As I previously mentioned, the P8 Lite has slightly lower specs than its bigger brother, but what’s under the hood isn’t much to sneeze at, a 1.2 GHz octa-core Kirin chip.
Still, its performance isn’t flawless, as it can stutter at times when performing more intensive tasks (specifically, the framerate can take a bit of a dip during more graphics-intensive games). And this can be frustrating to the user — to know that if you want a phone that isn’t the size of blimp, you have to suffer somewhat lower specs that can result in occasional hiccups like this. But it’s really more a matter of principle since on the whole, the P8 Lite’s performance is still respectable.
The rest of the internals are decent as well, like the 16 GB of onboard storage and 2 GB of RAM. There isn’t too much bloatware, but I could do without things like Little Big City, Huawei Community, Phone Manager, and Magnifier coming preloaded on my phone.
No, arguably more important is the operating system and UI situation on the P8 Lite. Though Huawei claims on its site that the unit ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop, this is not the case, as it actually runs version 4.4.4 out of the box. But the dated OS is, sadly, not actually the worst part. It’s skinned with Huawei’s Emotion UI, which offers such a lousy user experience that it substantially mars an otherwise excellent phone.
The biggest problem with the Emotion UI (version 3.0, for those of you who are wondering) is that Huawei doesn’t seem to understand that less is more. There’s a reason people often pine for either pure Android or something as close as possible to a pure Android experience. Samsung understands this, which is why it scaled back TouchWiz for the Galaxy S6.
While some people may assume that offering more options to the user would make the experience better, it instead does the exact opposite and results in a UI that is cluttered and inconvenient to navigate.
What makes the situation so frustrating is that nearly everything that Emotion offers is useless, so the mess that Huawei introduces isn’t even in the name of potentially useful features. For instance, Emotion offers motion controls – most of which are half-baked and don’t work well anyway – and the one that stands out the most is the one that is the most shockingly useless: you can turn on an option that allows you to shake your phone to rearrange your home screen icons. Why on earth would anybody need that feature? It’s just inconvenient.
There are far too many excessive “features” and poor layout choices to list, but one of the other major problems is a system tray that houses entirely too many options (I don’t need an on-screen button to take a screen shot, Android has a built-in feature for that). There are literally 20 icons in the tray when fully expanded…and you cannot remove any of them. Huawei gives users the option to rearrange them, but all 20 buttons, no matter how rarely you may use them, are there to stay.
And to top it all off, the UI just doesn’t look good. It wants so badly to be iOS – the shape of the app icons are a dead giveaway – that it doesn’t even offer a button to a central location for all of your installed apps; it instead just lists all of them on your home pages. So instead of being able to keep your home screens tidy by only having the apps you frequently use on there, everything’s out in the open. Sure, there’s the option to use folders, but that still takes up space. I would rather keep everything tucked away behind a single button at the bottom of my screen, like nearly every other Android device allows me to do.
Simply put, the Emotion UI takes what would otherwise be a smooth, efficient user experience and finds a way to bog it down with useless features and poor usability at nearly every turn.
The 13-megapixel camera on the P8 Lite is actually better than average, taking shots that look great in both high- and low- light. Colors can look a little flat, but other than that, pictures look sharp. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera is fine too; frankly, it’s good enough that it offers better quality than you’ll probably need from a front-facing shooter.
During our tests, we found the battery of the P8 Lite to be quite impressive, but our unit did not ship with a SIM card, which undoubtedly helped its performance. Still, given that it lasted week on a single charge – even after watching roughly 40 minutes of streaming video and with Wi-Fi and maximum screen brightness on the whole time – you have to figure that the numbers would still be impressive even if there had been a data connection at play.