Insane feature on top Chinese phone
HUAWEI has quietly become one of the best smartphone makers in the world.
Hugely popular in Asia and Europe (and banned in the US due to espionage fears), some Australian consumers might not be overly familiar with the Chinese smartphones. If so, it's probably time to get acquainted with the Mate 20 Pro.
The flagship device from Huawei - which hits stores on November 1 - is easily one of the best new smartphones on the market.
With a powerful new 7 nanometre chip that seeks to rival Apple's new A12 bionic chip in its latest iPhone range, the Mate 20 Pro represents one of Huawei's biggest leaps forward, boasting cutting edge technology in a comfortable design, 3D face recognition, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and a feature-packed triple camera.
It also brings some novel new technologies not seen in other devices such as reverse wireless charging, meaning you can juice up other smartphones by simply placing them on top of the Mate 20 Pro - it's certainly a cool party trick.
Weighing 189g, the sleek handset is light compared to the iPhone XS Max at 208g despite both devices having a height of 157mm. A narrow and thin design makes it particularly easy to handle and its shape feels good in the palm.
Like Samsung's recent Galaxy smartphones, Huawei has gone with an OLED screen that is slightly rounded at the edges and encased in a metal frame. Coupled with the glass edge-to-edge display, it looks pretty fantastic.
The crisp 6.39-inch OLED screen boasts a 3120 x 1440 pixel resolution and HDR10 support.
I'm not sure whether I prefer the rounded screen to the more flat design of most other phones but the strong contrast and vibrant colours produced by the Mate 20 Pro is one of its best and most striking features.
At the bottom of the phone is a USB-C port but no headphone jack so the phone ships with a dongle to connect wired headphones. Also visibly absent at the base of the phone is a speaker, because interestingly, the sound is pumped out of the USB-C port.
On the right side is the wake/kill switch, just below the volume buttons. You can take a screenshot by holding them both down with your thumb which is quite handy to be able to do it with a single digit. (You can also take a screenshot by double tapping your knuckle - one of a number of knuckle gestures you can use to navigate the phone.)
GUTS AND SOFTWARE
The Mate 20 Pro is the first device to use Huawei's new Kirin 980 processor, which the company says is a significant improvement on last year's Kirin 970 chip.
The powerful hardware coupled with Google Assistant means the AI tech is some of the best on the market, in what the Huawei is calling it the "world's first dual-AI powered smartphone".
Launching and swiping between apps is quick and seamless and for the most part the interface feels smooth even when running some data heavy apps.
The Pro offers up 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage which should be more than ample for any user.
The one knock on the phone's functionality is its software that doesn't seem to run quite as clean as rival flagship devices such as Apple's iPhones or Google's Pixel.
The phone runs on Huawei's specialised EMUI 9 software based on Android 9.0 Pie operating system. The company's biggest change to Android is its power-saving features.
The system is much more aggressive at blocking apps from running in the background, which really helps boost the battery life. With general use and no heavy gaming or anything, I would get two full days of use per charge.
Huawei's FaceID works by projecting 30,000 dots onto your face to detect its contours and recognise you. When setting it up it seemed like it could prove a touch fiddly, but it worked quite well. With raise-to-wake on, it happens so quickly you won't even notice the device unlocking itself.
However you need to make sure your face is right in front of the camera when using it because it can struggle at unusual angles. Because of this, I turned it off for unlocking the device but it's well worth turning on for added security on certain apps like messaging and banking.
The triple rear camera is a real standout for the smartphone packing in a 40-megapixel main camera, a 20-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens. The three work together to shoot 10-megapixel images with 5x hybrid zoom. The camera can go up to a 10x digital zoom but picture quality starts to noticeably suffer at that point. It can also take close-up photos at 2.5cm away without losing any focus with its Super Macro ability.
It might falter a little in low light conditions, but it's up there with the iPhone XS and Google's Pixel 3 for camera strength. Below is a comparison between the iPhone X and the Mate 20 pro on regular settings.
It has software that sharpens your photo after taking it, provided you hold the camera still. Because of this, you'll get the best results if you use a smartphone tripod which most users probably can't be bothered with.
The camera has a range of different modes, including underwater photography, but despite having a high (IP68) water resistant rating, Huawei says you need a waterproof case when using this setting.
It's not the first time Huawei has packed a triple camera into its top smartphone but this time it also boasts a pretty fun effect that lets you turn video footage monochrome but keeps the subject of the frame in colour. The camera's slow motion can shoot in 960 frames per second.
Like all top tier smartphones these days, it has wireless charging and the very novel ability to wirelessly charge another device.
Provided the other smartphone has Qi wireless compatibility, you simply turn on the feature under the Battery section in Settings and place it on top of the Mate 20 Pro to juice up the battery. It's not a feature you're likely to use a lot but it could really come in handy at times, and it's a smart feature that gives the phone a unique point of difference.
Despite arguably losing its edge in smartphone tech, Apple continues to be the most popular smartphone brand among Australian consumers. But of course the advantage of Android is having more control of how you set up your device and not being held within Apple's walled garden.
As a long time Apple user, I understand how it's easy to get accustomed to one operating system over another, but if there was ever a device to consider making the switch, it's probably this one.
With a $1599 price tag, you certainly know you're paying for a premium smartphone but it stacks up well with its competitor's flagship devices.
SNAPSHOT OF SPECS
Dimensions: 157.8mm x 72.3mm x 8.6mm
Screen: 6.39-inch QHD+ OLED screen (538 pixels per inch)
Processor: Kirin 980 processor
Memory: 6 of RAM
Storage: 128GB or 256GB plus nano memory card
Charge: supercharge 2.0
Camera: Triple rear camera 40MP, 20MP ultra-wide angle, 8MP telephoto
Selfie camera: 24MP front-facing camera + 3D depth sensing camera
Video: 4K UHD
Durability: IP68 water and dust resistance
Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS