Revision When, four years ago, I predicted that Huawei comes to eat Apple and lunch Samsung, the derision quickly followed. Or it could not, or it would take a long time. For years, Japanese and Korean cars were small tin cans, bananas, jokes on wheels, remember?
But smartphones are not cars. The Chinese miracle of production and America's inability to protect its inventions means that technology is quickly copied, then produced on an incredible scale. Google has released the platform. Thank you, say Chinese engineers. We'll take it from here.
One example is Apple's Highly Developed FaceID, released on November 3, 2017. And here is Huawei, a year later, with a copy that works better or better. Huawei is doing nothing but copying, so here is something that avoided Apple and others: a reliable digital fingerprint sensor. Only on the Pearl River, OnePlus from BKK has one. And wireless charging on the mobile network, which means you can charge iPhone devices and other people's galaxies to your phone.
These are some distinctive features in Mate 20 Pro, and some are unique to the product. Just six months ago, Huawei introduced a fairly surprising trick – long exposure exposures that come from low light without the usual noise and blurring that destroys such images. Huawei is accelerating and it is quite spectacular to confess.
Apple has probably made two hypotheses with FaceID. You must have thought that, with the absurd absurdity of FaceID sensors (IR camera, proximity sensor, flood illuminator and point projector), Apple would have an unexpected advantage for a few years. These things are difficult and expensive to copy. And the more obvious alternative, the recognition of the sub-glass fingerprints was a few years. Both hypotheses proved to be false. Huawei includes both here (iFixit's teardown reveals an identical matrix to the iPhone).
But is Mate a worthy rival to Samsung and Apple, or a collection of dazzling technology tricks? Read on to find out.
Are five very different Mate 20, four once you have excluded the Porsche oligarch model. "Regular" keeps the design language of Mates's "station wagon", while Lite is an attempt to squeeze what he can into a chassis under £ 400. At the top of the scale is ridiculous the great Mate 20 X , a 7.2 inch monster phablet – bet that you have not heard that word from time to time – for players.
Think of Mate 20 Pro as a quick update of the P20 Pro, a phone designed to rival the Galaxy S8 + if you want.
Mate's imaging unit is the most distinctive thing
Let's exclude X and Porsche Mate. The three remaining "mainstream" models have a very different character, separate from the £ 400, and only have the name "Mate" in common.
The main difference from P20 Pro is that Mate 20 Pro is slightly longer and distributed entirely with discrete fingerprint sensors, front or rear. Samsung pioneered the curved glass display using its own AMOLED panels, and the industry followed this pattern this year, maximizing the visible area. It seemed very similar to the Galaxy, but no sensory location in a notoriously cumbersome manner.
Removing a discreet and visible sensor really meets Samsung's look. So, almost 88% of the phone front is taken up by the sumptuous 6.39 "OLED display (up to 1440 x 3120).
From the left, configure the face unlocking, the front unlock privacy notice, the power settings
The M20P is the third phone I've used with the sub-glass sensor, whipping the other two – OnePlus 6T and Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro on the UK market. Everything works very well, at least as far as your entry is concerned, and that of Huawei is the fastest. All three require you to press your thumb in an area under glass.
Unlocking Huawei's face was quick and worked very well. Just like Apple's iPhone, Huawei's facial recognition works well in low light and unlocks extremely fast. I finished leaving it for most of my time in my testing period.
Unusually, there is no grill. The USB-C port contains the loudspeaker
Biometrics is inherently uncertain, and I have not seen any statement as to how reliable the fingerprint sensor is from any of the three vendors – whether it can be fooled by one's fingerprint, for example. Maybe it's a disaster waiting to happen. But the fact that all three were released with it leaves Apple's dependence on the strange FaceID aspect.
The Notch is pretty assertive, just Google with Pixel 3 has a cut in front. While I'm not specifically thinking about a Notch, I can say that since using a week, a OnePlus 6T (the review comes), with a much smaller "tear", is more enjoyable.
Regular Mate 20 also has a tear-like cut because it has no Advanced Pro Face Recognition matrix. All phones rated have an issue overtaking notifications, which is very bad. But then they are increasingly an anachronism: now I am so hard to read. Remember when Windows Phone did everything with the top bar? It was not the end of the world, was it?
The display does not have a rich saturation of Samsung panels, but works well in the open in bright sunlight.
A very clever design piece is released from the ubiquitous speaker grill. Huawei built the speaker in the USB-C socket and is no worse for it.
Rather than leaning the others, Huawei went for a very fine texture on the back of the bottle, which looks and feels like a vinyl record. Scratch your nail over it and sound like the vinyl scratched. I can not say that this has made the phone more grippy, as Huawei claims, but it is subtle and not unwanted.
Anyone looking to use a headphone jack should not look here. The Regular Mate 20 keeps it reasonably, but as with the P20, it was omitted.
And a design decision looks either bold or as an error. Huawei introduces a new memory card format, NM or Nano memory card. The idea is great: it's the same size as a Nano SIM card, reducing the size of the electronics needed for reading. Unfortunately, we have not seen one yet in the wild, there is no spec. Available to the public and no indication that Huawei does not give up on it through a standardization body. And only the four new models Mate 20 (not Lite) support it. So for now, consider Mate 20 Pro a phone without removable storage, like an iPhone or a pixel. Because that's really what it is.
Click to enlarge
The relatives, I have no exception, tended to be quite tolerant of Huawei's EMUI – as in phones such as Honor 7. It was a small part of the general proposal. This statement was a terrible value, and people can reconcile with much eccentricity. Now that Huawei not only wants to play with the big boys at the same price, but to give them a knock-out blow and to ask the laurels of the champions, we should judge them a bit harsher. Here's where Huawei comes unstuck.
A list of very long settings (composite image)
EMUI is still sticky and dogmatic, designed to accommodate a ideogram character system rather than a western alphabet. The list of settings is really very long (and reproduced here). The thematic engine is pushed into the distant past. The home screen incorporates the one-line icon labels – if you do not download a third-party tool – when you find it can happily display two lines, but Huawei does not want it. The beautiful UI from Samsung, revealed last week, had a lot of thought put into play, and is the second largest Samsung UI review in four years.
Some poorly explained features are added. Click to enlarge
But there is more than visual to a user experience. More than any previous Huawei, it is affected by requests from inappropriate "smart" features or AI, asking you to see your contacts (not) or call logs (not) or whatever you want to see on screen (disappear).
These include HiVoice, HiSearch, some cloud backup services, and others, and HiTouch, an object recognition service in partnership with Amazon. If you dare to leave HiTouch, almost any gesture with two gestures will invoke screens on board. Off does not mean Stop off.
None of these features take a response. HiSearch is the well-built old search feature that helps you find an app, but now sends you data to the clouds somewhere. "If you are a minor, you must obtain the consent of your tutor to use this application," HiSearch tells the child the innocent search for the computer application.
All this is crowded and agitated.
Saying that EMUI needs a thorough review is an understatement. It starts defining the Huawei brand. The British will be very pleased to boast of their business in the pub, but this intrusive and left-hand interview has to be put on sale.
With so much in common with the P20 Pro seven months old, there are not many new things to add. The gesture experiment continues with better visual feedback for the "back" gestures (which are slid from the right edge of the display, not the left one). As we have found with other gesture models, there is too much similarity between "recent" (drag up and hold) and "home" (swipe up but not hold). That's what I put on the traditional sailboat. Gestures means losing touch twice to go back to the previous application (one original Samsung thing) on a Huawei, while OnePlus was pretty careful to give his own gesture.