Exclusive: Huawei P20 will launch with Android 8.1 Oreo and EMUI 8.1

After Huawei’s disastrous attempt at launching the Mate 10 Pro in the United States, the company is hoping to make waves with its upcoming P series flagship devices. Rumored to come in 3 variants according to WinFuture writer Roland Quandt, the Huawei P20 is expected to be unveiled on March 27th at an event in Paris, rather than at Barcelona during Mobile World Congress as previously reported. We have quite a bit of time until the official unveiling, so there is bound to be more information on the device as the weeks go by. For now, we can provide one piece of additional information about the device: the fact that it is running EMUI 8.1 on top of Android 8.1 Oreo.

Previously, we exclusively reported on a potential design aspect of the upcoming P series flagships. We noted that the devices may feature an iPhone X-style notch, and speculated that notch area would contain what Huawei calls its “Point Cloud Depth Camera.” Our report was based off of firmware files I obtained for the device code-named “EMILY” with assistance from FunkyHuawei.club, a service which lets you install pre-release Huawei firmwares, recover bricked devices, and rebrand/convert phones to different variants/regions.

Huawei P11 Apple iPhone X Face ID Huawei P20

Huawei’s Point Cloud Depth Camera

At the time, those firmware files pointed towards the Huawei P20 running Android 8.0 Oreo and EMUI 8.0.1. Now, however, we have obtained updated firmware files for the very same device which suggest the phone is running Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.1. This isn’t surprising considering the fact that last year’s Huawei P10 and P10 Plus both launched with EMUI 5.1. We do not have any information on any new features that EMUI 8.1 will bring to the table (unfortunately, flashing the firmware onto an existing HiSilicon Kirin 970 device such as the Huawei Mate 10 resulted in an unrecoverable hard brick), but we will certainly share any further details that we come across.

As a reminder, Google released Android 8.1 Oreo back in December. On the surface, there aren’t that many new features for users to get excited about. However, Android 8.1 Oreo introduced the Neural Networks API (which is getting an upgrade in Android P)—a significant development because it will allow for third-party developers to take advantage of the Kirin 970’s Neural Processing Unit (NPU). Given Huawei’s marketing of the Mate 10’s camera AI features, the introduction of Android 8.1 should allow for more innovative use cases of the device’s NPU to emerge outside of first-party (and in my opinion, gimmicky) applications.

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