The EMUI skin sits on top of Android on Huawei and Honor devices. It’s far from the most popular skin out there. It gets a bad rap because it changes the look and feel of Android quite a bit and tries to imitate Apple’s iOS in many ways.
Despite its shortcomings, Huawei’s skin offers a lot of useful features that improve the smartphone experience — you can check out the best ones below. Some of these are specific to the most recent version of EMUI, while a few others are only included in the company’s high-end devices.
Read more: Best Huawei phones you can buy right now
The latest version of the skin is currently EMUI 9.0. It was announced at IFA 2018 and will officially make its debut on the Mate 20 series, which will be revealed on October 16. However, the beta version of the software is already available for select devices including the Huawei P20 Pro, Mate 10 Pro, and Honor 10 — check out the full list here.
EMUI: App drawer
Older Huawei and Honor devices did not have an app drawer, unlike most Android handsets. All the apps were placed on the home screens, just like on iPhones. Although some users loved this feature, most felt the opposite. The lack of an app drawer cluttered the device’s home screens and made it hard to find a specific app if you had many installed.
Fortunately, Huawei listened to its community and brought the app drawer back with EMUI 5.0. The skin now allows users to toggle the app drawer on or off, offering the best of both worlds. It’s disabled by default, but you can go to Settings > Display > Home Screen Style > Drawer to turn it on.
Huawei isn’t the only company to let users toggle the app drawer on or off. LG’s smartphones offer the same feature. Most other Android handsets, including those from Samsung, HTC, and Sony, don’t have an option to turn the app drawer off.
EMUI: AI-related features
EMUI brings a couple of AI-related features to a few Huawei and Honor devices. The main one is scene and object recognition, which help you level up your photography game. The camera identifies different scenes and objects in real time and automatically adjusts things like color, contrast, brightness, and exposure to improve the image.
Scene recognition is only available on Kirin 970-powered devices.
This feature is only available on devices powered by the Kirin 970 chipset like the P20 Pro, Mate 10, and Honor 10 View. The ones running EMUI 8.1 can detect 19 different scenes and objects including Cat, Food, Night shot, and Portrait, while those with EMUI 8.0 on board can recognize 13. The feature will also be present on upcoming devices that will be powered by the Kirin 980 chipset and that run EMUI 9.0, like the Mate 20 and P30 series.
Other AI-related features that made their debut on EMUI 8.0 include photo-based translations and Smart tips, which offers advice like suggesting to turn on the blue light filter when reading in a dark environment. Then there’s the Shopping Experience, which lets you scan an item with the camera and then shows you similar products on Amazon. EMUI 9.0 also sports a feature called HiVision that enables the camera to recognize major landmarks and famous paintings and then provides you with some basic info about them.
EMUI: Navigation dock
Phones have gotten huge over the years. That’s great for watching videos and browsing the web, but it can cause problems when handling a device — making it hard to reach the capacitive or on-screen navigation keys.
Huawei is trying to solve this problem with its Navigation dock, a translucent floating button you can use instead of the traditional home, back, and multitasking keys. It can be placed anywhere on the screen for easy access. You can enable it by going to Settings > Smart assistance > System navigation > Navigation dock. The path may be slightly different depending on your device.
The navigation dock is simple to use: tap it to go back, long press to go to the home screen, and hold and slide to activate the multitasking menu. You can check what this looks like in action in the screenshots above.
EMUI: PC mode
PC mode brings the smartphone experience to a larger screen. Just connect your phone to an external monitor using a USB Type-C to HDMI cable and you’re good to go — there’s no dock required like with some Samsung Galaxy phones. You can even add Bluetooth peripherals like a mouse and keyboard or use the phone’s display as a trackpad.
PC mode also comes with a feature called Privacy protection. When you get a call, a text, or an email, it will make sure it doesn’t reveal sensitive info on the big screen.
PC mode works as advertised, although it is a bit sluggish.
In his review of PC mode, our very own Kris Carlon said it works as advertised, although it is a little sluggish. One of the problems is that if an app doesn’t support full desktop mode, it will open up in portrait mode like on your phone. You’ll still be able to use it, but the experience won’t be fantastic.
It’s worth noting that PC mode is currently only supported by a few high-end Huawei smartphones, like the Mate 10 and P20 Pro.
EMUI: Smart split-screen
Devices running Android 8.0 Oreo already support split-screen mode, allowing you to use two apps at the same time. Smartphones with EMUI 8.0 or higher take this feature a step further.
When you get a text message while doing something important (like watching a hilarious cat video), the phone will suggest to turn on split-screen mode, so you can see the message without disrupting your activity. You can enable split-screen mode in these situations with a simple tap.
This isn’t a feature that would convince people to get a Huawei phone over its rivals, but it can definitely be handy.
EMUI: App Twin
If you have two Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat accounts, switching between them on your smartphone means you constantly have to log out and back in again — it’s a pain. Huawei solves this problem with a feature called App Twin, which duplicates an app on your device so you to use two accounts at the same time.
Read next: 10 best Facebook apps for Android
To enable it, go to Settings > Apps and Notifications > App Twin, where you’ll see a list of supported apps. Then just turn on the feature for each app to duplicate it. All that’s left is to find the new app in the app drawer, sign in, and you’re good to go.
EMUI: GPU Turbo 2.0
Back in June, Huawei announced the GPU Turbo graphics processing technology, which made its debut on the Honor Play. It’s said to increase processing efficiency and reduce power consumption when playing games.
EMUI 9.0 comes with GPU Turbo 2.0.
The second generation of the technology — called GPU Turbo 2.0 — will be available on phones running EMUI 9.0. GPU Turbo 2.0 supports even more games and at a greater capacity. According to Huawei, it can “intelligently optimize intensive workloads and give the devices a performance boost on demand while reducing power consumption.” In addition to gaming, the tech is said to also improve touchscreen responsiveness, network connectivity, and more. Unfortunately, Huawei confirmed to Android Authority that the first generation of GPU Turbo will not be released in the U.S. We assume the same applies for GPU Turbo 2.0 as well.
The games supported by GPU Turbo include PUBG Mobile, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, NBA 2k18, Rules of Survival, Arena of Valor, and Vainglory. More are expected to join this list in the near future.
These are the best features of EMUI, but it’s got plenty more to offer. It supports gestures, like drawing a letter on the screen with your knuckle to open an app. It has a Highlights tool that automatically creates short movies from your photos and videos. It can sync your LinkedIn contacts to your phone’s address book. The Mini screen view shrinks the content on the display so you can easily reach everything with your thumb. The new Password Vault on EMUI 9.0 encrypts passwords and allows you to auto-fill them in certain fields with a face or fingerprint scan. The list goes on.
Which EMUI feature is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!