So here’s the thing with the P10: it is a good phone. Maybe even a great one by some standards. But I know that after having played just a few hours with it, which — to me — immediately signaled something. Remember when I talked about the OnePlus 4, how the “smartphone 1.0” era was over and that manufacturers really had to step up their game to bring something genuinely exciting to the table?
Well that, my friends, is not the case here. The P10 is definitely a 1.0 era smartphone. But whether that’s good or bad, of course, will depend on you…
But what does it mean to be a “1.0 smartphone” in 2017 anyway? It means that the P10 is and does precisely what you would expect. Nice screen? Check. Good performance? Check. Fast, reliable, overall solid camera? Check. Strong battery life? Well, I can’t guarantee that just yet, but my sixth sense is telling me that it won’t give me too much trouble within a reasonably stressful day. And, were that the case, Huawei’s stupid fast charging should still help topping up quickly. So, there you go: a €650 (€700 for the Plus model; roughly $700/750 respectively) smartphone ready to be used and enjoyed all day, every day.
And that, from a merely financial standpoint, may be a success for the Chinese firm; they’ve grown quite big in the past few years, so I’d assume that a huge operation like the one behind the P10 has months of market research and very specific choices behind it. And yet, for the life of me, I can’t help but think that this smartphone has basically zero reasons to exist. It answers negatively to the fundamental question: does it have any standout feature that makes it look like they are even trying to push the industry forward? No.
The more I play with it, the more I’m satisfied. But that’s exactly the point: everything is “okay”. There is no ambition at all in this device: it is soulless, dull, boring. Even its flashy blue and green models are what they are: a coat of paint that can’t elevate this phone any higher. I don’t even care that, as many have pointed out, “it looks like an iPhone.” Yes, it indeed does — the presence of a front home button (albeit squashed, a la OnePlus or HTC) and the bent antenna lines on the back are a dead giveaway. But most of all, it just looks like a normal smartphone.
Coming straight from LG’s press event, where the G6 had left me with decidedly stronger feelings (because I do find some of its core ideas at least interesting — never mind the execution), the P10 left me speechless, and not in a good way. As I type, Samsung is showing a quick teaser for its upcoming S8, which is seemingly tackling this exact problem.
I’m also pretending that, apart from some much-needed newness, the P10 hasn’t flaws. It does, of course. For one, I still can’t find anything even remotely interesting in its software, whose design lies somewhere between childish and plain poorly-thought-out with sprinkles of various Android releases layered throughout. It doesn’t exactly play nice with third party apps, either, as they all lean towards Google’s Material Design aesthetics. There’s also no wireless charging in sight, nor is the phone any resistant to water and dust; two major flaws that a product willing to position itself at the top should not omit. Nobody cares about 6GB of RAM, but if their phone accidentally falls into the toilet and becomes unusable as a result, they do.
The P10 is a strategic phone. Huawei, I’m sure, calculated and engineered everything neatly so to have a safe result, and that may be an achievement of its own.
But for all the pompous words that surround these devices’ releases (like “reimagine”, “rethink”, “a whole new X“ and the like) the P10 feels like but a tool for the company to pump enough steam to make it through the year, where the P11 will ask us to reimagine and rethink yet again. Investors may be happy, and perhaps consumers will follow.
Here in Barcelona, for instance, I have seen a hell of a lot of Huawei and Honor-branded devices. So perhaps that’s what they’re after. But for someone like me who is getting increasingly grumpier and unexcited about the very object that up until a few years ago represented the pinnacle of technology (or at least consumer electronics), the P10 doesn’t get a pass in the early test. I’ll give myself more time to use it and let it grow on me, but here’s a little spoiler: it won’t.