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The P8 is smooth and oddly featureless, but Huawei likes it that way

There’s no place for subtlety in the smartphone market. Huawei proved this yesterday at the London launch of its new P8 and P8 Max handsets. The Chinese manufacturer was insistent that its new phones were the best, the biggest, the thinnest, and the fastest: the most this and the least that. They’re everything a sane and rational consumer could ask for — except, of course, they’re not. Not right now anyway.

Five years ago, Huawei was unheard of in consumer electronics, now it’s the fourth-biggest smartphone seller in the world, and it wants to be big in the West, too. To achieve this, it’s been pumping out a series of high-end flagships to grab attention, cramming in feature after feature in a faintly manic fashion. The launch event in London was exemplary of this, bombarding the visiting press with stat after stat, and so many promo videos that it felt like Huawei had put an open call for them, received half a dozen entries, and then just thought, "Fine, whatever, let’s use them all."

Huawei didn't know when to stop
There was one video of blindfolded actors feeling up the P8 before taking off their blindfolds to offer insightful comments like "It’s got a camera on it which is nice, so I can use it for everything." In another clip, a hooded model strolled around a city, using his P8 to suck the light out of street lamps and car headlights like an evil Dumbledore going mad with his Deluminator. Another video had a backing song that started with the line: "It takes a moment to break a butterfly / on a wheel that’s when you hear an angel cry." Basically, it felt like Huawei just didn’t know when to stop.

When it comes to its phones, this isn’t such a bad thing. Both the P8 and P8 Max are competent enough devices, at least on paper. They boast FHD screens (5.2 inches and 6.8 inches respectively; sharp, but not as good as the Quad HD displays you get on most flagships these days), 13-megapixel cameras, 64-bit eight-core processors, and 3GB of RAM apiece. In addition, they both feel solidly made, with smooth aluminum unibodies and sharp, chamfered edges. Huawei’s attempt to skin Android is as unsuccessful as most Android skins (although its muted color scheme stands out as a notable turn-off), but the phone is at least capably fast.

The problem is that Huawei doesn’t seem to know where to focus. The phones themselves definitely have a few neat touches, but they get lost in the blur. There’s a remote voice activation feature that lets you shout at your handset when you’ve lost it and it’ll start ringing, and a fantastically named "knuckle sense technology" which senses (you guessed it) knuckles, letting users take a screenshot by knocking twice on the display.The P8 feels competent but soullessAt the moment, Huawei’s phones still feel a bit soulless, like they’re not really the company’s own. One of the other myriad promo videos at the event went into the manufacturing processes behind the P8 (each handset takes 810 minutes of "pure commitment" to be milled apparently), with this footage spliced with designers talking vaguely about luxury craftsmanship and the like. It was a fairly straight rip-off of an Apple segment two years ago, and while this isn’t at all shameful (it’s too common to be shameful), it’s not inspirational. The same, unfortunately, is true of the P8.
The P8 goes on sale in May, followed by the P8 Max the month after, with prices starting at €499 ($537) and €549 ($591), respectively.
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