Last year's Huawei P9 was a small surprise package that combines great performance, decent battery life, and a great camera in one compact package. The device made Huawei a real flagship in 2016, and its success was supported by an attractive price that undercut many other top phones this year.
This year Huawei launched the Huawei P10, a new top-end smartphone, along with a bigger brother in the P10 Plus. The phone made its debut at a time when competitors like Samsung and LG had just launched flagships with larger, frameless displays. Instead of innovating in a similar way, Huawei opted for a more iterative approach that improved the good parts of the P9 for 2017.
The result is a phone that is largely identical to the P9 in terms of design and features. I've been using the handset for about a month now to evaluate how it can withstand modern competition, including devices like the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. Although I really liked the Huawei P9, I'm unfortunately not convinced that the P10 is as good as a phone in today's crowded market.
Let's first look at the design. You will be forgiven for confusing the Huawei P10 with the P9, as both phones look strikingly similar. Both are rounded rectangular unibody metal plates with glass on the front, a glass camera strip on the top of the back and medium-sized bezels above and below the display. It seems that Huawei didn't want to significantly refresh the design of its high-end phone, so they didn't.
The Huawei P10 (right) next to the Huawei P9
I loved the design of the Huawei P9 and I still think that this type of metal case works well. The single piece of metal is beautifully curved around all four edges of the handset and gives a seamless premium feeling. The texture and gloss of the matte finish exude class, while the compact design with rounded edges is extremely easy to hold and use. If you are not a fan of massive 5.5-inch or larger devices, you will like the smaller 5.1-inch display used here.
With a thickness of 7.0 mm, the P10 is also quite slim, although it still manages to install a 3,200 mAh battery. The battery is 200 mAh slightly larger than the Huawei P9, without changing the thickness and only with a weight gain of one gram. It is an impressive achievement. I think it's great that companies can extend battery life without compromising the design of their products.
The ports and speakers of the Huawei P10 (above) next to the Huawei P9
Most of the design elements and features around the body of the P10 are located in an identical place to the P9. The on / off switch and the volume rocker are in the same position and have the same satisfactory click, although this time Huawei has given the on / off switch a subtle red highlight. The USB-C connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, and bottom-firing speaker are exactly the same as last year except for the position of the microphone hole and screws. The top speaker and the front-facing camera? Yes, you guessed it: identical positioning.
And just quickly on the speaker system, Huawei continued to use a single bottom-firing speaker that can occasionally be covered by your fingers while holding the phone in landscape mode. I'd like to see Huawei experiment with a two-speaker solution here and possibly use the in-call speaker in combination with the lower speaker, as is the case with some other phones available today.
The only significant change in the design of the P10 and possibly the only change is the new position of the fingerprint sensor. The P9 used a comfortably positioned rear sensor, although Huawei had decided for bizarre reasons to move the sensor forward on the P10. Not only is this sensor harder to hit during normal use – it's also difficult to hit all the fingerprint sensors under the display with one hand due to its low position on the phone body – it's also easy to close the sensor for a home button confound.
With the P10, the fingerprint sensor is just that: a fingerprint sensor. Like the P9, the P10 uses on-screen navigation buttons, so there is a home button on the screen just above the fingerprint sensor. With other smartphones that use a front sensor, the sensor usually functions as a home button, possibly with capacitive buttons on both sides. However, this is not the case with the P10.
The P10 has a SIM slot on the left that houses a nano SIM and a microSD holder. With dual SIM variants, you can exchange the microSD card for a second SIM card. Other functions of the P9 such as 24-bit / 192 kHz audio have also made the transition to the P10.
I would normally have no problem with Huawei using the same design as last year, as last year's design was fantastic. However, in 2017, several companies experimented with larger displays, especially LG and Samsung. These phones have larger screens with smaller frames that maintain the size of the phone but give you more screen space and a larger screen-to-body ratio. With a screen-to-body ratio of 71%, the P10 feels dated and old compared to the latest cell phones with a massive screen.
That doesn't mean the P10 is unusable due to its frame and traditional 16: 9 display. far from it. Anyone upgrading from an older handset will switch sideways to a similar display format instead of downgrading from a device without a frame, and that's fine. However, competing phones on the market offer an enhanced viewing experience when you switch between the P10 and something from LG or Samsung.
The other main problem with the design of the P10 is that it bizarrely lacks an oleophobic coating. Huawei ships the P10 with a terrible plastic screen protector that is attached from the factory and should be removed immediately because the use is just awful. However, under the protection is a Gorilla Glass 5 screen without a fingerprint-proof coating, which means the P10 collects fingerprints and dirt like no other flagship on the market.
The omission of the coating is very strange since it is activated by default on every other phone. Perhaps they thought everyone would maintain the terrible screen protector and not reveal the coating-free glass. In any case, it is a bad choice.
Oh, and for those who normally use a screen protector on their phone, I would strongly recommend replacing the plastic waste in the phone with a high quality glass screen protector from a company like Ultimate Shield.