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New star in Huawei heaven

The Nova 8 represents a powerful reset of the Huawei handset range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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What is it?

The Huawei Nova 8 is the coolest new handset on the market that is not classified as a high-end flagship smartphone.

It recalls a time, 8 years ago, when Huawei released the P6 as the thinnest smartphone in the world from a major manufacturer. Just as that 6.2mm and 120g featherweight was a revelation in terms of comfort in the hand, the Nova 8 takes a step back from increasingly thick and heavy flagship phones, and feels like it was made for the hand – rather than demanding the evolution of the hand. Bearing in mind that the P6 had a mere 4.7-inch screen at the time, and the Nova 8 comes in at 6.57-inches, one would expect something somewhat chunkier, but at 7.64mm thick and weighing 169g, it is a marvel of 2021 engineering.

That it isn’t bulkier is largely thanks to the Kirin 820E chipset being a 7nm processor, meaning it uses a manufacturing system that allows for thinner, yet denser chips, which in turn results in greater power and energy efficiency. It also uses the 6-core Mali-G57 graphics processor, which has brought high-end gaming performance to mobile devices over the past 18 months.

Aside from the engineering, the standout feature of the Nova 8 is the quad-camera array. Very similar to that of the Oppo Reno 5, but at three-quarters the price, it features a 64MP high-res main camera, 8MP ultra-wide angle lens, 2MP bokeh lens, and 2MP macro lens, along with an LED flash. It is all contained in an elegant housing Huawei describes as a Nebular Camera System Design, resembling the elliptical orbit of planets around a sun.

That is both intentional and entirely appropriate, given that this is the new star in Huawei heaven.

There may not be an elephant among the constellations, but there is always one in the room when considering a new Huawei handset: the absence of Google Mobile Services. Huawei has moved on with its own Huawei Mobile Services, with an extensive App Gallery, and the Petal search system that includes apps among search categories like sports, business and entertainment.

For apps that one would normally download from the Google Play Store, Petal takes users to the direct download sites, where it verifies the original .apk installation files. And yes, WhatsApp, Facebook and Microsoft apps can be installed safely and easily via this route.

It has borrowed the high-end charging functionality of the Mate 40 handset, with 66W SuperCharge, which gets it charging fully in 35 minutes.

How much is it?

The Nova 8 has a pre-order price of R10,999, but you can get R1100 off if you pre-order it up to 30 August, paying a deposit of R99. The deal includes a set of Huawei FreeBuds 4i and Huawei Watch GT Bundle, valued at R5,698. Buy it at https://consumer.huawei.com/za/phones/nova8

A low-cost handset released at the same time, the Nova Y60, can be pre-ordered for R3,099 until 31 August, including Bluetooth headphones and Bluetooth speaker bundle valued at R1,298. Buy it at https://consumer.huawei.com/za/phones/nova-y60/buy/

Both these smartphones come with a 2-year warranty, one-time free screen guard service, free unboxing service at store, and 50-days screen insurance.

Why should you care?

Despite being priced as a mid-range phone, it offers the premium quality usually associated with flagships, in terms of build materials, display resolution, charging technology, and camera array.

“We wanted to make it more accessible,” says Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of the Huawei Consumer Business Group in South Africa. “If you compare it to other devices in the mid-tier at that price, typically you’re comparing it to the Huawei P40 Lite and other devices in that segment. But a more fair comparison will be to put it head-to-head against a P40 and the Mate 40, and then try to see what it lacks. It may have three or four lower specifications, but the price difference is considerable – less than half of those flagships.”

The way the company looked at the Nova 8, says Mohamed, “was to say, can we bring a really compelling offering as close to a flagship’s technical specification sheet, but at a price point that’s not going to break the bank, and at the same time makes sense from a business perspective?”

Equally significantly, the Nova 8 represents the new face of Huawei, in that it will be the flagship of a range of Nova handsets to be released during the rest of 2021 and in 2022, at a range of lower price points.

Biggest negatives

  • It does not support Google Mobile Services, but offers work-arounds.
  • It’s not a 5G device. Huawei believes the demand for 5G will only arrive once it is more widely rolled out on mobile operators’ networks.

Biggest positives

  • Tremendous value for money, given the high-quality feel and experience.
  • Curved edges on the back and front gives it an ultra-comfortable grip
  • A simplified user interface makes for fast and efficient navigation.
  • Huawei Assistant, comprising a “swipe-left” notifications screen that includes news feed, widgets and most commonly used applications, is reminiscent of the iPhone equivalent screen, but more customisable.
  • It includes innovations like multi-screen collaboration, text extraction from photos, an always-on display that hosts animated GIFs.

* Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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