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Huawei hopes Nova and Nova Plus will be shining stars of the midrange phone market

Beyond their glossy and relatively small exteriors, the Nova and Nova Plus deliver popular, but not quite remarkable features.

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Huawei is taking a new whack at the midrange with two freshly unveiled devices, the Nova and Nova Plus.

In Latin, "nova" means "new", and this is indeed a new start for Huawei in terms of its very strait-laced and technical naming conventions of phones past. In astronomy terms though, novas are exploding stars, and it's debatable whether these phones, as polished and well-rounded as they are, will set the world alight, aimed as they are at the busy middle of the market.

The smaller Nova has a 5-inch screen, while the larger Nova Plus (sadly not Supernova) supersizes with a 5.5-inch display. Cast in Huawei's signature sand-blasted aluminium, the pair have slightly rounded backs that allow them to nestle neatly in your palm. Add together full HD displays, octa-core Snapdragon processors and USB Type-C charger ports, Huawei really has left no key feature wanting when kitting out the Nova range.

Each phone also has an option for filtering out blue colours from the displays -- similar to the iPhone's Night Mode, other Huawei phones and Samsung's Galaxy Note 7. Plus you can double tap on the screen with your knuckles to take a screenshot, a feature that's also on other Huawei phones.

Aside from their slight size difference, the best way of telling them apart is by flipping them over. On the rear the Nova has a round camera set into the top corner of the chassis with a matching circular fingerprint sensor. The Nova Plus, on the other hand, has a more centred square camera module that protrudes from the device with a square fingerprint sensor positioned directly below it.

The Nova's main camera is slightly bigger than the Nova's (16 vs. 12 megapixels) with the forward-facing counterparts measuring in at 8 megapixels on both phones. The primary camera modules are capable of face detection focus and contrast focus, as well being able to capture 4K video.

Design differs on these sibling phones.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The camera software also features Huawei's own selfie enhancement tools, with some tweaks that allow you to add more realistic makeup, with contouring to fit the skin, lipsticks and eyeliner effects. Kim Kardashian, eat your heart out.

Rumour has it that Huawei designed these phones with female buyers in mind. The company did not confirm this, but did say that it expected "slightly more" women to buy the phone than men.

On top of Google's Android Marshmallow software sits a version of Emotion UI, Huawei's customised Android skin. This edition includes a variety of themes designed specifically for the Nova range. Each version of the phone, which is available in gold, rose gold, silver and grey, has its own dedicated theme that provides colour continuity across hardware and software, but several other choices also come preinstalled. They have names such as "feather", "sweet" and "wind" and feature ethereal, pastel-hued scenes, with icons to match.

The Nova and Nova Plus will be available in Europe, the Middle East and Asia within the next two months. Dual-SIM versions will be available, depending on the region, and both will be available as 32GB models with expandable storage. Only European pricing has been announced: 399 euros for the Nova and 429 euros for the Nova Plus, which converts to $445, £335 or AU$590, and $480, £360 or AU$635 respectively. US availability is yet to be confirmed.

Huawei Nova: Specs and key features

  • 5-inch full HD display
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 12-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera
  • USB Type-C
  • Octa-core Snapdragon 625 2GHz processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage, expandable by 128GB with microSD card
  • Android Marshmallow
  • Dual SIM version in some regions
  • 3,020 mAh battery
  • 146 grams (5.15 ounces)

Huawei Nova Plus: Specs and key features

  • 5.5-inch full HD screen
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • 16-megapixel main camera with optical image stabilisation, 8-megapixel front camera
  • USB Type-C
  • Octa-core Snapdragon 625 2GHz processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage, expandable by 128GB with microSD card
  • Android Marshmallow
  • Dual SIM version in some regions
  • 3,340 mAh battery
  • 160 grams (5.64 ounces)

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