoft Translator on board, you can instantly get a translation of any foreign text, with translations appearing AR-style over the original words. Just point your Huawei phone’s camera at the text and your translation will appear, with support for a wide range of foreign languages.

EMUI 8 also allows you to download a selection of language packs, which allow you to translate at will without any need for an online connection. Definitely handy when you head abroad, to places without a reliable signal.

Smart split screen

So, you’re busy working or playing around in an app when a notification pops up at the top of the screen. If this is something you’re not too interested in, you can simply swipe it away as usual. However, if it’s worthy of your attention, you might want a closer look – without disrupting whatever you’re busy with.

In EMUI 8, notifications will appear with the new split screen icon alongside them. A tap of this will automatically divide the display and load the appropriate app in the second half of the screen, so you can check it out without dismissing your original app.

We’re yet to see exactly how many apps this feature is compatible with, of course. Stay tuned for a full review.

Dynamic fonts

Intelligent colour selection for your fonts means important info like the current time on the lock screen will be clearly visible over whatever background you’ve selected. No more ditching your favourite backdrop because it obscures stuff.

Turn your Huawei phone into a desktop computer

With EMUI 8 you get full mobile PC functionality, like Samsung now offers on its premium devices. Just purchase a separately-sold cable to connect your Huawei phone to a monitor, and hook up the likes of a keyboard and mouse wirelessly, and you can enjoy a proper desktop experience.

Again, stay tuned for our full EMUI 8 review for our thoughts on this feature.