It seems almost cruel that even as we ask designers and engineers to make smartphones that do more, we also demand that they simultaneously make the most essential piece of tech in our daily lives simpler and easier to navigate. It is not enough that I have the power of a mini-workforce from the 1950s in the palm of my hand while I sip my morning coffee — I also have to be charmed by ever sleeker and more aesthetically appealing designs and features. It is this tension that Huawei’s EMUI 9.0 feels built to resolve, a smartphone created to enhance the user’s experience with the most fluid of movements while offering a bundle of new timesaving and performance-enhancing features.
It is difficult to imagine going back to the days when calling someone from your contacts required a minute of scrolling and external button pushing. Yet us modern smartphone users searching for the thrill of new AI abilities and updates to our favorite apps tend to forget how important an organized and efficient interface is. Hearing that the EMUI 9.0 has streamlined its settings by 10 percent, re-distributed the most used on-screen buttons to maximize ergonomic comfort, and replaced navigational buttons with a system that relies on swiping gestures doesn’t sound all that revolutionary until you consider what these sorts of updates are enabling: An experience that utilizes minimalism to create a more natural bond between user and device, cutting the confusion and stumbling out of the equation.
Touch-screen technology and multi-dimensional maneuvering within a sleek interface have been common themes in sci-fi flicks for decades. Whether it was Tom Cruise’s glowing finger gloves in Minority Report or the Enterprise’s glass tablets from Star Trek, we have long been fascinated with devices so easy to interact with that the barriers to the completion of our task melt away with a fluid storm of movements. The reason we find these devices so exhilarating is simple: They turn otherwise meaningless gestures into the physical expressions of creative thinking and problem solving. They turn the process of tinkering into a product unto itself, a job trait that used to be the sole possession of painters but is now available to accountants, nurses, and coders alike.
That appears to be what the designers of the EMUI 9.0 had in mind when they cleaned up and condensed the more arduous navigations of the EMUI 8.0, such as flicking through galleries and making appointments on your calendar. Huawei, however, took their device to the next level when they built a smartphone operating system that’s as smooth as butter. We are finally getting an experience in which our tools know our approaches to problem solving as well as we do, and the possibilities of where this kind of device will take us are as easy to imagine as it is to imagine what we would do with Ripley’s mech-suit from Alien.
But the most important Rubicon that the current generation of smartphones is crossing is unquestionably the river that separates users from having Artificial Intelligence that holds up to its name.
New mobile office features such as EMUI 9.0’s one-click wireless easy projection, printer connection, and highlighting of text, as well as high-quality sound recording abilities can only do so much to replace a personal assistant. Each of these features are yet another reminder that what used to take a team of reporters, technicians, and a van loaded with equipment can now be accomplished with the help of a single handheld device.
Just picture what that experience could look like: A meeting where you can show off the idea that hit you on your way to the office, and then kick around and edit that idea in front of your colleagues and international clients, who each get to walk away with printouts of your briefing in the language of their choosing. And none of this requires any other device than the one you put in your pocket that morning. That’s the kind of future that even the most legendary sci-fi filmmakers failed to predict, and it is already here.