Tuesday 12 June 2018

Huawei Flagship: P20 Pro - The Super Crafted AI Laced Behemoth

"Probably the best Android Smartphone out there!" - me

I received this product as part of a review program in return for an unbiased review

I am talking about the Huawei P20 Pro Smartphone. This is Huawei flagship phone, which is mearnt to compete with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S9 and Apple's iPhone X (or 10 if you like). I have beena able to play around with this beauty and boy oh boy, I fell in love!

The P20 Pro is a smartphone which is supposed to be in the category of so called phablets, if we are to go by the screen size. I say "supposed" because the moment you get hold of this phone, you will realise how its profile is deceptive. The screen is "Yuuuuge" at 6.1 inches, whilst the phone weighs only 180 grams and is 7.8mm thin. Moreso, the phone fits snugly into ones' hand allowing one hand operation without any problem, thanks to the reduced width of only 73.9mm. The key feature here is the edge-to-edge screen, which monopolises the phone's real estate. You will probably instantly notice the "top notch" (pun intended), reminding you of the iPhone X's notch, except that Huawei's was done much better, leaving useful screen space (for status icons) either side of the notch. Also the notch can be turned off to leave just a rectangular screen. You may want to berate Huwei for "copying" here, go ahead, I totally understand (but who doesn't)

I will not bore you with specs, which can be found in  full, on Huawe's website via THIS LINK.  This phone is all about its camera, but I will appetise you with other features before I give you my 2  cents about the camera, and my thoughts on what the camera AI direction can produce, in next-gen smartphones.

The home button is very much present on the front bottom, for those like me, who like the button style for tactile control. Th button also holds the fingerprint scanner, which is where I prefer it to be, than at the back of the phone. Other phones may have ditched the home button so as to dedicate the front space, to the screen, but Huawei did it in a very effective way, that doesn't take much screen space, by using a very slim button. Other interface features of note are the screen recording, which allows one to record all screen interactions. This is especially important if one is creating usage manual or tutorials for apps etc. There is also the split screen feature, which allows two applications to be run on separate screens simultaneously. This seems to be a standard feature for most Huawei phones now.

The battery on the Pro 20 is a decent size 4000mAH, which for me has been able to keep the juices flowing for  almost 2 days after every full charge. This was despite my intensive use of the camera as I was testing various camera modes and scenarios during the same testing period. If you couple this with the quick-charge feature, you realise that you soon forget about the yesteryear wores of cellphone charging, especially if one is making use of portable power banks.

IR Remote
This phone comes with an InfraRed (IR) LED. This means that you can be able to control about any IR device like TVs, Radios, Set-top boxes etc. I have used an app called SURE Universal Remote on Android for over 5 years and it works perfect on this phone.

Camera and AI
Now, this phone is all about the camera, so my camera highlights deserve to be mentioned here. The phone has got 3 cameras which work together to provide appropriate lighting, depth, focus and colour performance. More detail on how this is achieved, can be found on Huawei’s website, but the more critical ingredient in this recipe is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) processing. Indeed the power of AI on this phone is evident through the camera. The camera is able to detect objects and adjust the camera mode and settings according. One good example, which I noticed immediately, was how colours were being enhanced whenever I was capturing photos of food at restaurants (one of my favourite hobbies) In my experience the AI has been able to provide the touted “Point and shoot perfection” in Huawei’s speak.

Starting with the Huawei PSmart, the front facing cameras have been using beautifying algorithms that make selfies very flattering. I have used beauty selfie features on Samsung phones, but I have to say Huawei's algorithms are probably the best I have seen so far. On Samsung, the processing seemed excessive that all the blemishes where being removed, leaving a face that looked like it had had a heavy application of make-up. On one instance, my friend had to ask me if I was now wearing make-up. With the P20 Pro, the skin tone is smoothed out without excessively taking out detail, which leaves selfies more beautiful while preserving natural features.

Possibilities with AI driven camera
Imagine capturing a photo of your friend John, and the phone aromatically save the photo with the filename "John" and tagging location and weather details at the same time. AI with the camera can be useful in various ways. Software can b developed that regularly capture the self of the user, records various health metrics and be "aware" of surroundings via AI object recognition algorithms. this can be exploited to monitor health and wellbeing of elderly or disabled people. Augmented reality is another easier way of exploiting AI camera features, but that has already been demonstrated in many smartphone applications available today. An extension to that, will be turning the phone into a real companion. Using smart speaker AI, like Alexa, together with Camera AI like on this phone, A smartphone can be turned into a companion for a blind person, who strap the phone on their neck, speak to it, and the camera continually sensing objects around and providing audio warnings and instructions via smart speaker, to guide the blind person around a place like a public square.
There are probably other use cases which we may not comprehend now, but which I am sure are already in the pipeline, that's how technology has always been.

It would be blasphemous to claim that Huawei has come up with the holy grail of a phone. The P20 Pro has its shortcomings, but like all things, those may actually be someone’s meat. Mine came  with 128GB internal storage and that cannot be extended because there is no microSD card slot. For me, that capacity, plus my cloud storage facilities, means the storage is much more than what I need. Secondly, the 4K video capturing is not stabilised, so if one want to do some serious 4K videos, they may want serious gear like gimbals for a smoother output. However, for most personal video requirements, the full HD 1080p is adequate. Lastly, there is no headphone jack, so if like me you were still using those wired earphones, you are out of luck. Fortunately for me i had Bluetooth earphones as well, which i had not been using, but turned out they are actually better quality than the one i had been using. Only thing i hate it having to charge the earphones everyday

Not perfect, but still probably the best Android smartphone on the market currently...

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