Huawei Nova Classes Up Midrange Phones

BERLIN — As Huawei closes in on Apple to become the second largest smartphone maker in the world, it's trying to broaden it lineup with two new phones, the Nova and Nova Plus. The two phones should bring class and style to the mid-range market without blowing up the their price tags.

Huawei's pair of Novas come in 5- or 5.5-inch versions and feature full HD displays, Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipsets, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, USB-C and a clever dual-card tray with one slot that can read a second nano SIM or a microSD card. The back of the standard Nova features a glass visor that's reminiscent of the Nexus 6P, while the Nova Plus rocks an all-metal back and a small camera bump.

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Another difference between the Nova and the Nova Plus: while the rears cameras on both models feature optical image stabilization, the one on the Plus features a higher-res 16-megapixel rear camera versus the Nova's 12-MP shooter. The Nova Plus also sports a slightly larger 3,340 mAh battery that surpasses the 3,020 mAh power pack in the standard Nova. Despite the different batteries, Huawei says both phones should have prodigious battery life that will easily power through the better part of two days on a charge.

But if you look past the specs, you can see that Huawei aims to deliver a very premium experience on the Nova through the use of precision diamond cut machining, improved security in the form of a more accurate fingerprint sensor and some neat software tricks.

The Nova's rear fingerprint reader is a level 4 sensor that can scan in 3D and read the individual ridges and groves on your fingers. This prevents the Nova from being fooled by something like a photocopy of your fingers, which could trick the fingerprint readers on a lot of other phones.

Huawei has also improved its knuckled-based gesture recognition in its Android 6.0 based EMUI. Now, knocking twice on the display will let you record of video of what you see on the screen, and if you want to crop something out of a photo, you can simply trace a circle around it with your fingers — Huawei's smart crop feature will do the rest.

Finally, the Nova's 8-MP front cam offers some innovative features for selfie fanatics. Huawei's Beauty Mode 2.0 will let you adjust your make-up on the fly with eight customizable presets that range from cute to pink to party modes. There's even a feature that recognizes your face when you snap a group selfie, automatically applying Huawei's beauty mode to smooth out wrinkles and dark spots on only your face. Everyone else will stay au naturale, ensuring you're the bell of the ball in every single shot.

While official US pricing and availability haven't revealed, with European pricing set at €399 and €429, Huawei's Novas look like they could really be a pair of rising mid-range stars.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).