TechSummit Rewind 157: Huawei at MWC 2017

Huawei iterates with P10 smartphones, Watch 2 smartwatches

This is a special edition of the TechSummit Rewind, focused on Huawei’s MWC 2017 press conference.

P10, P10 Plus smartphones

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Huawei iterated on last year’s P9 with the P10 with a couple of extra tricks.

Like last year, the P10 comes with either a 5.1-inch 1080p display or the Plus model with a 5.5-inch WQHD display. Huawei’s Kirin 960 processor powers both with its EMUI 5.1 software on top of Android. However, the larger model has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage compared to 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage on the regular P10. Both phones support microSD cards and have large batteries: 3,200mAh on the P10 and 3,750mAh on the P10 Plus.

The Leica-branded dual camera system returns, with the P10 Plus benefitting from better lenses that give it a wider f/1.8 aperture than the P10’s f/2.2. There’s a 20- megapixel monochrome sensor for capturing sharper detail and more light and a 12-megapixel colored one for filling in the colors. There’s also a Portrait Mode that pretty much is a carbon copy of the iPhone 7 Plus’ feature of the same name.

Leica branding is migrating to the front camera as well this year with double the brightness and extended dynamic range. There’s also an “adaptive selfie” feature built in that directs whether you’re taking a selfie with one or many people and will automatically adjust the angle to match.

The P10 has the same curved discreet antenna lines as the iPhone with a similar look and feel. However, Huawei has a smorgasbord of colors (blue, graphite black, dazzling gold, rose gold, green, white, silver, and prestige gold) and a “hyper diamond cut” textured finish at its disposal to differentiate from the fruit-flavored phone. The latter is only available in blue and gold.

The new home button on the P10 shifts the fingerprint reader up front that takes in swipes and taps as an alternative for the Android control keys: One tap is back, a long press is home, and a swipe brings up your recent apps.

On the software front, Huawei has custom themes to match all eight exterior colors for the P10 and P10 Plus. However, the machine learning being used to accelerate apps is more intriguing. The company’s “behavior-based compression mechanism” will intelligently compress apps you don’t use very often, and the kernel has been modified to let the operating system recycle the phone’s memory faster.

The touch controller driver on the P10 is also faster, using predictive fingerprint tracking to convey a sense of snappier response to swipes around the screens.

The P10 and P10 Plus will begin shipping in March across Europe, Malaysia, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. The P10 will be priced at €649 ($685), with the Pro starting at €699 ($738).

Huawei Watch 2

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Huawei was a significant partner for the launch of Android Wear, and it’s shaping up to do the same for Android Wear 2.0 with two new, sportier models.

The Huawei Watch 2 and the Huawei Watch 2 Classic are loaded with connectivity and new features, including LTE (on the Watch 2), GPS, heart rate sensors, and NFC for Android Pay. Their designs are much chunkier compared to the first Huawei Watch, and are significantly thicker and bulkier, despite having a slightly smaller 1.2-inch screen compared to the predecessor’s 1.4-inch screen. They measure about 12.6mm thick, which is about two millimeters thicker than the prior version.

Both versions have two buttons and include microphones and speakers. According to Huawei, the 420mAh batteries inside both devices provide up to two days of battery life (double the first generation’s lifespan), and a new, low-power “watch mode” allows the watches to last up to 25 days with functionality reduced to just telling the time and counting steps.

The Watch 2 is made of plastic to support LTE (a WiFi-only model will also be offered), while the Watch 2 Classic has a metal chassis. Both versions have interchangeable straps, and the Classic model has a unique “hybrid strap” that has a leather top and rubber underneath to protect against sweat damage. Both watches are rated for IP68 water resistance.

The new heart rate sensor will continuously track heart rates, and both watches come loaded with Huawei’s Fit program that personalizes a training program based on goals and prior performance.

Both watches are distinctly masculine, but Huawei will keep its female-focused Watch Elegant and Watch Jewel from last year available for now.

A Porsche-designed version of the Watch 2 is also coming with a Porsche Design logo and special watch face.

According to the company, the Watch 2 will launch in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, and China in March. In April, it’ll come to the U.S., U.K., Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, the Nordics, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, India, South Africa, Poland, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and UAE and Malaysia will see it starting in May. Pricing will begin at €329 ($347) depending on features and model.