You invariably read it in reviews of Huawei smartphones: they are beautiful smartphones, often for an attractive price. But in terms of software and every Huawei update, things often go wrong, because Android with Huawei's EMUI is not adapted for the better by the Chinese. But there is more.
Last spring, the Huawei P20 series appeared, consisting of the Huawei P20, the P20 Lite and the absolute top model P20 Pro. The latter is a beautiful device, with a beautiful display, powerful specifications and a triple camera on the back that can compete with the very best smartphone cameras. Despite the beautiful hardware, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the devices, because the Android skin goes backwards rather than forwards.
The P20 series came with version 8 of EMUI, the name of the Android skin that Huawei installs on its smartphones. Because Android is open source, manufacturers can tinker with the operating system to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. But hobbyists can also tinker with another Android version on their device, so-called ROMs. Well-known examples are LineageOS, Resurrection Remix OS and Paranoid Android.
Huawei tweaks Android in great detail, but mostly not for the better. The fact that bloatware can be found in the form of unnecessary virus scanners and optimization apps, advertising apps, games and all kinds of Huawei services is to be expected, unfortunately other manufacturers often do that too. However, Huawei's EMUI stands out negatively, due to the many clumsy spelling mistakes, lines that don't align and an outdated-looking appearance that is a bit too obvious from Apple's iOS. That in itself is fine to work with, and if you don't like it, you can install another launcher, such as Nova Launcher: after all, Android also offers users this freedom.Many background processes are truncated in EMUI, including processes you prefer to run
Where it becomes more worrisome is that Huawei is cutting Android's freedoms with EMUI. This worrisome development started a few years ago when Huawei hid the option for an alternative launcher in its settings and completely incorrectly warns users if they actually change the default launcher.
With the arrival of EMUI 8, which can be found on the P20 smartphones, Huawei has invested heavily in battery life. It is also quite optimized, so that a long battery life is good. But this also comes at a price: many background processes are truncated, including processes that you prefer to run, such as an active VPN connection or password manager. In the options you seem to have the option to tinker with this, but in practice these apps are still closed in the background. This rigorous shutdown policy has even ensured that the developers of the well-known media player VLC no longer make their app available in the Play Store for Huawei devices.
Advanced users, who would like to provide the device with a different ROM so as not to suffer from these drawbacks and to enjoy the powerful Huawei smartphones, are also cut off. Huawei no longer provides the option to unlock the device (which must be done before installing a ROM). An update that Huawei released this summer is even frustrating developers of Magisk, a program used to unlock and root Huawei smartphones. After the update, these developers suddenly found themselves with a non-working device.
These worrisome developments are taking place in an unfortunate period of time. In several countries, such as the US, the UK and even the Netherlands, Huawei smartphones have recently been banned due to privacy concerns surrounding the Chinese manufacturer. Those who share these concerns have no other option than to exchange their Huawei smartphone for a smartphone from another manufacturer.
Huawei also has a very poor reputation when it comes to supporting Android with version and security updates. By taking away the freedom for users to manage the Android themselves with ROMs installed, you are completely dependent on the support of Huawei itself. Which so far leaves a lot to be desired.
Know what you're getting yourself into
Are Huawei smartphones inadvisable? Certainly not for those who love the excellent battery life, beautiful cameras, build quality, attractive prices and powerful hardware that Huawei smartphones are often equipped with, and that attaches less value to the software. However, be aware that there are major concerns about Huawei: Emui, the update policy and privacy concerns from governments.
Unfortunately, it seems that the problem with Emui is getting worse rather than improving, especially in the summer months of 2018, negative reports about Emui piled up. Still, there are bright spots. At the moment, Huawei is working hard on Emui 9, which will appear on new Mate 20 smartphones in October. Perhaps Huawei knows how to smooth out folds. Google has also built in something new with Android 8.0 Oreo: Treble. This ensures that future updates can be rolled out faster and more easily, giving Huawei every opportunity to improve its reputation on the update policy. Google's Android One program is also starting to catch on. Who knows, maybe Huawei will choose to release some smartphones with Android One in the future, to get more out of the beautiful smartphones and to remove privacy and update concerns from users.