Huawei Y7a / P smart 2021 review

GSMArena team, 6 November 2020.

Android and EMUI both at 10, no Google Play Services

The P smart 2021 is another in a long line of Huawei phones that don't get Google's blessing and ship with Android, but not with Google Play Services, and apps dependent on them won't run. The Android version is 10 on this one, as is the in-house EMUI layer - the P smart doesn't get the EMUI 11 we saw on the Mate 40 Pro, though the differences between 10 and 11 are not all that pronounced.

Huawei P smart 2021 review

While available, the face unlock on the P smart is only camera-based, so it's not all that secure but will do fine for convenience purposes. Fingerprint recognition is the more secure option, and it's based on the side-mounted capacitive reader we already mentioned on the design page. It's the usual multi-tap process for print enrollment and then smooth sailing for operation with either hand - be it right thumb unlocks or left index finger use.

Like all EMUI-driven devices, you can set up a magazine lockscreen style that changes the picture every time you wake up the screen. Sliding from the bottom will bring out quick shortcuts to some commonly used utilities.

Biometric security - Huawei P smart 2021 review Fingerprint authentication - Huawei P smart 2021 review Face unlock - Huawei P smart 2021 review Magazine lockscreen - Huawei P smart 2021 review Tools - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Biometric security • Fingerprint authentication • Face unlock • Magazine lockscreen • Tools

On the homescreen, you will find all of the installed and system apps, but there's a toggle in the settings menu that lets you choose between the standard layout or a homescreen with an app drawer. It's a personal preference, and it's good to be able to choose.

There is a replacement for the Google Feed in this version of EMUI, and it's called Today. On this leftmost page, you will find a Search field, shortcuts to favorite contacts, photos, etc., and a News Feed filled with local news through a service provided by Huawei.

Homescreen - Huawei P smart 2021 review Homescreen style - Huawei P smart 2021 review Folder view - Huawei P smart 2021 review Today - Huawei P smart 2021 review Today - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Homescreen • Homescreen style • Folder view • Today

Much like other Huaweis, with big selfie cam cutouts or small ones, the P smart 2021 gets an option in the software to mask it with a black status bar, though that could make for a way thicker status bar that you'd like. A good alternative is to just switch to Dark mode.

Embrace the notch - Huawei P smart 2021 review Hide the notch - Huawei P smart 2021 review Dark mode - Huawei P smart 2021 review Dark mode - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Embrace the notch • Hide the notch • Dark mode

The notification shade design is the same as on recent Huawei flagships we've seen - with circular toggles and blue accent color for the On state, very much like on Samsung's One UI and sort of like Google's own Android 10 design. There's a brightness slider (but no auto toggle in immediate reach) and a row of toggles upon the first pull, and you pull down again for more toggles.

Multitasking is handled in a standard way (unlike, say, in Xiaomi's MIUI) - with a horizontally scrollable rolodex. The task switcher allows for split-screen or pop-up mode. Most of the default apps support the pop-up view, but only a few can get into split-screen, and we found that odd. Not to mention, going into split-screen is a bit clunky - you need to open the app in pop-up view, make sure there's the other app you want in split-screen active underneath it (and not the homescreen), and then drag the pop-up view app to the edge of the display.

Notification shade - Huawei P smart 2021 review More toggles - Huawei P smart 2021 review Task switcher - Huawei P smart 2021 review Pop-up view - Huawei P smart 2021 review Split-screen view - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Notification shade • More toggles • Task switcher • Pop-up view • Split-screen view

The P smart lets you choose between the two main types of navigation available. We'd go for the now-standard swipe-based type where you swipe up for Home, swipe up and stop midway for Task switcher, or swipe from the left or right edge of the screen for Back. You can opt for the classic virtual buttons, of course.

Some bits of custom software in EMUI include the Optimizer app, where you can access shortcuts to storage cleanup, battery settings, blocked numbers, Virus scan powered by Avast, and mobile data usage.

Huawei's Music app offers a way to listen to stored MP3s, and it also includes Huawei's own music streaming service, which provides both free and paid subscription tiers.

Same goes for the proprietary Video app - it plays your local videos, but it also includes Huawei's video streaming service similar to YouTube. Huawei has partnered with the BBC to deliver more interesting content.

Huawei's Health app is pre-installed, and it offers step counting, among many other things. There's a file manager app and a note-taking app.

The gallery is an entirely custom job, too, but it has the usual chronological and albums views plus an AI-powered highlights selection.

Optimizer - Huawei P smart 2021 review Music Player - Huawei P smart 2021 review Video - Huawei P smart 2021 review Files - Huawei P smart 2021 review Health - Huawei P smart 2021 review Gallery - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Optimizer • Music Player • Video • Files • Health • Gallery

The lack of Google services and consequently support for some key apps from Google itself and third parties has been a pain point for Huawei and its phones for a couple of generations.

To get yourself started, you can also use the Phone Clone app, which will copy everything from your old phone, including all installed apps except for Google's (and some banking apps). The thing is, going that route means you won't get future updates to these apps automatically.

There are indeed multiple app store options that aren't Google's Play Store. Huawei's App Gallery is the primary one, and it has a lot of the apps you'd want, though obviously not all of them - most messengers and social networks are here, some banking apps, some games.

Third party stores can accommodate your app needs too. APKPure works great for free apps and games while its Store page with paid apps just links to the Play Store, which won't work on the P smart. Then there's the Amazon App Store - it has plenty of popular apps - both free and paid. There's the caveat that no matter how you source some apps, they simply won't function without Google Play Services.

Phone Clone - Huawei P smart 2021 review AppGallery - Huawei P smart 2021 review APKPure - Huawei P smart 2021 review Amazon App Store - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Phone Clone • AppGallery • APKPure • Amazon App Store

Alongside the Mate 40 series, Huawei announced the launch of its Google Maps replacement - Petal Maps. The app is available on the P smart 2021 here. It finds businesses and restaurants and whatnot, but its database is not entirely complete. There are outdated business names, and some are missing entirely - at least in our immediate vicinity.

Another issue is that traffic data is incorrect, showing all green everywhere when it's clearly not the case. It's one thing to crowdsource your numbers from everyone with Google Maps on their phones and another to base your info solely on Petal Maps. It's still a very clean interface and a pretty good opening effort from Huawei. We'll give them that.

Petal Maps - Huawei P smart 2021 review Petal Maps - Huawei P smart 2021 review Petal Maps - Huawei P smart 2021 review Petal Maps - Huawei P smart 2021 review Petal Maps - Huawei P smart 2021 review
Petal Maps

Synthetic benchmarks

The Kirin 710A that powers the P smart 2021 has a very unusual story. An in-house design by Huawei's HiSilicon subsidiary, the regular Kirin 710 debuted in the summer of 2018 on the nova 3i (or P smart +). It later saw a lot of action in numerous other Huawei and Honor branded handsets - it's a somewhat dated SoC already. Until very recently, it was manufactured by Taiwan-based TSMC on a 12nm fab line.

The ongoing trade conflict between the US and China has had widespread implications for multiple Huawei businesses, so the company has sought to diversify supply lines. As part of that process, it announced earlier this year that the Kirin 710A is its first chip manufactured locally at Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC). In this 'A' version, it's made on SMIC's 14nm fabrication process.

Huawei P smart 2021 review

Small differences in the published specs exist between the two versions. Still rocking the same 2x4 octa-core CPU design, the 710A that's inside the P smart 2021 has its powerful Cortex-A73 cluster capped at 2.0GHz as opposed to the 2.2GHz in the non-A Kirin 710 while the four Cortex-A53 cores can go as high as 1.7GHz, the same value as on the TSMC-produced version. The GPU remains the same Mali-G51 MP4, as far as we can tell.

The P smart 2021 was announced in a single 4GB/128GB RAM and storage version. Its alter-ego, the Y7a, gets that configuration too but is also available with half the storage at 64GB.

In the CPU-centric GeekBench, the P smart 2021 occupies the bottom of the chart for single-core performance. Qualcomm's 66x SoC is a hair above in this test (represented by a couple of Motos and a couple of Realmes), midrange Galaxies with either the Exynos 9611 (A51, M31s) or the modest Helio P65 (A31) are a more noticeable step up. At the same time, higher-tier Helios and 700-series Snapdragons are close to twice as potent as the Kirin in the P smart 2021.

GeekBench 5 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 NFC
    568
  • vivo V20
    554
  • Realme 6
    548
  • Realme 7
    536
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    517
  • Realme Narzo 20
    385
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    352
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    349
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    347
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    314
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    314
  • Realme 7i
    312
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    311
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    302
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    299

Things don't look quite as bad for the P smart 2021 under multi-core load where it manages to outperform the Galaxies, though that's about all the wins it can get.

GeekBench 5 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Poco X3 NFC
    1777
  • Realme 6
    1726
  • vivo V20
    1686
  • Realme 7
    1681
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    1666
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    1402
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    1400
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    1394
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    1334
  • Realme Narzo 20
    1328
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    1321
  • Realme 7i
    1318
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    1294
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    1261
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    1216

Another small win comes in Antutu, where the P smart 2021 inches ahead of the Galaxy A31. 600-series Snapdragon-powered handsets aren't all that much better, though. Again, the Realme 6 (Helio G90T) and the Realme 7 (G95) are miles ahead, as is the Poco X3 NFC with its Snapdragon 732G.

AnTuTu 8

Higher is better

  • Realme 7
    292828
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    291407
  • Realme 6
    288931
  • Poco X3 NFC
    283750
  • vivo V20
    276006
  • Realme Narzo 20
    193912
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    187863
  • Honor 9X
    187528
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    175363
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    173607
  • Realme 7i
    172933
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    170064
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    169543
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    169253
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    161106
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    151815

The GPU is hardly class-leading itself. The Realme 7 and Poco X3 NFC have vastly more powerful GPUs, though the Galaxy A31 is slightly behind the P smart 2021.

GFX Manhattan ES 3.0 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Realme 7
    54
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    54
  • Realme 6
    50
  • Poco X3 NFC
    44
  • vivo V20
    42
  • Realme Narzo 20
    25
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    21
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    21
  • Honor 9X
    21
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    21
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    21
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    19
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    19
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    19
  • Realme 7i
    19
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    19
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    18
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    16

GFX Manhattan ES 3.0 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Realme 6
    45
  • Realme Narzo 20
    44
  • Realme 7
    42
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    42
  • vivo V20
    38
  • Poco X3 NFC
    33
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    33
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    33
  • Realme 7i
    32
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    19
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    19
  • Honor 9X
    19
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    18
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    18
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    18
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    15

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (offscreen 1080p)

Higher is better

  • Realme 7
    34
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    34
  • Poco X3 NFC
    33
  • vivo V20
    31
  • Realme 6
    31
  • Realme Narzo 20
    16
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    15
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    15
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    14
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    14
  • Honor 9X
    14
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    13
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    13
  • Realme 7i
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    13
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    10

GFX Manhattan ES 3.1 (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Realme Narzo 20
    32
  • Realme 7
    28
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    28
  • Poco X3 NFC
    27
  • vivo V20
    27
  • Realme 6
    27
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    26
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    26
  • Realme 7i
    25
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    14
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    13
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    13
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    13
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    13
  • Honor 9X
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    12
  • Motorola Moto G8 Power
    12
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    8.9

3DMark SSE ES 3.1 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Realme 7
    2709
  • Poco X3 NFC
    2689
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    2683
  • vivo V20
    2593
  • Realme 6
    2570
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    1574
  • Realme Narzo 20
    1400
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    1169
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    1150
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    1092
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    1090
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    1088
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    1065
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    969
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    969

3DMark SSE Vulkan 1.0 (offscreen 1440p)

Higher is better

  • Realme 7
    2772
  • Realme Narzo 20 Pro
    2735
  • Realme 6
    2619
  • Poco X3 NFC
    2495
  • vivo V20
    2451
  • Samsung Galaxy A51
    1554
  • Realme Narzo 20
    1382
  • Huawei P30 Lite
    1374
  • Huawei P30 Lite (perf. mode)
    1374
  • Realme Narzo 20A
    1111
  • Motorola Moto G9 Play
    1103
  • Huawei P smart 2021 (perf. mode)
    1062
  • Huawei P smart 2021
    1060
  • Samsung Galaxy M31s
    1013
  • Samsung Galaxy A31
    894

The great thing about a relatively low-performing chipset is that it doesn't throttle much under sustained load, and we saw no real degradation in the P smart 2021's performance with repeated benchmark runs. We did observe the occasional hiccup in daily use, but it's not something we couldn't live with.

Reader comments

  • ad.o

Have had the p smart for a few months now. Knew buying it wz a risk without google but so far so good☺️ and now on par with everyone else for far less money spent but great value.

  • Anonymous

Does APK Pure download work on the Phone?

U lying , it's spelt huawei , not what ever u spelt , why do u guys buy a phone u don't do research on , it's like going into a store to buy shoes , that aren't you're size , It's not the worst value for money I have s...