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P20 Pro: a Developer's perspective: concerns about the device, kernel and software

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By FluFlu, Member on 11th November 2018, 02:27 AM
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hey folks,

PREFACE:
I'm posting this so that others thinking about purchasing the device may get a perspective that they won't find in a YouTube product review, on the huawei subreddit, etc... I'm also posting to bring awareness to device owners/this community... Before replying, please have a look through the thread; I'm starting to provide a lot of info, that may give better insights to the problems I see...

NOTE:
I'm not bashing you for buying this device, so don't take my criticisms personally... I will try to provide as much info as I can. feel free to ask questions, share your own insights/experiences, etc...

First, i'd like to point out that the hardware is great, EMUI is better than i expected and has some nice extras (compared with stock android). There are many aspects that I do like about the phone, however there are many problems too. I take issue with a few things that I will outline in this post && in the thread;

- huawei revoking the bootloader unlock service
- huawei is extremely developer unfriendly/hostile.
- huawei's poor management of customers, poor policies && support
- huawei's "technical support" staff lack any real knowledge of their products.
- huawei as a company seems to be shady, imho && lacks any transparency.


It is very unfortunate, because i do like the device (the hardware/build seems to be very good). the leica cameras + camera software are great. i do like the native dark theme, the CPU is fast, nice display, etc.. but given the above and also after poking around the kernel code, in depth;

- huawei's kernel sources are by far the absolute worst kernel source code that I've seen in my life.
- it appears huawei has intentionally obfuscated their changesets, by how they distribute them...
- the code doesn't follow C standards, nor any consistent coding style / best practices typically found in the linux kernel.
- the published source code may not even be what's running on the device (EDIT: It's not. I've now verified this, follow the link at the bottom).
- they are also using a technology that allows live patching the running kernel remotely (so even if the sources are the same, it can be patched at runtime anyway. cant be properly audited)...
- they are a full year behind on linux LTS.


I have contacted huawei directly via email, phone and live chat (EDIT: everyday now, since I posted this thread and I will be continuing to do so). They have given me the run around continually and their staff were not able to give me any satisfactory answers to my concerns, nor did i get the impression they even gave a crap ... They have only added to my suspicions (significantly) and along with the recent bad press that huawei has had in US, UK, Canada (where i am) and Australia; i don't trust huawei, their lack of transparency and lack of cooperation; is rather unsettling... Likewise, I find their hostility towards developers and users who would like to service their own devices (via OEM unlock) to be a brutal policy. (especially since their justifications are mostly FUD/untrue.).

- Audio latency is also horrible on the P20 Pro. it experiences anywhere from 50-500ms of latency with pro audio type apps. (noise app by roli in playstore shows just how bad it is, so does Beatonal app, many others too.) the device uses x6 the audio buffering compared the OG pixel. (the OG pixel has no problems with low latency at all, with far lower specs).

so to recap; it's pretty sad and unfortunate,

- i can't run my apps. (love my music creation apps)
- i have no control or ownership over my P20 Pro. apparently only huawei and the Chinese gov't do.
- i don't trust or have faith in the manufacturer.
- the kernel source code is disgusting and incomplete.
- I find some of the technology used troubling at best.


Here's some links in the thread, where some of the above is discussed in more detail;

some kernel source related issues outlined in more detail by me:

https://forum.xda-developers.com/sho...2&postcount=37
(note: I'm discussing evira kernel, but nearly all of the issues apply to the distributed kernel sources that evira is based on)

if you are interested in helping me verify if the kernel sources actually reflect what's running on your device, follow this post;
https://forum.xda-developers.com/sho...0&postcount=32 (this would be very helpful, as it will be ammo that I bring to huawei).

The distributed kernel sources are absolutely NOT the kernel sources used to compile the kernel that's running on your device:
https://forum.xda-developers.com/sho...8&postcount=42
(this is an update to the above help request; I've now verified that at least L29/LO4 running kernels differ from the provided sources)

livepatch/OASES/Karma technology used by huawei, zte and others:
https://forum.xda-developers.com/sho...5&postcount=86
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11th November 2018, 05:03 AM |#2  
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So wait, you've only had it for a few days and you're trying to make a warning against buying the phone?
11th November 2018, 05:42 AM |#3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giraff3

So wait, you've only had it for a few days and you're trying to make a warning against buying the phone?

not exactly. I'm outlining my experience and why i am returning the phone, so that others who may have similar requirements and/or concerns avoid making the same mistake, by purchasing this phone only to be unhappy with it.....

the length of time that I've owned the phone isn't a factor because it doesn't fix any of the issues that i point out... *why would you even think that after reading what i wrote???* ... if it was just a matter of getting used to the device, that would be another story.

to be clear; i don't have any issue with the UX, performance, build quality or any of that jazz, really. the cameras are great, phone is a beast. However, huawei's policies, their lack of transparency, the device being locked down, their source code being sketchy, other security concerns and yeah; the audio latency... big problems (for me, possibly others)...

holding on to or having used the phone for a longer period of time doesn't fix any of these issues... if i wasn't into software development, didn't care about unlocked bootloader, etc - i might very well be happy with the device... It's a great phone, if none of these details/issues effect or matter to you...
11th November 2018, 08:16 AM |#4  
the fact you can't run a launcher like Nova does it for me, terrible mistake
11th November 2018, 12:49 PM |#5  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ant78

the fact you can't run a launcher like Nova does it for me, terrible mistake

I use Nova just fine.
11th November 2018, 01:42 PM |#6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ant78

the fact you can't run a launcher like Nova does it for me, terrible mistake

What do you mean? I've had the P20 Pro since end of August, installed Nova Launcher the moment I took it out of the box and been running fine since. Mind you the lack of bootloader unlock or having to pay for it doesn't fly well with me but haven't found myself needing to root this device like all my previous devices for customization. The P20 Pro has let me do everything I wanted.
11th November 2018, 02:49 PM |#7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StatikBlue

What do you mean? I've had the P20 Pro since end of August, installed Nova Launcher the moment I took it out of the box and been running fine since. Mind you the lack of bootloader unlock or having to pay for it doesn't fly well with me but haven't found myself needing to root this device like all my previous devices for customization. The P20 Pro has let me do everything I wanted.

No idea what they are talking about 3rd part launchers work just fine. It's just less obvious how to change them vs. stock android... but I had Apex launcher installed 15 minutes after turning on the device, wasn't hard to figure out.

the lack of unlocked bootloader is problematic, beyond just having root ~ once huawei stops pushing updates, if you still own the phone; no way to service or update it.... and for me, I actually like to audit my devices and know what's going on inside of them (and that's why I spend days going through their kernel source code too) ~ pretty hard to audit anything on the device though, without unlocked bootloader + root.

I do agree though, there is lots of stuff baked into the rom, so customization OOTB is pretty good...and i do like that...

On the other hand though, I like having AdAway, AFWall and other root apps.... and at least one of the issues that I mentioned; the audio latency problem ~ I could probably fix if I was rooted... I'm actually pretty shocked that huawei software engineers think that high latency is somehow acceptable....

the latency makes playing instruments on my phone impossible ~ latency has to be low, the sound must play as I touch the notes ~ but instead, there is an extremely long delay / completely unusable. The latency is worse than most early / very old android devices...
11th November 2018, 04:27 PM |#8  
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So you're saying the phone is great then? Bootloader is easily unlocked and if you want to make unsubstantiated claims that Huawei is spying on us you might want to back up with some proof. There would probably more development on this phone if the US didn't stop Huawei from selling it there over unproven spying claims.
11th November 2018, 05:24 PM |#9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giraff3

So you're saying the phone is great then? Bootloader is easily unlocked and if you want to make unsubstantiated claims that Huawei is spying on us you might want to back up with some proof. There would probably more development on this phone if the US didn't stop Huawei from selling it there over unproven spying claims.

That's just the US being the US man. Trump and his clown posse are more of a threat to the citizens then Huawei would ever be.
11th November 2018, 05:31 PM |#10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giraff3

So you're saying the phone is great then? Bootloader is easily unlocked and if you want to make unsubstantiated claims that Huawei is spying on us you might want to back up with some proof. There would probably more development on this phone if the US didn't stop Huawei from selling it there over unproven spying claims.

I'm saying it's a mixed bag, not that it's a great phone... some aspects of the phone are great, some are absolutely terrible. ~ even if I ignore the security issues, poor quality of their source code ~ I'm still left with a locked device, slow updates, a company with crappy policies, crappy support, no accountability && a phone that can't even run my applications; the audio latency is worse than most ancient android devices. seriously... in 2018, several hundred ms of latency is unacceptable (samsung devices, google devices, etc - do not have this problem... and apple products NEVER had this problem, even 10years ago).

Bootloader is easily unlocked by paying shady third parties, who I don't know and who I don't want to give my personal nor unique identifiers to... give me a frickin' break and *stop acting like this is some ideal situation, it's not*.... Huawei has screwed end users by discontinuing the service, their justifications is BS... If they want to void a warranty of unlock bootloaders; that's fine, then do that - but don't lock users out of servicing their own devices that they've purchased with their own money and that THEY OWN.... again, it's BS... and guess what; Google doesn't even void your warranty over oem unlocking, it's a supported feature ~ if you brick your device (through your own stupidity), they may invalidate it ~ but unlocking the device, does not void your warranty (i know from direct experience).... I don't buy into Huawei's excuses at all...

The fact that huawei are live patching the kernel, means that they can essentially backdoor your device at any time. you have ZERO idea what the kernel is doing, no way to proper audit the code.... The fact that they've obfuscated their own changes and their source code for the device has all sorts of problems, says a lot ~ They've went well out of there way to provide their source code like this... There is absolutely no way that during development, they were using these sources.... they've intentionally done this.... why do that, if you have nothing to hide? ... it's highly suspicious and dubious, at best... That is proof enough to cast serious doubt on Huawei.

Huawei is using the same kernel live patching technology in both mobile and IOT ~ no wonder the US wants to purge all of huawei's hardware from their infrastructure and why the gov't doesn't want it's employees using Huawei's devices and also why they are putting pressure on Canada to do the same (for our 5G networks)...

huawei has plenty of controversies; intellectual property theft, espionage, etc. it's not like the US is the only country that that is distrusting of huawei's activities.... e.g: Canada excluded huawei from being involved with the gov't secure network infrastructure too (years ago, long before the USA). We've also denied several Huawei employee's permanent residency, over concerns of espionage, gov't subversion, etc...

You can't really blame the USA for the lack of development for this device... there would be way more development if Huawei didn't screw over users by taking away the unlocking service ~ the US blocking their gov't employees from using Huawei devices && the US carriers dropping their devices, has very little to do with the lack of development... I'm not a fan of the current US prez, nor politics ~ but you can't really blame them, when Huawei controls whether or not you can unlock your bootloader ~ it's Huawei's policy, not the US gov't's policy...

and it's huawei's own fault that they're getting bad press.
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11th November 2018, 08:18 PM |#11  
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