Chinese smartphone giant Huawei is holding its annual Huawei Developer Conference this week in Dongguan, China. At the conference, the company finally unveiled its long-rumored, first-party operating system: Harmony OS. We also got to see the first product with this new OS on board: the Honor Vision smart TV. Contrary to previous reports, Harmony OS isn’t an alternative to Android (at least not yet). Huawei is still committed to distributing Android on its smartphones (if the U.S. allows them to), so another important announcement at HDC was regarding the new version of Huawei’s Android-based software. We had the opportunity to use a Huawei P30 Pro running EMUI 10 based on Android Q, and here’s what we found out about the upcoming update.
First, we should mention that the software build running on the Huawei P30 Pro units at the event was pre-release. Huawei showed off some features during a briefing that weren’t available on the build we tried, so we’ll follow-up with a separate article outlining all of the changes that Huawei made to Android Q. A Huawei executive involved with the software development of the new UI also shared a lot of background information on the design changes in EMUI 10, so it’ll definitely be worth a read if you’re interested in learning more about the new release. The first official EMUI 10 beta will be released for the Huawei P30 Pro on September 8th, so if you own Huawei’s latest device, you won’t have to wait long to get your hands on the beta.
Huawei P30 Forums ||| Huawei P30 Pro Forums
EMUI 10 Beta in Photos: What Android Q will be like on the Huawei P30 Pro
Huawei had multiple P30 Pro units pre-loaded with the new software, and it looks like the build is based on the latest available Android Q source code. The EMUI 10.0.0.42 beta build has the unreleased September 2019 security patches and the new Android 10 Q Easter egg that’s not even available on Android Q beta 6 for the Google Pixel. (The new Easter egg is present on the Essential Phone, per /u/farmerbb on Reddit, and we can also confirm that it’s present on the latest Android Q beta for the Xiaomi Mi 9/Redmi K20 Pro.) In the third image from the left shown below, you can see one of Android Q’s new privacy-related features in action: the ability to grant an app location access only while the app is in use.
System-wide Dark Mode with Forced Dark Mode for Third-Party Apps
One of the biggest new features in Android Q is the system-wide dark mode toggle. When enabled, all apps that have properly implemented dark mode per Android’s specifications will display their dark themes. All devices running Android 10 will have access to the dark mode since it’s now a mandatory platform-level feature rather than an optional feature implemented by some OEMs. As we noted in part 1 of our EMUI 9 review, EMUI already has a dark mode available for certain devices, but now all devices launching with or upgrading to EMUI 10 will have access to the feature.
What’s more, Huawei seems to have added onto the feature in a way that I’m sure many of you will appreciate. Although dark mode is now a platform feature in Android, third-party apps aren’t required to have dark themes. We’ve seen more and more Google apps add dark themes over the past few months, but there are plenty of third-party apps that will either take months to add a dark theme or will never add one at all. In Google’s Android Q betas, you’ll find an “override force-dark” setting in Developer Options that intelligently inverts colors in all apps; this option is intended for developers to quickly see what their app may look like if they implemented a dark theme — it’s not intended for users to permanently enable. Huawei, however, brought their own implementation of “override force-dark” and added it to the default dark mode toggle. That’s right: EMUI 10 lets you make all apps dark, regardless of whether or not the app has added a dark theme!
Since the Huawei P30 Pro demo units were connected to a local Wi-Fi network in China, we were unable to test out this enhanced dark mode on anything other than the pre-installed apps that let us open them without a Google account signed-in. I should note that another demo unit next to me didn’t have this feature working, but a Huawei executive confirmed during a briefing that this is intended behavior as they showed off the forced dark mode on the Weibo app. The “override force-dark” option is also missing in Developer Options, for what it’s worth.
Another big change to the UI is in the top-level Settings page. In part 2 of my EMUI review, I applauded Huawei for including so many features but also criticized how hard they made it to find many of them. The new settings page in EMUI 10 will place more frequently opened items up top (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mobile Data) and also will group similar settings together, separated by small dividers.
New Camera UI
The EMUI Camera app has received a slight UI tweak in EMUI 10. On the Huawei P30 Pro demo unit, we noticed that the slider between the camera mode title and the shutter button has been replaced by a red dot. You can still swipe left and right to scroll between the various camera modes, although you still can’t swipe on the actual viewfinder to change camera modes.
New Swipe Up App Drawer Gesture
It’s 2019, but Huawei is finally adding a feature that was popularized in 2017: the ability to swipe up on the launcher to open the app drawer. This was first added to the Pixel Launcher with the first generation Google Pixel smartphones, but the EMUI Launcher is finally getting it in EMUI 10. To be fair, Xiaomi also only recently added a similar gesture to its own first-party launcher app.
New Quick Settings/Notification Panel Design
The Quick Settings panel is one of the most frequently used features in Android since it provides quick access to shortcuts like Airplane Mode, mobile data, flashlight, hotspot, and so much more. A simple and clean design is important to have since users will want to pull down the panel and then quickly tap on their desired shortcut. While EMUI 9’s Quick Settings panel is clean, it’s not very accessible if you’re holding your phone in one hand. That’s especially true on taller phones like the Huawei P30 Pro. The new EMUI 10 Quick Settings panel brings the Quick Setting tiles further down, moving them in reach of your thumb when holding the phone in one hand. This is in line with the new “magazine-style” design philosophy of EMUI 10.
New Swipe up to go Home Transition Animation
Subtle changes have been made to the feedback and transition animations throughout the UI, but the change that Huawei is most proud of is the new swipe up to go home transition animation. If you enable EMUI’s built-in navigation gestures and swipe up from the bottom, you’ll see the app page minimize and follow your swipe trajectory, ending wherever you lifted your finger on the screen. It’s a neat effect, but it’s hard to notice unless you pay attention. In the video below, I slowed down the animation by a factor of 2 in Developer Options so you can see the animation more clearly.
(Thanks to Damien Wilde for demonstrating the animation while I recorded!)
Google’s Android Q gesture controls weren’t available in this build, so we couldn’t test if this animation also works with those gestures.
New Quick Settings Animation for some tiles
Another subtle change is in the animation for certain Quick Setting tiles. As shown below, toggling Airplane Mode shows a short animation of the plane moving forward. It’s not as neat as the plane-taking-off animation in OxygenOS 9 from OnePlus, but it’s still appreciated.
Here are a few other things I noticed:
- Huawei Beam is still there. Google deprecated Android Beam and seems to be working on a feature in Google Play Services called “Fast Share,” so it’s surprising that Huawei is still keeping its Android Beam clone in EMUI 10.
- Huawei re-organized some settings related to shortcuts and gestures and placed them in a new menu. In my EMUI 9 review, I complained that similar features were scattered throughout the Settings app, so it’s good to see that Huawei has started addressing this issue.
- Huawei Share still requires the user to enable the insecure SMB v1 protocol. I am disappointed that Huawei hasn’t made changes to Huawei Share to address this security issue.
- The unified search in the EMUI Launcher has been slightly tweaked. The search bar now has rounded corners.
EMUI 10 Beta Hands-on Video
If you’re interested in seeing a video preview of EMUI 10 beta on the Huawei P30 Pro, check out the video I recorded below. Apologies in advance for the quality — video recording isn’t my forte.
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