01 Feb 2018 19:05 IST

Honor View10 - Smart phone for smart users

The Honor View 10 is packed with an AI processor, good camera, and lots of features

Here’s a smartphone that has won itself quite a few awards from many tech publications visiting CES, where it was showcased. Performance, features at the price, face unlock, great camera and bits of artificial intelligence

True in blue

If you’re thinking of picking up the View 10 make sure you get the blue version because that’s the one that looks distinctive and sophisticated. The phone’s all-metal body is a matte finish smooth blue on the back and curving glinting glass on the front, looking quite lovely. The black version is probably too understated. The View 10 has a 6-inch screen which doesn’t at all give the phone the impression of being too large. It uses the 18:9 screen ratio which is now fast becoming the only one acceptable on good phones.

If there’s one thing that jars it’s the two camera lenses on the back sticking out dangerously, looking as if they would get damaged just by putting the phone on a table. A case fixes that - and there’s one provided in the box.

The View 10 is otherwise thin, light despite being solidly built, and easy enough to hold except for the slight slipperiness that comes from rounded metal sides. Again, fixed with a case.

The screen on the View 10 is not just nicely edge to edge but nice and sharp and pleasing. Some people complain of a blue tint, but that is easily corrected with software settings.

Show your face

Ever since Apple brought in its Face ID technology on the iPhone X (which hasn’t sold very well, incidentally, according to reports) Android phone makers have been trying to include their version of unlocking the device with just one look at the user’s face. They use a straightforward camera image of the face and it isn’t as secure as Apple’s, but it’s faster and would still take quite a bit of effort to fool. OnePlus’s Face Unlock is super fast and efficient and now the View 10’s is not far behind.

Registering your face for identification takes just a few moments. You have a pin or pattern for backup, and now every time you lift your phone up to your face, it wakes as well as unlocks in one motion. You don’t need to go about clicking or swiping. Even if you’re not thinking security because maybe you’re not somewhere where anyone touches your phone, the Face Unlock is a very quick way to open up the device and have it ready for use. There’s one situation in which you bump into a problem however — low light. If the light happens to be less than optimal, you’ll have to rouse yourself to enter your pin. You also need to use the pin when restarting the phone or using it after a long.period of inactivity.

Face Unlock is probably going to spread to most phones you’ll see over the year, but for now, whoever does it best, quickest and cleanest, gets points. But with the View 10, Huawei is also having a go at using AI with facial recognition. For instance, when you lift the phone and there’s a notification, it will show it to you on recognising you before you unlock the phone. Of course, it unlocks so fast that I didn’t find I got time to read a notification! The fingerprint sensor, if you prefer using that, is also very fast and housed in front on the Home button.

A dose of AI

The Honor View 10 comes with the company’s own Kirin 970 chipset which include a Neural-Network Processing Unit (NPU) and which Huawei believes is at the heart of the phone’s performance. It enables intelligence by doing things like recognising different scenes when taking photos and making the best of them. It also translates different languages in real-time even without an Internet connection, a little like Google Lens. I aimed it at some French which it made quick work of. The processor is also supposed to make it faster to use AI applications and to understand and adapt to a user’s usage patterns, though it would take a while to see how this really works over time.

From this year on, we’re going to see phone vendors try to include AI in their products in some way but this is often going to be something behind the scenes. We’re already using AI — or it’s being used on us — through Google and other tech giants.

Not so simple

Otherwise, the View 10 has pretty good specs. It works with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage plus microSD card slot, it has space for two SIMs with both being 4G capable and has a 3750mAh battery that gives good all-day performance. It comes with Android Oreo, which is great considering some flagship phones don’t, and runs Huawei’s EMUI 8 which is a love-it-or-hate-it skin to make the device distinctive. While it works fast enough, the company packs in just too much unnecessary stuff, not all of which you can delete. Otherwise, it’s a feature rich ;phone with lots of customisable options, but it takes someone on the savvy side to be able to dig into all the settings and would be daunting to someone who craves simplicity.

Smart cameras

The dual cameras on the View 10 (16MP and 20MP) let you shoot portrait mode shots, go monochrome and use a wider aperture. The primary sensor has an f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus and support for video recording up to 4K

The camera app is full of modes and filters for the photographer in you to explore. From 3D Panorama to Light Painting, a Food mode to Pro mode, you can spend your time playing about with photos. By and large, the camera is pretty good but low light does take away the details a bit, softens images and leads to totally blurred images if your hand shakes as there’s no hardware image stabilisation. It does better with optimal light, of course. The 13MP selfie camera does a lot of softening and beautification, but this is an age where people like to look better than they really do in real life.

What has most people impressed with the View 10 is the overall package you get for a relatively low price. “Mid-premium” is the term being used to describe this device that competes with the popular OnePlus 5T, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2 and the Nokia 8. The OnePlus is more expensive but faster with plenty of improvements to its newest version, including a pretty good camera. The Mi Mix, also more expensive, is a singularly beautiful phone. And the Nokia 8 has the advantage of being clean Android with updates and security on priority.

Price: 29,990

Pros: Fast unlock, fast performance, great price, good specs, capable camera, runs on Oreo

Cons: Too many preloaded apps, face unlock fussy about light, no optical image stabilisation, camera protrudes alarmingly

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)