It’s been said before, but we could well be at the point of peak smartphone.
Huawei has been cutting a scythe through the rest of the market over the last few years with a barrage of improvements to its flagship phones. This possibly culminated in the partnership with German camera maker Leica last year and the resulting P9 handset.
The combination that worked so well in 2016 is back for 2017 with the P10 again sporting dual Leica lenses and some bespoke software for snapping great pictures.
The specs have been tightened up and the design has been streamlined from last year’s model – but there’s little here that would warrant an upgrade if your current phone is only 12 months old.
If you’ve got a handset that’s older than that, and starting to show a little bit of wear and tear around the edges then there’s awful lot to recommend the P10 – especially the camera ability.
The rest of it shapes up pretty nicely too. It’s got a 5.1-inch screen and a sleek, curving design that means it’s only 7mm thick and weighs 145g. Like most top-tier smartphones, there’s also a larger size available – the 5.5-inch P10 Plus which is what I’ve been testing.
There are a couple of differentiators – the camera lens is better and there’s obviously a bigger display and larger battery. But although I’m officially reviewing the P10 Plus you can apply most of my observations to the smaller P10 as well.
Both phones are priced reasonably well and are being supported on all the major networks. The P10 and P10 Plus are available to pre-order on Carphone Warehouse and will set you back £549 and £649 respectively.
Vodafone is offering customers the ability to pre-order the P10 at £42 per month ( £10 upfront cost), which includes unlimited texts, unlimited minutes and 24GB of UK data (for the price of 6GB) as part of Vodafone’s Data Extravaganza – there’s also 2GB of inclusive roaming data.
The P10 is also available on a selection of EE price plans, including a 4GEE plan with no upfront cost on a 24 month, £40.99 per month 4GEE contract offering unlimited minutes and texts and 5GB (normally 2GB) of data until 27 April.
While the P10 will go on general sale on March 31st, the P10 Plus will be a bit later on April 7th.
A 5.5-inch screen has always been about my limit when it comes to a phone – but because of advances in design tech the screens are getting bigger without needing a massive slab of phone behind them. That’s the case with the P10 Plus which benefits from nicely-rounded corners and a comparatively light weight of 165g.
Just beware that the brushed metal back can make it a bit slippy to hold if you’re using it without a case.
Huawei has moved the fingerprint scanner from the back of the phone to the front. The reason for this is because it also acts as a quasi-touchpad from which you can navigate around the phone. Tap it and it’s the same as hitting the Android ‘back’ key. Press and hold and you’ll go straight back to the home screen. This allows you to drop the soft touch Android navigation keys altogether and further increase the size of the screen.
The P10 Plus (like the P10) supports both dual-SIM or a microSD card if you want to expand the storage. It’s also got a 3.5mm headphone jack and, thankfully, no “camera bump”.
It’s hard to describe any premium smartphone these days as inherently better designed that another because they’re all so similar. But the P10 Plus is great looking and a definite design improvement on last year’s P9.
If there’s a drawback to the design, it’s this: the P10 and P10 Plus both ship with a factory-fitted screen protector as standard. If you peel this off and start dabbing the screen, you’ll find that it pretty quickly gets covered with smudges and grubby marks. That’s because Huawei left out the oleo phobic coating from the glass.
The coating is designed to repel the natural oils from skin and keep screens looking pristine. Just about every other phone has it as standard, so the decision to omit it here in favour of a screen protector seems a bit strange. If you do end up buying the P10 or P10 Plus, don’t remove the screen protector.
Okay, so here’s the meat of this particular review: the Leica-built dual lens camera that sits inside the body of this Chinese smartphone.
On the back there are two Leica f/1.8 lenses and, predictably, two sensors. One is a 20-megapixel monochrome one and the other is a 12-megapixel one for colours. The larger monochrome one is specifically designed for drinking in light and detail, while the other one will handle the colour reproduction.
Huawei touts the low-light prowess and the hybrid zoom of the P10 Plus which, during testing, both appeared to work very well indeed.
It has laser-autofocus, optical image stabilisation, 4K video capability, two-tone flash and just about every other photographical feature it’s possible to pack into a smartphone.
I took a few different shots on the P10 Plus and compared it the Google Pixel XL, which claims to have the best smartphone camera on the market and is a direct competitor to the P10 Plus in the market.
Have a look at the shots below and see what you think.
Performance and battery
Inside the P10 Plus is a Huawei-developed Kirin 960 CPU that we last saw in the Huawei Mate 9. My review model was also blessed with 6GB of RAM although the regular version has 4GB. That still means the phone is ultra-nippy though. The fingerprint scanner in particular opens the phone in the blink of an eye.
Although the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus run Google’s Android, the Chinese company adds its own user interface on top to make it look a bit different. It also loads a bunch of homemade apps on top as well.
One of these is the phone manager, that allows you to tidy up the innards of the phone as time marches on.
Huawei wants the P10 to be just as fast when it’s 6, 8 or 12 months old as it is on the day you bought it. In an era of yearly-upgrades this is a great message – unfortunately I haven’t yet had the phone for a year and so can’t verify the claim.
Battery life is pretty impressive, though. I managed to get over 12 hours of use from the phone and that’s with pretty heavy usage. We’re not yet at the point where a smartphone will go 48 hours without a charge, but the P10 Plus is getting nearer the mark.
Huawei has produced another stunner of a phone. The camera is undoubtedly the highlight but it also has all the other necessities for a modern smartphone.
My issue with the screen protector aside, the P10 Plus is definitely recommended if you’re looking to upgrade a from a pre-2016 smartphone.
If you’ve got a phone that’s newer than that, I don’t think there’s enough here to merit an upgrade.
That’ll come in 2018.