Huawei unveils a giant version of its high-end P8 smartphone

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Jon Fingas
April 15, 2015 11:45 AM
Huawei unveils a giant version of its high-end P8 smartphone

Huawei's isn't content to unveil just its flagship P8 smartphone -- there's an even bigger, beastlier handset in store. The company has revealed the P8max, a 6.8-inch device that literally expands on the slim, next-to-no-bezel design of its smaller sibling. Besides that cavernous (but sadly 1080p) screen, the biggest advantage is a whopping 4,360mAh battery that promises about 2.2 days of typical battery life, or about 15 hours of non-stop web surfing or video playback. You'll also get a custom interface that offers multiple "panels" for multitasking (appropriate at these dimensions), and this is billed as one of the thinnest large smartphones at a scant 6.8mm thick.

The P8max is otherwise much like its average-sized counterpart. You're 'only' getting a 5-megapixel camera on the front instead of 8, but you'll still get a 13-megapixel stabilized rear camera with a "professional-grade" imaging processor, a two-tone flash and modes for both long-exposure shots and multi-phone photography. Otherwise, you should expect the same 2GHz octa-core Kirin 930 processor and 3GB of RAM as in the higher-spec P8. As you'd gather, Huawei will charge extra for its gargantuan phone. It'll cost you €549 ($583) for a base 32GB model when it ships in the near future, and €649 ($688) for a 64GB model. There's no specific word on a US or UK release date, but the P8max should reach 30 countries initially, before launching elsewhere at a later date.

Gallery: Huawei P8max | 8 Photos


Huawei's should really be a tablet. With a 6.8-inch display, it feels monstrous in comparison to the regular P8, which is no mean feat. I've used a smattering of 7-inch tablets over the years (the Nexus 7 is still a personal favorite) and this feels like it should be in the same product category. The screen, despite being 1080p, is sharp enough and well-suited for reading ebooks, browsing the web and streaming Netflix.

But this device is also a phone, and a dual-SIM one at that. You're supposed to make calls with it, but even at a press event with swarms of like-minded journalists, I felt embarrassed holding it up to my ear. There's a reason that Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's Consumer Business Group, demoed it on stage alongside the company's unusual TalkBand B2 wearable. It's just too large and unwieldy to be used like a regular smartphone.

Despite its size, the P8max is fairly attractive. Huawei has, in essence, taken the aluminium unibody from its new P8 flagship and stretched it out to accommodate the larger display. The speckled finish on the rear exudes quality, but everything else about the device feels unimaginative. It's like someone threw a few Samsung and Xiaomi devices into Photoshop, mixed them together and etched the Huawei logo on the back. Attractive, yes, but it's hardly going to turn heads on the subway (aside from its gargantuan size, of course.)

It's a fraction thinner than popular phablets such as Samsung's Galaxy Note 4, which is impressive given the size of the display. Huawei's latest offering is also pretty light, weighing in at just 228 grams. It makes a big difference when you're trying to use the device one-handed, although I found myself naturally switching to two paws.

Although I'm a huge advocate for stock Android, I was pleasantly surprised by Huawei's custom "Emotion UI" skin. The lack of an app drawer takes some getting used to, but the overall aesthetic is relatively flat and clean. App iconography is consistent and the menus weren't too garish. I wish Huawei would dial its software back even further and reintroduce Lollipop's Material Design elements, but I doubt that'll happen anytime soon.

Swiping across the different home screens and launching Huawei's frankly absurd range of pre-installed apps, I rarely saw a drop in performance. Of course, it's difficult to rate the P8max's internals -- a 2GHz octa-core Kirin 930 processor and 3GB of RAM -- at a controlled launch event, but I saw nothing to suggest it might struggle in everyday use. Of course, I'll reserve judgment until I can put it through a proper stress-test.

Smartphones are getting larger, but I feel like we've already reached the upper-limit. Most flagships are sticking within the 5-inch to 5.5-inch range, and outliers such as the Nexus 6 are seen as niche propositions. A smartphone with a 6.8-inch display? It's hard to imagine someone seriously wanting to buy this. The P8max could be an excellent tablet replacement, but as a smartphone, it just seems too impractical. It's a crazy idea, and for that Huawei deserves some credit, but it's hard to picture this being a success in the West.

Nick Summers contributed to this report.

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