Who says there’s no innovation left in the smartphone sector? Just about everyone, that’s who. Chinese manufacturer Huawei is having none of that naysaying, though (neither, arguably, is Motorola). Instead, it’s taking its partnership with one of the most revered names in photography — Germany’s Leica — up a notch.
Yip, Leica-powered selfies are here, and aside from the slew of new handset colour options (including blue, green, white, black, silver and not one, but two, shades of gold), its the camera setup that’s the key feature of the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. Or the ones the company is keenest to talk up.
For those with short memories, last year Huawei and Leica “co-engineered” the pair of rear cameras (one colour, one monochrome) found on the P9. This year, the two companies get even cosier, with Leica’s smarts now included in the front camera of the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus, in addition to the updated pair of rear shooters. Like the P9, both rear cameras on the P10 offer the same focal length.
We rather liked the pair of cameras on the P9. So, what’s changed? The P10 range equips its primary snappers with Leica Summilux f1.8 lenses. And the two sensors — one a 20MP monochrome offering, the other a 12MP RGB one — are both capable of capturing 4K video. Equally pleasing is the inclusion of optical image stabilisation (OIS) for each camera.
Strike a pose
Huawei’s also introduced “Leica Portrait Mode”, its answer to Apple’s portrait feature on the iPhone 7 Plus. Like the iPhone, the P10 uses a combination of its dual lenses and software to keep the subject of images sharp while introducing digital bokeh into the background. But wait, there’s more.
The P10/Plus now also offer what Huawei calls a “dynamic illumination studio portrait relighting effect”, which means the devices can mimic selective lighting in portraits of the sort achieved with off-camera flashes or strobes in studio shoots. Self-portraits get some of the software wizardry, too, along with a speedier f1.9 aperture.
Like its peers, Huawei is prone to hyperbole and neologisms (the “Hyper Diamond-Cut Finishing” on the new devices housings is a prime example, as is naming colour options things like “Prestige Gold”), but plough through the marketing speak and there’s no denying Huawei’s phones have gotten incrementally — and consistently — more impressive.
In less than half a decade, the company has gone from the largely forgettable and underwhelming P6 to producing the sorts of flagship devices that can give Android stable-mates Samsung and LG a serious run for their respective money. Like the Huawei Mate 9 Porsche edition, the P10 and P10 Plus look and feel as good as any other top-end devices your cash can be exchanged for.
Sadly, however, they’ll likely cost as much as anything else you’re considering, too. But undercutting its rivals on price isn’t Huawei’s unique selling point any more. Premium pricing is a testament to how much the company is clearly spending a fortune on R&D, and how seriously it takes it.
Consider the inclusion of 4.5G LTE support in the P10 and P10 Plus (courtesy of a quad antenna) and the “offline big data and inertial navigation” the new devices include. Then there are new software features like “Highlights”, an auto-arranging feature for the photo and video library of the sort seen on Apple and Samsung devices that Huawei “co-developed” with action camera company GoPro.
With the P10 and P10 Plus, Huawei’s reiterating its desire to match, and in some instances, best whatever Apple and Samsung can offer. And we’re thrilled. The harder Huawei tries to outdo the top dogs the harder they have to work to stay at the top, and the more premium choices that gives end users like us.