Mid-October is as late as a phone launch can be for the new model to feature in the all important Christmas sales quarter. Today, Huawei showed New Zealanders the Mate 20 Pro.
It clearly aims to challenge Samsung for space under the Christmas tree. Huawei needs to get a move on. While customers can order the phone from Friday, it doesn’t official go on sale until the first week in November.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the first mainstream phone to sport a fingerprint reader embedded in its display.
Big screen, a lot of cameras
Like most other premium phones this season, the Mate 20 Pro has a huge screen. Unlike most rival models, it has three cameras on the back.
Huawei has gone for a 6.4 inch QHD Oled display on the Mate 20 Pro. It’s big, so is the battery Huawei rates it it at 4,200 mAh. The non-Pro Huawei Mate 20 is a fraction larger again.
The battery charges fast, to 70 percent in 30 minutes. There’s also a slower wireless charging option. One nice twist is that you can wireless charge suitably equipped accessories such as ear buds from the phone.
7 nanometre processor
In contrast the technology in the Kirin 980 processor that powers both phones is tiny. It’s Huawei’s first 7 nanometre phone processor.
This puts Huawei in line with Apple which also uses 7 nm technology in the A12 chips found in the company’s 2018 iPhones.
That’s not the only on-paper similarity to the iPhone XS. The Mate 20 Pro has 3D face recognition software.
While you may not need both face recognition and a fingerprint scanner in the same device, having the two is an impressive show of techno prowess.
Doing away with a separate fingerprint reader makes the phone an even more featureless slab of glass.
There are obvious physical comparisons with the Apple iphone XS series, yet in the hand the Mate 20 Pro looks and feels more like a Samsung Galaxy S model than an iPhone. Indeed, from the front it’s hard to tell the Mate 20 Pro from the Galaxy S or the iPhone XS Max. Either phone designers all think alike, or they’re playing follow-the-leaders.
As always with modern premium phones, marketing emphasises the camera or in this case cameras. There are three on the back include a 40 megapixel camera, a second 8 megapixel camera with a telephoto lens and 20 megapixel wide-angle camera.
This last camera replaces the monochrome camera that is in Huawei’s P20 Pro. I’ll let you know how this works in practice when I get some hands-on time with the phone.
Huawei has upgraded EMUI, its Android overlay software. For me this has always been one of the weakest links in Huawei phones. It still looks a lot like iOS to the casual observer. I swear some of the app icons are direct copies of Apple’s icons. Huawei’s other weak link has been tardiness when it comes to upgrading phone software. There’s a promise this will improve. At the launch Huawei told journalists there is already an upgrade for the software in the review phones.
As the name suggests, EMUI 9 is a variation on Android 9. Huawei says it optimised the software to speed up regular tasks.
Given the processor has also had a speed bump, the phone should be a lot faster and smoother than earlier models. Having said that, speed and smoothness never felt like problems with recent Huawei phones.
Like Apple Huawei has ditched the headphone jack in favour of wireless connections. This is something that upsets some people. It’s time to accept that a physical jack is now an anachronism.
The Mate 20 Pro goes on sale at NZ$1599. That puts the Mate 20 Pro on a par with the Oppo Find X and makes it $200 cheaper than the $1700 Samsung Galaxy Note 9. If Huawei wants to stay competitive on price in New Zealand. On paper Huawei has the price edge.
It needs too. Samsung dominates the Android phone market. For many users it is a tried and tested brand with, one exploding model aside, a clear track record. Huawei is not well established yet. It sales are tiny compared Samsung’s phone numbers in New Zealand hence the aggressive price. I’ll write about whether it is worth the money when I give it a proper test.