Hands On with the Huawei P8 Lite
Huawei hopes the P8 Lite, an inexpensive, unlocked Android smartphone, will appeal to U.S. consumers. The phone has a sleek design and a solid spec list. Here are Phone Scoop's first thoughts about the P8 Lite.
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Huawei is anxious to tap into the US market. It thinks the P8 Lite, a low-cost handset, will help it do that. Huawei doesn't have a carrier partner willing to distribute the phone, so it is selling the device to consumers directly through its own web site and several others.
Huawei is pitching the P8 Lite as an affordable premium phone. It almost pulls it off.
If you couldn't guess by the name, the P8 Lite is a slightly toned-down version of the P8, Huawei's new flagship phone. Where the P8 is metal and glass, the P8 Lite is plastic and glass. That didn't stop Huawei from giving the P8 Lite a metal look thanks to a chrome-colored band that wraps around the outer edge. The effect of the band is not unlike the iPhone 4/4S: it is sandwiched by two plastic panels that form the front and rear surfaces. The back surface has a brushed metal texture, but it's plastic, too. The white and silver combination works for the most part.
The phone is a bit blocky. It has tight corners and mostly flat side edges that make right angles with the front and back surfaces. It won't quite stand on its edges, but it almost does.
The P8 Lite has a 5-inch screen, which means it is a sizable device. Huawei did what it could to keep the overall footprint small, but there's only so much fat to trim when you have a large display. The plastic materials can't fool your hand. The phone feels solid when gripped, but it plainly isn't metal despite Huawei's attempts to make you think otherwise. I'd call the construction solid. It is pieced together well and doesn't feel cheap at all.
The front of the phone is fairly typical. The black screen fills the bulk of the face. Huawei claims the bezels along the side of the display are 2.75mm thick. The earpiece is positioned directly above the screen and is flanked by a sensor and the user-facing camera. These latter two stand out plainly thanks to their black coloring.
There are no controls on the left edge, which is smooth. The volume toggle and the screen lock button are on the right edge, as are the SIM card tray slots. The volume toggle has a decent profile and good travel and feedback. The screen lock button is probably the weakest aspect of the P8 Lite. It is a small little nub that's loose, wiggles, and has mushy travel and feedback. It's just not a great button. The P8 has two SIM card trays, which is unusual for a devcice headed to the US. The main tray holds a micro SIM card. The second one can hold either a nano SIM card or a microSD card. Nifty trick.
If you compare the bottom edge to that of the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, you'll see where Huawei found its inspiration. The USB port is centered along the bottom and joined by cut-outs for the speakers. The headphone jack is on top.
I like the texture of the back surface. There's just enough of the brushed metal appearance to the plastic that you can feel it. The back is one solid piece with the exception of a panel that holds the camera, flash, and presumably hides the wireless radios. In contrast with the matte finish of the brushed metal/plastic, this panel is glossy and reflective.
In all, the hardware is quite nice. There's nothinng objectionable about it at all. It's not the classiest handset ever made, but it is still classy enough.
The screen measures 5 inches across the diagonal. It's a good display, but not a great one. It is hindered a bit by the 720p HD resolution, which I find to be just barely enough pixels when stretched out over this area. The LCD is bright, though, and colors look really good. I simply wish it were a bit sharper.
Huawei is shipping the P8 Lite with Android 4.4.4 KitKat, which is a bit of a letdown. We're more than six months from the general release of Android 5.0 and new phones should have the latest code from Google. Speaking of Lollipop, Huawei was non-commital about potential updates to Android 5.
Huawei's Emotion UI 3.0 is the skin on top of Android. It is a colorful UI that takes some getting used to thanks to the lack of an app drawer. All the apps are installed in folders on the home screens. The notification tray looks entirely different from most other Android phones, but it functions well. Same goes for the settings, which are a bit dreary looking thanks to the gray coloration.
Importantly, the Snapdragon 615 and its eight cores get the job done. I didn't see any weirdness or bugginess when going through the phone. Everything about the UI was smooth and worked without issue.
The Huawei P8 Lite is well-priced at $250, especially considering it is unlocked and contract-free. Customers who order in the first three days will be able to scoop it up for just $199. It goes on sale today, June 3.
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P8 Lite? Why no regular P8?