The quick take
Huawei's mainstream flagships for 2017 don't necessarily look flashy — unless you opt for the exclusive "dazzling" color options — but they do deliver just about everything you could ask for in a modern Android phone. There's one big catch, though. The lack of oleophobic coating on the display may be a reason for discerning buyers to skip this round of Huawei phones.
- Solid construction and attractive design.
- Great camera performance in P10 Plus.
- All-day battery life from the P10, even more from the Plus.
- EMUI no longer a total eyesore.
- No oleophobic coating below factory fitted screen protector.
- f/1.8 Summilux lens exclusive to P10 Plus
- No oleophobic coating below factory fitted screen protector.
- Did I mention there's no oleophobic coating below the factory fitted screen protector?
Huawei P10 series Video review
About this review
We're publishing this review after a couple of weeks of on-and-off use of the Huawei P10 (VTR-L29, dual-SIM, 4GB/64GB) in "dazzling blue" and P10 Plus (VKY-L09 single SIM, 6GB/128GB) in black on the EE and Vodafone networks in the UK, and roaming on Orange in Barcelona, Spain. Our P10 was running software build 108 until about a week into testing, when it was updated to build 112. Our P10 Plus was running build 110.
Both phones were given to us shortly after the P10 launch event in Barcelona; Huawei reps tell us both units are representative of retail P10 devices.
Huawei P10 series Full review
2016 was a transformative year for Huawei. The Chinese firm with a reputation for sullying its great hardware with gross software really got its act together. Throughout the year, Huawei gradually chipped away at annoyances in its EMUI interface, before overhauling everything in the much improved EMUI 5.0 release on the Mate 9. And even with slightly weird software, the P9 series sold well globally, surpassing 10 million shipped by the end of 2016. In the UK, it established a presence on all four major networks (plus Carphone Warehouse.)
This year, the challenge for Huawei is to build on all those positive developments without losing momentum — starting with two new high-end phones, the P10 and P10 Plus. Like its immediate predecessor, the P10 series offers a similar hardware package across two screen sizes, contained in a classy, understated metal shell.
The external hardware is as good as ever, and EMUI is light years ahead of where it was a year ago. So what could possibly go wrong?
Hyper Diamond Cut
Huawei P10 series Hardware
Depending on which color and finish you pick up, the Huawei P10 lands somewhere on the spectrum between pedestrian and eye-catching. In its standard brushed, anodized aluminum finishes — which includes staple colors like silver, black and gold — the P10 has a remarkably iPhone-like appearance. (Look no further than the curved antenna lines, apparently lifted straight from Apple's phone.) As such, it inherits many of the pros and cons of that particular design. It's well-built and comfortable in the hand, but a little slippery, particularly in the 5.5-inch Plus model.
In its more extravagant "dazzling" color options, which includes the "dazzling blue" P10 I've been using for the past couple of weeks, the back plate has a truly unique look, feel and sound. Huawei calls this "hyper diamond cut" — I'd describe it as an extremely finely-cut texture etched into the aluminum — and it makes the back of the device feel unlike anything else out there. It shimmers as the phone rotates through light, and if you scratch the tip of your finger against it it sounds a little bit like a nail file. And there's a pleasing contrast between the glossy, curved side walls and the more industrial finish of the back.
The texture is supposed to be more scratch-resistant than a traditional brushed, sandblasted finish — and while that's mostly true, it certainly will chip given enough encouragement, leaving you with speckled silvery areas if it scrapes concrete or metal surfaces.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of design holdovers from last year's P-series phones, including the glass camera window up top, which sits flush with the surface of the metal. The neat red accent around the power key also adds some visual flair.
But the design as a whole is entirely more rounded than last year, in contrast to the angular P9 and Mate 9.
Like those previous models, Huawei's latest creations include a pretty decent speaker setup, combining a bottom-firing main speaker with an additional tweeter behind the earpiece, as part of a pseudo-stereo setup. The Mate 9's output sounds a touch bassier to my ears, and less tinny at high volume levels. Still, the P10 puts in a respectable performance, going louder than rivals like the Google Pixel and LG G6 with less distortion.
The P10's front face is as minimalist as any Huawei design to date, with the prominent Huawei branding of most of its other handsets having been replaced by the new front-mounted fingerprint scanner. It's a very deliberate change — one Huawei representative told me that the cleaner design might stop consumers pre-judging the phone based on its bearing an unfamiliar brand name. Another possibility is that the "hyper diamond cut" finish may have been difficult to include alongside a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.
The sensor itself, built into the glass this time, for what that's worth, feels and functions about the same as previous Huawei fingerprint scanners — which is to say it's lightning-fast and a joy to use.
Then there's the screen. Which, on the face of it, is great. The standard P10 packs a 1080p LCD over 5.1 inches, with the Plus stepping up to Quad HD over 5.5 inches. Both offer excellent viewing angles, high brightness levels, even outdoors, and vibrant colors, with the slight blueish hue seen in earlier Huawei phones. (White balance is adjustable in the display settings menu, for what it's worth.)
Huawei includes a factory-fitted screen protector in the P10 as standard, just like most of its other phones. However unlike the P9 and Mate 9 — and even cheaper models like the Nova — neither P10 has an oleophobic coating on the screen. (That's the smudge-resistant layer included as standard in the vast majority of phones, without which the display quickly becomes smudgy and greasy.
We've got a whole other article on why this is an insane decision about which someone should feel bad. But briefly: For me, it's almost a deal-breaker. And for your own sanity, please keep the factory-fitted screen protector attached if you plan on picking up a P10.
Huawei P10 and oleophobic coatings
In a bizarre move, the Huawei P10 doesn't include an oleophobic coating behind its factory-fitted screen protector.
An oleophobic coating may sound obscure and technical, but it's a staple feature of all but the cheapest smartphone screens. This nanocoating, usually applied to the glass during manufacturing, repels oils — like the kind on your face and fingers — and stops the display getting gunked up with use.
At least there are no weird compromises on the inside of this thing. Both P10s are based on the same Kirin 960 platform as the Mate 9, meaning there's plenty of performance to go around, whether it's paired with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage in the smaller P10, or 6GB/128GB in the Plus.
And Huawei has specifically targeted touch latency in its performance tweaks in EMUI 5.1 — a big part of what makes a phone feel fast. So between the proven horsepower of Huawei's homegrown chip and further software optimization, both phones are absolutely blazing fast. That high performance extends to gaming too, thanks to the new ARM Mali-G71 GPU.
|Category||Huawei P10||Huawei P10 Plus|
|Display||5.1" FHD, 2.5D glass, Corning Gorilla Glass 5||5.5" WQHD, 2.5D glass, Corning Gorilla Glass 5|
|CPU||Huawei Kirin 960 (64-bit), Octa-core (4 x 2.5 GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8 GHz A53)||Huawei Kirin 960 (64-bit), Octa-core (4 x 2.5 GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8 GHz A53)|
|GPU||Mali G71 Octa-Core||Mali G71 Octa-Core|
|OS||Android 7.0, EMUI 5.1||Android 7.0, EMUI 5.1|
|Camera||Front: 8MP, F/1.9|
Rear: Leica Dual-Camera 2.0, 20MP Monochrome & 12MP RGB, SUMMARIT-H F/2.2, OIS
|Front: 8MP AF, F/1.9|
Rear: Leica Dual-Camera 2.0 Pro Edition, 20MP Monochrome & 12MP RGB, SUMMILUX-H F/1.8, OIS
|Battery||3,200mAh, Huawei SuperCharge||3,750mAh, Huawei SuperCharge|
|Size||Height: 145.3 mm; Width: 69.3 mm; Depth: 6.98 mm||Height: 153.5 mm; Width: 74.2 mm; Depth: 6.98 mm|
|Colors||Ceramic White, Dazzling Blue, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, Greenery (Color availability varies by region)||Ceramic White, Dazzling Blue, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Mystic Silver, Rose Gold, Greenery (Color availability varies by region)|
|Finishes||High Gloss, Hyper Diamond-Cut, Sandblast||High Gloss, Hyper Diamond-Cut, Sandblast|
Huawei P10 series Software
After the rebirth of EMUI on the Mate 9, Huawei didn't need to do a whole lot to translate that experience onto a smaller screen, and so the new EMIU 5.1 — still based on Android 7.0 — looks and functions much the same as before. (Albeit a little quicker thanks to the special attention given to touch responsiveness in this update.)
This is still a very customized version of Android, though the core of EMUI is cleaner and less cluttered than previous iterations. Android's notification center is mostly unmolested, save for Huawei's customized quick settings implementation and a separate permissions system for lock screen notifications, which can be a bit confusing. Most of Huawei's preloaded apps use the same cool blue and white hues that you'll find throughout the menus — which is smart and inoffensive, though not entirely in keeping with Android's design direction as a whole.
EMUI 5 is as customizable as ever, with Huawei's Themes app allowing you to kit the P10 out with a range of themes, some genuinely nice-looking, others decidedly vomit-inducing. Each color of P10 is preloaded with its own color theme, which is a nice touch, but there's still a weird dissonance between the embossed, over-the-top-colorful icons and backgrounds in these themes and the rest of EMUI.
While much of the focus of EMUI 5.1 has been under-the-hood tweaks, there are a couple of user-facing additions. Huawei has partnered with GoPro to include the camera maker's Quik application on the P10, giving you an easy way to conjure up highlight reels with transitions and music matched to your photos. The feature set offered here isn't all that new — HTC experimented with this type of functionality in its Zoe app years ago, and Google Photos has a similar feature, though with much less manual input. Nevertheless, it's a nice touch.
You've also got some intriguing options for changing up Android's soft keys (back, home and recent apps.) Like the Mate 9 Pro, the P10 lets you use gestures on the front-mounted fingerprint scanner to replace the standard on-screen buttons. A single tap sends you back, a long press takes you home, and a swipe gesture takes you to your recent apps. It's a decent idea in theory, but I never fully wrapped my head around this new button dynamic, and retreated to the safety on-screen keys pretty quickly. It didn't help that the swipe gesture for recent apps failed to trigger reliably every time.
So there are no massive changes from EMUI 5 to speak of, and the overall experience, in terms of both visuals and performance, boils down to that of using the Mate 9's software on a smaller display. Android purists may still be unimpressed with Huawei's customization and the many iOS influences throughout the software, but EMUI 5.1 fast, responsive and easy to tune to your own preferences.
A couple of other software nuggets from EMUI 5.1:
- While the P10 Plus comes with display (DPI) scaling options, letting you see more on screen at once, this isn't enabled on the regular P10.
- The P10 and P10 Plus both support VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling on EE in the UK, a first for Huawei, and a good indicator that future software updates may bring this to phones like the Mate 9.
Summarit / Summilux
Huawei P10 series Cameras
We're a year into Huawei and Leica's strategic partnership, which has yielded some dramatically improved camera performance, and there are some big changes in the P10's imaging setup, in both the hardware and software.
First, both P10 models have grown a new portrait mode, which is similar in a lot of ways to the feature of the same name from the iPhone 7 Plus. The optics of Huawei's cameras are different — there's no zoom lens, for instance — so there's more heavy lifting being done in the post-processing. Huawei's camera app and Kirin ISP pair up to re-light your subject's face on the fly, smooth out blemishes and artistically defocus the background. Portrait mode also makes colors pop a little bit more, which leads to shots taking on a slightly surreal quality compared to iPhone portraits.
Many of the same features also work with the P10's 8-megapixel selfie camera — the front facer is now Leica-certified as well, and situated behind a bright f/1.9 lens. Huawei's selfie software can detect how many people are in a shot, and defocus the background accordingly, bringing out the appropriate details in the faces of both you, your friends, and any photobombers.
On paper, the optics of the second-gen Leica camera setup in the smaller P10 haven't changed at all since the Mate 9. You've still got two f/2.2 Leica Summarit lenses, one housing a 12-megapixel color sensor (with optical image stabilization and 1.25-micron pixels), another packing a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor without OIS. (Alongside laser autofocus for faster focusing in the dark.)
As such, the results from the regular P10's photographic capabilities closely match the Mate 9's — taking into account the past few months' worth of software tuning, of course. You'll get legendary dynamic range thanks to the dual-sensor setup, and generally solid performance, though with some fine detail loss in challenging lighting compared to cameras like the LG G6 and Google Pixel.
The big camera hardware upgrade has been reserved for the P10 Plus, which introduces dual f/1.8 Leica Summilux lenses — significantly brighter than the smaller model's lenses, for improved low-light captures. And while I think the Pixel and G6 still pull ahead in night-time shots, the P10 Plus is really, really close, to the point where most people won't be able to tell the difference.
There are only a couple of very specific areas where I've noticed weaker performance from the P10 Plus. Firstly, in high-contrast scenes with lots of brighter and shaded areas, Huawei's camera struggles to retain color detail, with some areas of certain shots being rendered in black and white, even in full color mode.
And Huawei still isn't quite up there with the best in terms of video recording. Despite the inclusion of OIS, and a software stabilization mode, there's a decent amount of ghosting in moving shots, and fine detail is lost in shots with uneven lighting — more so than most other high-end phones.
So if photography is a priority, definitely go for the P10 Plus — it's got a dependable Auto mode for most kinds of shots, some intriguing artistic modes to play around with, and that all-important manual mode for great long exposures at night.
Huawei P10 series Battery life
Between relatively large battery capacities, homegrown processors and tight software controls for background apps, Huawei phones have always punched above their weight in terms of battery life. And I'm happy to report that the P10 and P10 Plus are no exception.
With the P10, you're getting an ample 3,200mAh cell, which is a little above average for a phone of this size, with some extra power savings coming from the use of a 1080p display. The P10 Plus steps up to a more capacious 3,750mAh cell, which is more than sufficient to offset the step up to both a 5.5-inch panel and a resolution of 2560x1440.
In day-to-day use, the smaller P10 actually reminded me of the performance I got out of the Huawei-made Honor 8, in that it'd just keep going, even with relatively intensive use on LTE, often in not-so-great signal areas. Essentially, I never had to worry about not getting a full day out of the P10, though the kind of multi-day longevity I've had from the Mate 9 was outside of the phone's reach.
The P10 Plus followed a similar pattern, holding up well against heavy use, and sometimes leaving me with 50 percent in the tank after a day out and about. With those kind of usage patterns, I was looking at around five hours of screen-on time per charge. Again, that's a step below the Mate 9, but in a phone with a smaller battery and a higher screen resolution.
Both phones benefit from Huawei's extra-quick Super Charge technology as well, which requires a special cable as well as a plus-sized Huawei Super Charge plug. First seen on the Mate 9, Super Charge is the only charging tech I've used that rivals OnePlus's Dash Charge, powering up the P10 at up to 5A and 4.5V (or 4.5A at 5V). That means faster recharges with less heat generated compared to other quick charging methods, which use higher voltages. On both models, up to around 80 percent, you can practically watch the percentage numbers tick up.
Combining the ability to complete a meaningful recharge in around 30 minutes with great battery life in general, the Huawei P10 emerges as an excellent performer.
The bottom line
Should you buy the Huawei P10? Yes, but...
Personally, the whole oleophobic kerfuffle with the Huawei P10 has considerably dampened my enthusiasm for these phones. This is a core hardware feature which has been the norm in just about every flagship smartphone for the past decade. The P10 forces me to choose between two bad options: leave the screen protector on and deal with a display that feels like crappy plastic, or take it off and live in a frustrating hellscape of screen smudges.
When you're paying north of £550 for a flagship phone (either upfront or over the course of a contract), that's a choice you shouldn't have to make.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the display is the primary input and output device on a phone. It's the one thing you're constantly looking at and touching. For a company as established as Huawei to compromise it in this way defies reason.
It's pretty clear this phone is supposed to be used with its pre-fitted screen protector attached. (Which is fine, I guess... although the entire glass front isn't covered by the film.) If that's OK with you — and for many people it'll be perfectly acceptable — then great. Buy a P10 and enjoy it. You'll get a good-looking device with great performance and a fantastic camera. For others it'll be a deal-breaker. I'm somewhere in the middle, hence the grudging recommendation.
That's a shame, because the rest of the Huawei P10 is great. Really great. Were it not for my reservations over the screen, the P10 would certainly qualify as one of the best Android phones out there. And the P10 Plus comes with that extra bit of icing on the cake — a brighter lens for some amazing low-light captures, and the option to spec it out with oodles of RAM and storage.
Above all, these phones show that for all the progress Huawei has made, its products can still be derailed by one or two bad decisions.
Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.
Replacing the factory installed protector with a tempered glass one should be the go to solution for this, since most people get one anyway and those have oleophopbic coatings typically and add a great deal more protection.
I've gone to a tempered glass on a couple of my devices and would never go back to a screen protector. Even curved screen phones (ex: Galaxy S7 edge) has a tempered glass solution.
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Yeah I'm not sure why the uproar. Yeah it should be something that is supposed to be on all phones I guess but smudges? Really? OK well that's terrible and all but most use some type of screen protector. Tempered glass is on all my phones as soon as I get them
Now a days not many use screen protector, personally hate screen protectors and like the glass touch on the screen without any added layers of screen protector. I have seen plenty of people without screen protectors. As far as using a case that's a much larger percentage than using screen protectors.
When that oleophobic coating wears off, you'd probably want that protector. One of my old phones has it worn off for a while and its display is a scratched-up mess. It doesn't just make smudges less "smudgy". It also resists scratches to a point as they "glide" over the surface. However, as I mentioned below, that coating wears off over time, so a protector may be worth it if you want to keep that display looking "mint".
I've had my S6 for almost 2 years now without a screen protector and still don't have these problems that you are talking about.
Like I mentioned, it depends on how well the oleophobic coating is applied. If it's applied well, like on your Galaxy S6, it'll likely stay on for a long time. But if it is applied in a rushed manner, it'll only last for a few months.
I have had my S6 for 1,5 years and my screen really scratches easily.
Huawei does sell a tempered glass protector. Really, I understand why the lack of an oleophobic coating drives some up in arms, but I don't think a lot of people know what it is, because many just slap on a tempered glass screen protector or even a plastic one. The lack of an oleophobic coating is baffling, but to me, it is nowhere near bad enough to be considered a deal-breaker since the phone comes with an included screen protector and there are official tempered glass protectors, which should be easy to apply since it has a flat display. Also, the coating wears away over time. Depending on how well it is applied, it can either stay on for over a year or just a few months. Most of my phones have their oleophobic coatings worn away. The Moto Z is the only one with it still on, though probably not for much longer since it's starting to feel less "smooth".
Having had a phone saved twice by a glass protector I can't understand why anybody wouldn't use one. The truth is I would never notice the absence of an oleophobic coating because I try never to touch the actual screen.
I don't use them because when I tried a glass screen protector, it cracked in a matter of weeks.
The coating wore off of my Nexus 5 after a couple of years. I can't stand the screen when that happens. It even makes wiping the screen off more difficult. I also don't use screen protectors so this issue would definitely prevent me from buying this phone. The OnePlus 3T came with a plastic preinstalled screen protector. I immediately removed it but the screen still seems to have the coating on it. It feels the same as my past phones and fingerprints and smudges don;t show easily.
Wondering if this will be put in later batches. Seems like an odd oversight. Don't think many consumers will mind since they'll likely leave the plastic protector on or buy a tempered-glass one, but it's still an odd oversight.
Having no coating makes a phone feel terrible (like driving a nice car with the steering wheel wrapped with rope which is soaked with vomit), but I don't see it as a deal breaker either if you use a screen protector anyway. What it says to me is that they cheaped out and put the screen protector on instead of paying for the coating.
Is there oleophobic coating below the factory fitted screen protector?
lol didn't see it mentioned in the article.
Stick to lifting weights dude, your comprehension skills are lacking.
Jokes are supposed to be funny.
Of course there is! What kind of nincompoop company would peddle a phone at these prices without one?!
By the way, you can purchase a coating kit. It's work to put on and you have to let the phone sit for 8 hours, but it works well. I scrubbed my screen with what I thought was a screen cleaning wipe, and it turned out to be a cleanser wipe which damaged the screen coating. Phone is back to it's normal slick natural glass feel because of the kit, but I know better now, and just rinse my phone off under running water instead. My wife's HTC screen still feels new after two years, and she uses it hard. She wore out her former iPhone screen coating in less than 6 months.
I've heard of those. Seems like a good idea if your coating wears off, but not necessarily something that someone has to do on an expensive flagship that's just been unboxed. I still think many people buying this phone won't mind but it's still baffling nonetheless.
Are we sure that's not only review devices that are affected by the lack of oleophobic coating ? What about retail devices ?
Asked Huawei and they said the review devices are representative of the retail product.
I get that this is a flaw but a fatal flaw? That is just hyperbole.
Weakness? Sure. Fatal flaw? That seems a bit strong. Anyway, as noted above, most users will place a screen protector on their devices anyway. Fatal flaw suggests a weakness that compromises the phone's function to the point where it can no longer be used. This issue does not rise to that level of concern.
No screen protection and case feels best
Will these phones be available unlocked with proper US LTE bands?
Another review I read elsewhere says that it has all of the bands for lte, even though it wouldn;t be sold here.
I was hoping that was the case. It's fairly easy to have one imported from several retailers. I really like what Huawei have done with these new P10's and I'd love to own one.
I wondered if Google did this or Samsung what the reaction would be ..... this is really not a deal breaker
So no curved screen?
I agree that this is a fatal flaw. I hate screen protectors and would not buy this phone due to no oleophobic coating.
Fatal flaw? What click bait BS. Hyperbole, much?
I'm not sure how your editors let this go with such a hyperbolic headline as 'fatal flaw' when just a few months ago a much more popular phone was literally catching on fire and causing air traffic to be diverted. THAT was a potential fatal flaw, in that it could have killed someone. This is an oily screen. Do you not grasp the difference? Replacing the factory screen protector should be something you do anyway on a device that cost $600. That is not a 'fatal flaw'. That is a minor inconvenience at best, for the two minutes it takes to install the replacement screen protector.
A 15$ oleophobic coating kit on ebay will do the trick, didnt' you guys know that? For as stupid as a decision it is of corse, I don't think it's a deal breaker
Did you ever try it? How was the outcome? It would be great if you could provide a link to such a set and tell something about your experience. I am going to get the plus version but I really don't like the missing coating.
It is a huge flaw. Tempered glass screen protectors don't get on well with 2.5D glass displays. I have up trying to find a suitable protector for my Galaxy S7 (not the edge) as the curvature of the screen meant that all the screen protectors either didn't cover the whole display or produced audible clicks and had sparkly bezels.
Fatal flaw is a bit much.
My gosh this really I can't believe this makes up 3 times the worst/bad thing about this phone
Macho que se respeta usa el teléfono sin protección en la pantalla.
I still find Mate 9 to be one of the best phones, i bought one to replace mine S7E. Mate 10 shall be a real bomb i hope, P10P is good phone but the regular P10 seems pointless.
Aren't low-light pics kinda noisy or am i reading too much into it?
Came from a LG to Honor 8, couldn't notice it at all. And I couldn't be happier with this new EMUI 5 and all Huawei has offered.
Alex, great review but you need to fix the specs of these phones - the Kirin 960 has 4 X A73 cores clocked at 2.4 GHz (4 X A72 at 2.5 GHz is the 955). Is the P10 plus LCD? The P9 plus got OLED last year. I think I will wait for the Honor 8 replacement rather than the P10.
When P9 Plus took OLED screen ??? It's a LCD IPS display !
Cant wait for this phone to hit the market https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMm9OJ17r6w
Hyperbole much? Fatal flaw smudges? Even when a good portion of people will use a screen protector anyway? Crap clickbait. The quality of AC's content has really devolved. Still worthwhile to visit the sight as there aren't many news sources with this much Android content. However, it's much more hit or miss than it used to be. You never know when
you'll get clickbait like this article or a veiled advertisement in the form of an op-ed.
He is really worried about the film in the screen. Don't be so dirty, take a shower it won't smudge. Mr nasty guy
Pretty hysterical making something as small as this be a "deal breaker". Absurd. Most of us use screen protectors anyway, so... ???
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