China’s smartphone industry is growing, and has been creating a whole host of great smartphones. While still relatively unknown in the west, Huawei’s sub-brand, Honor, has been pumping out great budget smartphones for some time now. We loved the Honor 8 in our review back in 2016, and our hands-on review with the Honor 9 made it clear that Honor’s best is only getting better. But Huawei’s proprietary OS, EMUI (Emotion UI), can be something of a mystery to people not already familiar with it — and that’s why we’ve put together this list of our favorite Honor 8 tips and tricks to help you really understand your phone.
Enabling the app drawer
If you’re coming from another Android-based smartphone, you’re probably used to keeping all of your apps in an app drawer — unlike iOS, which pools apps on successive home pages. Huawei’s EMUI, while based on Android, takes more than a few style tips from iOS. And so, the default setting for Huawei’s smartphones sees apps plonked on the home screen, just like iOS. Thankfully for Android users, EMUI 5 allows you to switch between the home screen and app drawer model by going to Settings > Home screen style > App drawer.
Still not happy with your app drawer? Then check out our guide on the best custom launchers to get the experience you crave!
If you share a smartphone with your significant other, or run multiple Facebook or WhatsApp accounts for business purposes, then Huawei’s App twin feature might be what you’ve been waiting for. Added in the EMUI 5 update, App twin gives you an additional login for Facebook and WhatsApp, with the ability to switch between both easily. To enable App twin, go to Settings > App twin, and turn it on. A twinned app will then be displayed on the home screen, and you can use it to log into your additional account. But a quick warning for anyone running a custom launcher — since this feature uses the Huawei home screen, it currently only works with the stock EMUI 5 launcher!
Fingerprint ID isn’t just for unlocking
The fingerprint scanner has always been one of Huawei’s strongest features, with fast unlocks capable of unlocking smartphones within 0.4 seconds (according to Huawei’s site), and the fingerprint scanner on the Honor 8 is no different. But did you know that the little circle on the back of your Honor 8 can be used for more than just unlocking? Navigating to the options menu at Settings > Fingerprint ID reveals multiple uses.
When unlocked, you can press-and-hold your fingerprint scanner to answer calls, take pictures, and stop alarms — but the most useful options are below these: the Slide Gestures. When enabled, sliding a finger down the scanner can pull down the notification shade, or you can swipe left and right to navigate through your Gallery app. Best of all, the Slide Gestures do not require an assigned fingerprint to function — so if you’re unsure about biometric security for whatever reason, you can still get some use out of your fingerprint scanner.
Use Knuckle gestures for screenshots
One of the weirdest EMUI features is the ability to knock on your screen to take a screenshot. Yes, you read that right — rap twice on the touchscreen with your knuckle, and your Honor 8 takes a screenshot. You can also use a knuckle to draw around an area to take a screenshot of a selected area, and knocking firmly with a knuckle and drawing an “S” starts a scrolling-screenshot (ideal for taking pictures of long websites), while rapping with two knuckles at once will start and stop full screen recording. Finally, you can also turn on additional options to access your camera, Chrome, and other apps by drawing corresponding letters on your screen, all with your knuckles.
This is perhaps one of the best additions to stock Android that Huawei has made — rapping on the screen makes taking screenshots so much easier (and who remembers what combination of the power and volume key works on other devices?) You can access the settings for this by navigating to Settings > Smart assistance > Motion control.
Smart assistance options
After you’re done looking at the Knuckle gestures, it’s worth going back a screen and taking look at these settings for more options to make your life easier. Smart assistance > Smart key gives your fingerprint scanner even more functionality — including the ability to open selected apps by pressing, pressing-and-holding, or double-pressing your scanner. My personal set-up has the double-press opening the camera, and pressing-and-holding opening Google Now — great for taking quick snaps and getting answers quickly, since using your fingerprint scanner also unlocks the screen.
You can also find other options here, including the ability to turn on one-handed UI — great for those without the huge hands required to reach across a large screen. When turned on, swipe the navigation keys at the bottom of the screen to shrink your view onto one side of the screen or the other.
Using the camera to its fullest
The Honor 8 rocks two rear-facing cameras, and has the ability to take some truly stunning shots. But there are a few tricks that you need to be aware of to take perfect shots every time.
Firstly, to get that true depth-of-field that makes your snaps go from “good” to “wow,” you’ll need to enable your wide-angle mode. From the camera screen, select wide-angle mode by hitting the second icon from the left (the contracted lens next to the lightning bolt). From there, tap on the screen to focus your lenses on whichever element of the picture you want at the forefront of the image. After setting your focus, you can also adjust the brightness of the image by using the slider that appears to the right of the focus reticule.
If you missed the focus, you can easily change that in the finished image. Thanks to the camera software, your Honor 8 remembers the entire composition of the shot; including the detail of the background of the image. Navigate to the image in your gallery, tap on the now-familiar wide-angle icon in the top right, then tap wherever you want the focus shifted to. Voilà — the perfect image again and again!
Manage your app management
The jury is out as to whether shutting down apps benefits your energy consumption and available RAM as a whole — and regardless of your views on this, app management is baked pretty hard into the Honor 8’s OS. Unfortunately, it can be a bit overzealous at times, closing apps that it shouldn’t be closing, including ones that you’re listening to at the time. Apps like Pocket Casts and SoundCloud are often victims of this, and it’s rather annoying to have your audio randomly interrupted. If that ends up affecting you, you’re going to want to stop it from happening.
Thankfully, it’s easy to do so. Go to your main app drawer (or home screen), and find Phone Manager > Battery > Close apps after screen lock and set the Close all option to off (not blue). Then, hit the settings gear in the top-right corner, and make sure that Close excessively power-intensive apps is also set to off.
Low power modes
The worst has happened and you’ve been caught out without a charger! Oh no! But not to fear — the Honor 8 has some great power saving options built in.
First, consider turning your screen resolution down to 720p. Rendering a full HD 1080p screen at all times can be a drag on your battery, and if you’re not currently watching an HD video on Netflix or YouTube, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two. Navigate over to Settings > Battery > Low resolution power saving and check the box to get an hour or so extra out of the battery.
In the same settings area, you can also find Power saving mode and Ultra power saving. If you’re familiar with power saving modes on other phones, then you know this reduces the screen brightness, limits the background activity of apps, disables email auto-sync, and reduces sound and visual effects. Check this box if you need your Honor 8 to make it through a long day, but still need access to the majority of apps.
Ultra power saving is a bit more extreme — this mode reduces the amount of battery used considerably by shutting down all but the most essential features of the phone: The ability to receive phone calls, text messages, and a handful of other apps you can add to the home screen while Ultra power saving is enabled.
Don’t like the limitations of power saving mode? Pick yourself up one of the best portable battery chargers for extra power on the go.
Filter out blue light with Eye Comfort mode
If you’re not familiar with the science, “blue light” refers to the color of the light coming from your screen. The theory goes that the blue-tinted lights emitted by your smartphone’s display have an effect on your body’s circadian clock, making it harder for you to settle down and relax in the evening. So many phone manufacturers, Huawei included, are now offering a screen mode that helps to filter out the blue light during the evening, replacing it with a tint that lessens the effect. You can access Huawei’s Eye Comfort mode on your Honor 8 easily — just swipe down the notification shade (hopefully using your fingerprint scanner), hit the downward arrow in the top-right corner, and press the eye icon to activate.
If you never remember to turn it on, then you can set a schedule for the mode to come on automatically during the night — when you will likely need it the most. To access it, navigate to Settings > Display > Eye comfort, and then set your start and end time.
How to use split-screen mode
We’ve all been in the situation where we’re having to juggle multiple tasks at once. You need to send that email, but this cat video is really funny. It’s because of these all-too-common situations that we’re seeing more and more devices ship with the ability to show two apps at once. While most split-screen modes are designed primarily for phablets and tablets, you can nonetheless try out split-screen mode on the (relatively!) small screen of your Honor 8.
To activate EMUI 5’s split-screen mode, simply long-press the overview button on the bottom-right of the screen (the square one), and your screen will split in two, the bottom view offering you a list of previously open apps. Just tap one and get going!
Like Knuckle gestures, this one seems like a gimmick, until you come to a situation where having multiple screens open at once really helps. Watching a recipe video and want to take notes? Bust open Google Keep in your split-screen mode and take notes while the video streams uninterrupted.
Hungry for more content centered around your Honor 8? Then check out our round-up of the very best Honor 8 cases. Or are you thinking about an upgrade? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about the Honor 9.