We review Huawei's new Emotion UI (EMUI) 5.0 on the Huawei Mate 9. Is EMUI 5.0 the best version of Huawei's mobile OS so far? Here's a full run-down of the best new features and updates.
Last week we got our hands on the excellent Huawei Mate 9 phablet, a mighty 5.9-inch mobile that comes packing Huawei's new Emotion UI 5.0. Now, in the past we've absolutely loved Huawei's smartphone hardware, but found the software somewhat lacking. It's been glitchy at times, and downright irritating pretty much all of the time. Many of the added features were mildly interesting at best, while key Android features we loved were stripped out for seemingly no reason.
But, spoiler alert: with EMUI 5.0, we went from Emotion UI haters to sudden admirers. Finally, Huawei appears to have heard the disgruntled musings of critics, and produced one of the best launchers we've seen in 2016.
Here's all you need to know about EMUI 5.0 in our full review, including what's changed from earlier versions of EMUI and some of the best new features. And if you want an in-depth look at Huawei's new software, check out our massive EMUI 5.0 tips and tricks guide, revealing some hidden features and tools that we really love.
EMUI 5.0 Review: What is EMUI?
EMUI stands for Emotion UI and it's the name for Huawei's smartphone software, which sits on top of the Android OS and gives Huawei phones a distinctive look and feel.
While Android phones all share the same operating system, each phone manufacturer (Samsung, Sony and the rest) likes to add their own 'launcher' on top. This changes the wallpaper, app icons and general layout of your menus, while also adding extra features.
EMUI is Huawei's launcher, now in its fifth full iteration. And the good news is that EMUI 5.0 on the Huawei Mate 9 is the most refined version of the software yet.
Read next: How to change your Android phone's launcher
EMUI 5.0 Review: What's new and what are the best features?
EMUI 5.0 adds a fair few new features compared with EMUI 4.1, as well as changing up the overall design ethos. But it's one little change that has made a significant amount of difference, and finally killed our biggest complaint with Huawei's Emotion UI.
We've been begging for it for years now and at long merciful last, Huawei has given us an apps tray. Every other version of EMUI forced us to keep our apps spread across the desktops in plain view, which was needlessly messy, even with the use of folders. But now we have an apps drawer to stash all of our little-used-but-still-nice-to-have stuff in. Better late than never, for sure.
EMUI 5.0 also changes the aesthetics of version 4.1, with a cleaner, blue-tinted design that's pleasing on the eye. Ease of use is a key factor too, and Huawei reckons that every last feature is no more than three taps away. That's not entirely true when you get down to more obscure stuff, but certainly all of the major features are in easy reach, especially with Android Nougat's more user-friendly settings menu.
EMUI 5.0 is supposed to recognise mis-taps and accidental screen pokes too; an understandable addition, considering how big the likes of the Huawei Mate 9 and P9 Plus are. We still found ourselves occasionally selecting settings by accident, so it's not perfect, but at the very least it's a step in the right direction.
Thankfully EMUI 5.0 makes one-handed use of phablets incredibly easy. Flexibility is the key here. For instance, there's a one-handed mode that shrinks your desktops or apps towards a bottom corner of the screen, so you can tap on everything you need without stretching your thumb. You can also bring down the notifications tab with a handy shortcut on the EMUI toolbar at the bottom of the display, or else by swiping your finger down the fingerprint sensor.
Resource management is also a piece of pie with the latest EMUI. For instance, hit the recent apps button and you'll not only see a scrollable list of everything that's open, but also how much memory is currently being used. You can lock some apps if you're busy using them and then hit the bin key to close down the rest, quickly and effortlessly.
Alternatively, dive into the EMUI 5.0 settings and you'll find some more resource management options. The storage and memory section includes an easy-to-use storage cleaner for instance, which can automatically clear junk files from your Huawei mobile. And you can also see the biggest memory-hogging apps from the past 3, 6, 12 or 24 hours.
You can also dual-log into WhatsApp and Facebook, if you have more than one account. Although we found that using this feature often logged us out of our accounts, so we still ended up having to enter our passwords all of time. Thus rendering the feature pretty much useless.
Not everything else is a success in EMUI 5.0 either. The much-maligned knuckle mode is still present and just as hopeless as ever. Thankfully these wonky gestures, such as swiping across the screen with a knuckle to enter split-screen mode, can be deactivated in the settings menu. And entering split-screen mode can be easily accomplished by long-pressing the recent apps button instead.
EMUI 5.0 Review: Verdict
Despite a couple of niggles, EMUI 5.0 is undeniably a massive step up for Huawei's launcher. No longer do we immediately wish to replace the UI with another launcher, in large part thanks to that apps tray option. The excellent resource management and one-handed features help to elevate Emotion UI over standard vanilla Android, and should prove helpful to the majority of users.
Read next: The best hidden features in EMUI 5.0