EMUI 11 from Huawei – what’s new in the shell interface and in the company’s flagships


Never before has a new shell from Huawei been so eagerly awaited, as US sanctions have imposed many restrictions on the company. Google does not give Huawei access to a version of Android with its own services, so the company is forced to create its own version of such services and develop an alternative Android. Let me remind you that all new Huawei / Honor smartphones come with Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), and the base version for them becomes Android 10 in the AOSP edition, that is, a free version of Android.

From the first days of smartphone development, Huawei has been promoting its own EMUI shell, Emotional UI, relying on external flashiness and ease of use. If you look at the presentations of different manufacturers, then the words they say about their developments in the field of UI are about the same. Everyone stands for ergonomics, convenience of certain solutions. Skins always run on top of Android, and pure Android itself does not have many supporters, as it is too short and limited in its capabilities. Huawei’s shell has never been at the forefront of development, fans may forgive me. But it has always successfully integrated what was created by other companies, that is, EMUI was developed with some delay in relation to the same Samsung. Let’s just say that Huawei always had an example to follow, best practices that could be used in its solutions. This does not mean direct copying, but rather an artistic rethinking, which gave a good result.

There were a lot of rumors and speculations around EMUI 11, as the 11th version of Android is still missing from the AOSP version, and we are used to the fact that the EMUI version coincides with the Android version. Reasoning within this stereotype, I have heard that Huawei has done the impossible and released EMUI 11 with Android 11 even before Google itself with their GMS. It would be too beautiful to be true. Alas, EMUI 10 is based on exactly the same Android 10 as EMUI XNUMX. In this shell, the key functions of Android are not affected in any way, the version of Android AOSP is exactly the same as before.

Huawei clearly wanted to cheat with the announcement of EMUI 11 for the launch of Android 11, there is a certain magic of numbers. They have the eleventh version, and we are no worse, we have exactly the same. It is possible that this will confuse some of the buyers and play into the hands of Huawei.

On the other hand, year after year, the number of changes in operating systems, be it Android or iOS, becomes so small that it fits into a small text. Many changes are cosmetic, there is no need to talk about something serious, fundamental and different from previous years. Updates have been shredded, so they are getting less and less interest. I would like to say that in the case of Huawei, everything is different, since they need to develop their system, but, alas, this is not the case. Exactly the same revision of existing functions, changes, which are described briefly and succinctly. Of course, EMUI 11 is better in many small things than the previous system, but many simply will not pay attention to these changes, will not notice them. And our task is to tell as succinctly as possible about what has changed and how it will affect the perception of devices.

Another misconception is that EMUI is exactly the same as Harmony OS, which will appear in commercial products in 2021. To put it mildly, this is not the case. The systems are very different, although there are similarities in some interface solutions and applications. But it is impossible to say that external similarity means equality between systems. There is a strong sense that Android will be a key product for Huawei for several years, as it seems almost impossible to transfer developers to Harmony OS. Rather, there will be an evolution of Android, which will change and depart from the same AOSP version, but so far this has not happened, which we see in the current version of EMUI 11.

Existing smartphones will start receiving EMUI 11 at the end of this year, gradually firmware with this shell will become available for most Huawei models (Honor has a similar shell, MagicUI, but inside exactly the same changes). Let’s take a look at what has changed in EMUI 11, what the company has focused on.

Elusive app comfort – new geometry, center of gravity

I love UX designers, they are able to plunge any person into despair, as from their mouths, like from a cornucopia, tricky words are poured. But if we discard all the verbal husk, it turns out that in EMUI 11 they tried to rework the way you look at the smartphone menu, use basic applications, for example, the same calendar. The designers made the “discovery” that most people are looking at the center of the screen, but its peripheral areas do not attract much attention. Trivial, isn’t it? I think that common sense will tell you this without careful research. But it so happened that many interface features, in particular, animation and not only, use the entire screen, blur attention. EMUI 11 decided to avoid this, and all standard applications are built around the spot of attention, which is located precisely in the center of the screen. Look at the animation in the Calendar app, it describes this approach quite well.

Everything in the interface revolves around the center of the screen, and this is probably even correct. But this elusive comfort is difficult to describe and document, it remains to take our word for it. I could not feel any difference between what was in the tenth version of EMUI and how it became. Differences are in little things, but it is impossible to say that perception becomes fundamentally different.

When I said that Huawei is finalizing the interface capabilities and spying on other companies, I was not at all cunning, there are many such changes. I’ll start with what will be important for many – dividing the window into several parts.

EMUI 11 from Huawei - what's new in the shell interface and in the company's flagshipsEMUI 11 from Huawei - what's new in the shell interface and in the company's flagships

EMUI 11 from Huawei - what's new in the shell interface and in the company's flagships

You can drag the screen with your finger in the center, hold it, and a dock will appear along the edge of the screen.

On it you see application icons, you can add those that you need to the list. The downside is the simplest thing: you cannot create pairs of applications, as is implemented in OneUI on Samsung devices. For example, you need to open a browser and notes, you do this all the time. Each time you have to do it manually, which is extremely inconvenient.

The application’s pop-up window was called Smart Multi Window, and on tablets and smartphones with flexible screens, you can open two of these windows at the same time. And on the P40 Pro it can be done, you just won’t see them at the same time. Such windows can be minimized, opened at the right time (open applications are shown in the side menu). Somewhere I have already observed this, and several years ago, and since then nothing has changed, every day I use these opportunities.

The implementation of dividing the window into two parts is far from ideal, and it is impossible to say that this is the ultimate dream. But it’s good that we see the evolution of these capabilities on Huawei, for a small part of people they are important.

App permissions have become a welcome feature for me. Here, Huawei has done a great job for the benefit of users, although some may consider this a disadvantage. To begin with, any application in the background cannot access the microphone or camera. Only during work! This puts an end to recording something on the recorder and simultaneously working in other applications, but safety is above all.

Application permissions are now issued in exactly the same way as in regular Android, you can set them for the duration of the application or for all cases. Critical permissions are revoked from apps if you haven’t used them for a long time. The system also monitors the operation of applications in the background, informs that they use certain rights (pop-up windows), and in the settings you can see what access the applications had, which sections they accessed when they were automatically launched.

Another small but fun feature is safe. When sending photos to other devices, EXIF ​​information is erased from the file by default. The other person will not be able to view the time stamp, place stamp, or other information. This is a good thing, although the fears here are far-fetched for most of us. I don’t even remember when I sent some photos to strangers.

EMUI 11 from Huawei - what's new in the shell interface and in the company's flagships

But what is definitely useful is the lack of notifications, when your smartphone (tablet, as an option) is connected to the TV, you are watching a movie on the big screen. I think that many of us have come across the fact that at this moment notifications begin to appear on the screen, someone writes to the messenger, and some other warnings appear. I often forget to set the Do Not Disturb mode, and I have to do this when the first notification arrives. An annoying little thing. Now we have made it so that all notifications remain on the phone, you will not see them on the big screen. And it is right.

The “Gallery” now has the ability to hide individual albums, you can set this setting and remove certain folders from your eyes.

Other AI algorithms have also appeared that differently sort photos into folders (as usual, they say that they work better), there is an automatic creation of stories (this does not surprise anyone), and you can also hide individual files (assign them a password for access, this besides those hidden folders). It is impossible to say that this is something like that, we have seen this in many systems.

Notes have also changed, in them you can add passwords to specific entries, hide them if necessary. Is it really necessary? I do not know. You can open them with a password or biometrics.

The AlwaysOn Display mode has changed, so, for AoD, there are more settings, different screensavers. Lots of animated screensavers. Another evolutionary thing, development in the right direction.

For Windows laptops, it became possible to work in Android applications (up to three applications), which are broadcast on the computer screen. To do this, you only need to supply a package from Huawei, which is well known to everyone who synchronizes data between a phone and a PC.

The MeeTime messenger appears in more countries, in 2021 it is likely that it will appear in Russia after all data is localized for storage within the country.

EMUI 11 from Huawei - what's new in the shell interface and in the company's flagships

Of the curious things, I will also note the voice assistant Celia, it will be adapted for Russia. Inside, the engine from Yandex will be used (the same one that Alice works on), but the commands, work with devices – all this will be different. In fact, it will be a symbiosis of Huawei’s developments and Yandex’s skills to work with the Russian language. It is difficult to name the timing of the appearance of the voice assistant, it is in the plans and, apparently, will appear as an update, initially it is not in EMUI 11. I also did not have the opportunity to try it.

The bottom line – what gives EMUI 11 users

Someone had so many expectations from EMUI 11 that now disappointment is inevitable, because the actual changes have plucked with gulkin’s nose. On the other hand, we can safely say that Huawei remains completely in the market. Google, showing Android 11, did not do more, the level and quality of the changes are comparable. And this is a sign of our time, when smartphones have become so advanced that they often add secondary chips to them, most of which the average consumer never thinks about.

Unwittingly, Huawei was able to prove that the race for updates at any cost, for the version for the sake of the version, does not play any role. The same smartphones on HMS are sold without Google services, and this does not frighten buyers. Most people don’t think about which version of the system and shell they have. In this connection, I remember an old anecdote: do you want to check out or go? The real market has proven that people pay attention to the basic tools in a smartphone, but the version of the software itself fades into the background. The exception is iOS users, who are to some extent accustomed to installing new versions of the system, which degrade performance, slow down devices and force them to buy new iPhones. It’s good that nothing like this is observed even close on Android smartphones.

The EMUI 11 version could be called EMUI 10.5, but the scale of the changes is such that what has been done is enough for a whole step. Evaluate how useful these changes are for you, what you liked and what seemed superfluous.

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