First impressions and design
- All-metal construction feels very ‘premium’
- Black colourway is subtle but stylish
- The thin bezels and rear fingerprint scanner make way for a large FullView screen
Chinese smartphone-maker, Huawei, (pronounced "Wah-Way", in case you were wondering) has long been one of biggest phone manufacturers in Asia. And with its range of keenly-priced Android handsets that come with sharp screens, intuitive tech and killer cameras, Huawei is now a very credible competitor to the likes of Samsung and Apple.
Its latest device, the Huawei P smart, is an excellent example of how the company is mounting its challenge to the big two. With a dual-lens camera, 18:9 ratio screen and the latest version of Android Oreo on-board, you’d be forgiven for thinking this phone was a high-end handset with a price to match. Yet, you can pick up the Huawei P smart on contract for as little as £17 a month.
Want to find out more? Take a look at our best Huawei P smart deals.
As soon as you slide the glossy P smart out of its box, you’ll be struck by just how premium it feels, especially for the price.
In another echo of super-costly rival smartphones, the P smart comes with a crisp screen with an 18:9 ratio. The benefit of this is that it’s twice as long as it is wide, which, as we’ll see later, makes it perfect for multi-tasking.
The display itself really pops as soon as you switch it on. Once again, we’ll get into more detail on that in a minute.
Around the back, the P smart’s aluminium back has a subtle sheen, which is a welcome change to the ultra-mirrored smudge-magnets we’re used to using and wiping. The metal finish gives the P smart a solid feel, while the dark colour of the phone hides any scuffs and smears you might accrue.
And it doesn’t just feel sturdy. It has now survived a whole week of being thrown around in my bag without a single scratch. Which is a pretty impressive feat really, considering how clumsy I am.
The silver bands at the top and bottom of the phone add a nice bit of detailing and break up the otherwise plain black design.
The rear fingerprint scanner is easy to reach in the middle centre of the phone. And it’s a reasonable distance away from the dual-lens camera too. So you’re very unlikely to mistakenly smudge your camera lens when you’re trying to unlock your handset in a hurry.
Despite the large screen, the P smart feels pretty compact and is easy to use one-handed, even if you’ve got short fingers.
||Metal and glass
||150.1 x 72.1 x 7.5mm
Screen and sound
- Sharp, clear, colourful screen that’s perfect for watching videos
- Impressively loud sound for a single speaker
- The inclusion of a headphone jack is very welcome
As we’ve already mentioned, the Huawei P smart comes with an edge-to-edge display with an 18:9 ratio. This makes it perfect for multitasking, as you can split the screen into two squares and have two apps open at once.
That means you could watch a YouTube video while you’re checking your email. Or send an SMS to your accountant while you’re calculating your tax returns.
And not only that, but the display dimensions effectively make this a cinema-style widescreen device. So movies on streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime look even better.
The display’s 1080 x 2160 resolution delivers great colour, contrast and sharpness, whether you’re browsing the internet or watching the latest blockbuster in high-definition. And the colours are nice and natural, without a hint of over-saturation. Which makes it much easier on the eyes, especially first thing in the morning.
It’s not just pretty to look at either. The Huawei P smart sounds great too, with a single speaker that’s loud enough to win me dirty looks from the other end of the office when I turned it up full blast.
The sound quality is clear and thankfully without the tinny sound that a lot of phones in this price range come with.
As with most smartphones, the speaker is in the lower front of the phone. So you need to be careful how you hold it to make sure you don’t muffle the sound.
And if you want to avoid annoying the people around you, Huawei has you covered with the very welcome inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack. I know a few years ago, this was considered standard. But since Apple ditched the traditional headphone port back in 2016, lots of major phone manufacturers have followed suit.
So it’s lovely to be able to use our regular wired headphones without needing an adaptor, that’s easy to lose, prone to breaking and pricey to replace.
||1080 x 2160 pixels
- Bokeh effect works well on front and back cameras.
- Improved beauty mode takes super-flattering photos even when you’re having a bad day
- Comes with some Instagram-tastic modes and filters
Huawei is famous for adding advanced camera tech to its handsets. And the P smart is no exception, with a dual-lens set-up that wouldn’t look out of place on a much more expensive device.
The 13-megapixel main lens pairs with a 2-megapixel secondary shooter to provide users with an oh-so-fashionable portrait mode that blurs the background of the shot while bringing the subject of the photo into sharp focus.
And, by using some clever software, Huawei has also managed to create the same effect with the single-lens selfie snapper too. So you can take effortlessly arty portraits with both the front and rear cameras simply by selecting Bokeh Mode.
Winningly, that’s not the only mode the Huawei P smart has to offer. There’s the Good Food Mode, with richer colours to make your meal look even more delicious. And there’s a Light-Painting Mode, which captures light trails and running water to give you some very artistic shots.
There’s even a Document Scan Mode that crops out the background around your doc, giving you a perfect scan without any faffing about.
Huawei P smart camera sample Tower Bridge
Huawei P smart camera sample food mode
Huawei P smart camera sample bouquet
Huawei P smart camera sample Catherine selfie
Huawei P smart camera sample kitten
There’s also a very clever Beauty Mode on both the front and the rear cameras that’s quite honestly a bit of a life-saver. Unlike a lot of the beauty filters that make your skin look unnaturally dewy and your eyes fill half your face, Huawei has used what it’s dubbed Face Beauty algorithms. These claim to detect your unique facial characteristics and give them just enough enhancement to make you look your best.
The result is wonderfully flattering without looking fake. Ever since my first school photos and cringe-worthy family snaps, I’ve always dreaded having my picture taken. But not only can I look through my beautified selfies without wanting to gauge my own eyeballs out, I’m actually half-tempted to post a couple on Instagram.
After all, my skin is glowing, my hair is shiny and I look very bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, even though it’s first thing on a Monday morning.
Flattering selfies aside, the camera does struggle a bit in poor lighting conditions. But no more so than a lot of smartphones, some of which cost considerably more. So it’s still a fantastic bargain.
||Portrait modes on front and back
Performance and battery life
- Powerful battery that lasts all day on a single charge
- Comes with the latest EMUI 8 and Android 8.0 Oreo
- Fast performance even when using multiple apps at the same time
The Huawei P smart has the power to hold its own against much more costly handsets. With an octa-core processor and a healthy 3GB of RAM on the entry-level 32GB version, it handles everyday tasks with ease. The 64GB model comes with an even bigger 4GB of RAM, making it super-speedy.
It comes with the latest Android 8.0 software straight out of the box, with Huawei’s own intuitive EMUI 8 customisation. EMUI (or Emotion UI) layers extra features over the top of the Android experience to help users get more out of their Huawei devices.
Essentially, it runs on the same Android you know and love. But with subtle customisation and a few extra options to make the phone even better.
Its biggest and best feature is the artificial intelligence (AI), which learns from your phone habits to make the P smart even smarter and more intuitive. So, you’re likely to notice improved performance in your favourite apps, while Huawei’s own apps will respond to the way you use them.
For example, if you normally scroll quickly through your photos to get to ones you took months ago, EMUI will remember this and ensure your images surface as quickly as possible next time.
Elsewhere, EMUI serves up the Eye Comfort Mode, which filters out blue light to avoid any harsh, headache-inducing glare. Instead, it uses a yellowish tint, which is much easier on the eye. You can switch Eye Comfort on whenever you like. Or you can schedule it to come on in the evening when you’re trying to wind down for the day.
EMUI also delivers improved multitasking by giving you the option to open a new notification in split-screen, so you don’t have to exit an app to check out your notifications in another.
The P smart gets through the day easily with a powerful 3,000mAh battery. Even after a full day of using it heavily to browse the web, make phone calls and watch Netflix, it’s still got more than enough battery for the train journey home.
You’ll probably find it needs to be charged up in the evening. But then, that’s to be expected with a modern-day smartphone and the amazing demands we make of them. And there is a low-power mode to help you conserve your battery if you’re running low and can’t get to your charger.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a fast-charge mode, although it does charge fairly quickly. And the charger is a MicroUSB rather than a USB-C, so you have to be careful you plug it in the right way round. But again, this is hardly a deal-breaker. After all, there are still lots of MicroUSB devices still around, so you won’t struggle to find a replacement if you lose your charger.
||4GB (for the 64GB version) or 3GB (for the 32GB version)
|OS and version
||Android 8.0 (Oreo)
Value and verdict
- Nice, modern design with a sturdy aluminium finish
- Gorgeous screen, especially for the price
- Good sound quality
- Great dual-lens rear camera
- A bokeh mode on the selfie camera too
- Flattering Beauty Mode makes even a bad hair day look good
- Latest Oreo version of Android on-board
- EMUI gives a nice range of extra features, plus artificial intelligence
- Long battery life survives a whole day of heavy use
With impressive portrait modes on the front and back cameras, a lovely 18:9 screen and dual-SIM capabilities, the Huawei P smart delivers features normally reserved for major flagships for a fraction of the price.
The latest Android software and the intuitive EMUI deliver a flawless performance, while the big 3,000mAh battery keeps it going all day on a single charge. Chuck in dual-SIM capabilities and the option to add an extra 256GB storage with a MicroSD card and you’ve got amazing value for money.
The lack of waterproofing is perhaps a little disappointing. But at this price, there have to be some compromises. And provided you’re not someone who insists on using their phone in the bath, it shouldn’t put you off.
In short, the Huawei P smart is one of the best mid-range phones you can get at the moment. And with prices starting at just £17 a month, it’s a total bargain.
Tempted? Take a look at our best Huawei P smart deals.
Or, if you want a more premium handset, take a look at our best Huawei Mate 10 Pro deals.