I have enjoyed Huawei smartphones for many years since I first tried the Mate 9. The years of evolution for Huawei has been phenomenal, offering some of the more innovative changes from a smartphone maker. With the newest Mate 20 series, is Huawei still on the road to dominate the mobile market?
Innovation Is In Huawei
Huawei has innovated a lot over the past years, more than most smartphone brands. It first introduced dual cameras with a dedicated monochrome sensor, and made popular the background blur. With Mate 10 series, Huawei added “A.I.” NPU to the processor, improving camera scene detection, supports the desktop mode without needing special dongles. The P20 Pro sees the introduction of triple cameras – standard angle, telephoto, and monochrome sensor to deliver a better hybrid zoom experience.
The Mate 20 series is another innovation overload. Huawei continues to offer triple cameras, but instead of a monochrome sensor, it replaced with an ultra-wide angle camera, taking a leaf from LG, which has had 2 cameras on their flagship smartphones for over 2 years since G5. Incidentally, this year’s LG V40 also comes with 3 cameras, with an additional telephoto camera. But clearly Huawei has stolen the thunder. Note that the difference between Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro is the camera sensor resolution: Mate 20 Pro has 40+20+8 MP camera while Mate 20 uses 12+16+8 MP. Both phones have 24MP front camera.
The second set of innovation is the biometrics: the first smartphone with both in-screen fingerprint sensor and 3D Face Unlock system, which to me is rather an overkill, as both technologies are not cheap. This explains the additional S$300 premium for the Mate 20 Pro over the Mate 20 which has none of these advanced biometrics.
The third innovation is Augmented Reality. With three cameras, the Mate 20 series is able to recognise depth information better. Through the continually-developed A.I. processor, the Mate 20 can recognise food and estimate the calories. With the to-be released 3D Live app, you can even scan inanimate objects in 3D and then interact with them in the AR environment.
Improved features from previous Huawei P and Mate series include: even faster 40W charging, desktop mode via wireless Miracast technology, hidden speaker through the USB-C port. Other new features that Huawei has caught up are the 15W wireless charging, larger 4200 mAh battery (4000 mAh on Mate 20), expandable memory in the form of a new nano memory (NM) card in the same shape as the nano SIM card. On the midnight blue and emerald green models, the back of the phones are made of special glass texture to make it non-slip and anti-fingerprint.
The reverse wireless charge feature is an unexpected “gift” from Huawei. On paper it sounds useful, but one should only use it when there is no other choice. The last thing you want to do is to waste your precious smartphone battery through an inefficient power transfer technology.
I have to give Huawei points for creating an innovative smartphone, but there are just a few imperfections for me. Firstly, I am not a fan of curved edge displays introduced from Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, as there is higher tendency to accidentally touch the display when handling the phone, which is the case now with Huawei Mate 20 Pro. Putting on the included soft casing resolves the edge-touching issue. In addition, the curved edges result in missing view, especially when trying to frame images. The edges have some discolouration due to the slight angle differences.
I am also not a fan of bezel-less screen, since it reduces chances of resting the fingers on the front screen without triggering any touch. I must agree that a zero-border display looks amazing, but a smartphone is not the place to apply such design.
The introduction of a new Nano Memory card is both welcoming and unwelcoming. Yes, the phone can finally allow external storage, but it comes in a form or proprietary card format, which is not readily available nor can I re-use my existing inventory of micro SD Cards. In any case, I do not use external memory cards due to performance issues.
Yes, I like that Huawei has added the 20MP ultra wide angle camera, one of the biggest reasons why I am still a big fan of LG smartphones. The removal of monochrome sensor is no loss to me as I do not shoot more than 10 monochrome photos in an entire year. I will always shoot in colour before I convert to monochrome, because, you cannot recover the colour information after a monochrome photo is shot. Say all you want, but if you want a real monochrome image, use black-and-white film. Otherwise, everything else can be post-processed.
The standard and telephoto cameras pixel count remains the same as the P20 Pro, so let’s compare both phones to see the difference.
First observation is that Mate 20 Pro has slightly toned-down exposure, which is good as it helps to retain the highlights.
Hybrid zoom appears to be the same, which is expected since both uses the same camera sensors.
Next, the low light images have slight variation, a little more warm, less blue.
For portraits, there are marked improvements, as the images are brighter.
From the photos, it seems the improvements on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is marginal, which goes to show that the P20 Pro is still an excellent smartphone to go for, unless you really need the ultra-wide angle camera mode.
Manual Performance Mode
Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a “Performance Mode” under the Battery settings which you can enable in order to deliver better performance. Apparently, you need to turn on this mode when running benchmark tests in order to achieve better results. This was not the case for other flagship phones. It would be rather inconvenient if I need to do this when I wanted faster performance, when I expect the phone to know when it should deliver faster performance and when it should conserve. So I left it enabled by default, and I’m happy to say that the battery life was not reduced in any way.
Always On Display Lacks Use Cases
There are so many smartphones implementing AOD that I would expect Huawei to offer some of the best practices. But no, their AOD on the Mate 20 Pro only displays date, time, battery, and notification icons of calls and messages only. Even when there are new notifications, the AOD does not provide any glimpse. Neither does the phone support double-tap actions, but that’s a small issue.
The Mate 20 Pro speakers sound brighter than the P20 Pro, which sounds fuller and a little more bass. If you are a treble lover, the Mate 20 Pro is clearer but thinner. However, when charging the Mate 20 Pro, the audio volume drops because speaker hole is from the USB-C port.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro contains some of the latest mobile innovation in 2018, and should be lauded for an amazing smartphone. The retail price of S$1348 is justified compared to iPhone Xs Max or Samsung Note9. I am excited about the Mate 20 features but I am inclined to wait for the next P-series where Huawei will make it better, and cheaper.
Huawei has been doing a great job. My dad uses the Mate 10 Pro which I bought for him, and my wife uses the P20 Pro which I bought for her. I have more friends converting from non-Huawei to P20 Pro than any model in recent memory. Not even iPhone or Samsung Galaxy achieves that charm. These new P20 Pro owners are attracted by the Huawei’s multi-camera setup and massive feature list. Now the Mate 20 Pro tops that with more features that other smartphones offer – 3D face unlock, in-screen fingerprint sensor, augmented reality interaction, desktop mode, wireless charging, ultra-wide angle camera.
It is easy to love the new Mate 20 Pro. Despite its premium price, it is still cheaper than Google Pixel 3 XL, or Samsung Galaxy Note9, or iPhone Xs, yet it has more features than any of these devices.