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What’s the future of EMUI? A Huawei software expert gave us a sneak peek

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We spoke with Christophe Coutelle, a man behind the scenes for Device Software Business and Branding at Huawei, who was able to share some interesting details with us regarding the company’s user interface. After the release of the Mate 9, Huawei now wants to further improve the EMUI 5.0 software. This means good news for future Huawei users: late updates and the notifications problem are soon to be a thing of the past.

The goal in the development of EMUI 5 is to simplify patches and upgrades so that the update cycle happens much faster. The Mate 8, the Huawei P9, the Nova and the Honor 8 will be the first to receive the upgrade. Plus, beta tests for the Mate 8 and P9 are already running; our Honor 8 is also a part of the program. “We want to make the update available for as many phones as possible,” Coutelle explained.

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The Huawei Mate 9: Huawei’s first Nougat device. / © AndroidPIT

There’s a high probability that the Mate S and the P8 will, however, not receive the Android 7 Nougat update. But a spokesperson has given us hope. Many of the improvements described below could also happen without Android Nougat on the top devices of 2015.

“No update to another Android version does not mean that we will not provide security updates, nor does it mean that we will not offer parts of EMUI 5 as feature packages.”

Battery life and instant notifications: no contradiction

“In the past, EMUI closed apps to aggressively to save energy,” said the software expert. “We have already improved this in EMUI 4.1 with an update.” Huawei is working with a whitelist of apps that are not closed by the system in the background for version of EMUI up to 4.1. When we asked if we could see the list, Coutelle stated that it is not accessible to users.

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Huawei has switched the logic of the energy saving mode with EMUI 5 (right). / © AndroidPIT

However, this hidden list is no longer used in EMUI 5.0. Instead, the user may decide which background apps are closed. The above screenshot shows the menu for optimization in Honor 8 with EMUI 4.1 on the left and in the Mate 9 with EMUI 5 on the right: following the opposite logic, the user can now determine which background apps are closed. If the user does not do anything, obviously there will be no additional optimization.

In my everyday usage, I still notice one weakness. The WhatsApp alternative, Telegram, often only shows me incoming messages when I bring the app into the foreground. On that topic, Coutelle admits:

“The battery life cannot be improved at the expense of user experience.”

In the long term, Huawei will work with a system based on machine learning. It is designed to analyze user behavior and intelligently assess which apps should continue running in the background based on how often they are used. This enhancement expands the EMUI 5 algorithm that is designed to improve the performance of the CPU, memory and flash memory.

Of course, the underlying data collection happens “on the chip,” so that your behavior is analyzed offline on your smartphone. A cloud-based analysis will not happen. Coutelle could not yet offer a timeline for when this improvement will become available on Huawei devices.

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Honor 8 users will get the Nougat update ahead of time thanks to the beta program. / © AndroidPIT

Feedback on EMUI 5.0 has been positive so far

As I already noted in the Mate 9 review, EMUI 5.0 is a big leap forward compared to its predecessors. So it is not surprising to me that the feedback on the software has been positive so far. The clever interface, the simplified menus and the almost completely unchanged Android Nougat notification system, as well as finally giving users the begged-for app drawer, are important improvements. And the protected area for hidden images, data and apps is also used a lot.

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So far, the Mate 9 has only a single notification counter (right screenshot above). / © AndroidPIT

In the future, user feedback will be heard and analyzed, to see which features are required. In the short term, a patch is wanted for the notification counter on the Mate 9, which currently summarizes all the apps in a single number. Again, this should be split into counters for each individual app, as is the standard in other Android displays.

In the long run, we can expect more optimizations based on machine learning. You can expect a better user experience over the complete lifecycle of a product. In the coming months, I will further investigate whether the first steps with the Mate 9 have already proved to be fruitful.

What are your experiences with EMUI? What software improvements software would you like from smartphone manufacturers?

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