There are three kinds of people in the world, those who don’t know how to say Huawei (Wah-Way), those who think they are a Chinese spy agency, and those who know they are a beast of a phone. I’ve been walking around with the Huawei Mate20 for the past fortnight and can report back that I definitely sit in the third category, but unfortunately for Huawei that puts me in the minority.
The Mate20 is one of the best Android phones of the year, and easily the best camera phone on the market, but I’m not sure that’ll be enough to see it race off shelves as it deserves.
Earlier in the year, I was in Paris for the launch of the P20 and P20 Pro which unveiled their revolutionary tri-lens Leica camera which smashed Apple and Samsung out the water. The P series focus is on photography. The Mate and Mate Pro series brings the camera tech of the P series over to the Mate and then turns its attention to processing power and grunt under the hood – and it delivers.
In the past few months Huawei has moved ahead of Apple in global sales, which shows its popularity, especially in the Asian market, but in Australia Apple still heavily out-indexes Android. This is despite the fact that Mate20s sold-out in Australia on pre-orders alone. So Huawei has two issues, convincing you they’re not Chinese spies and convincing many to move from iOS to Android.
Underwhelming Apple updates and an inflexible design has seen many consider the switch and I can tell you right now if you are on the fence about the jump the Mate20 is the place to start. It’s no accident that Huawei has made it as easy for iOS users to move over – in design and interface.
The footprint of the Mate20 is almost identical to the iPhone XS Max, with the only difference being a more pronounced curve on the backside of the handset, in fact when both off and sitting on a device casual observers would be hard pressed to notice the difference. The size will be a roadblock for those who don’t like such a large device, but that is a matter of personal preference.
The LCD screen on the Mate20 has minimal bezels on all four sides, and its notch at the top is limited only to the front-facing camera. The power and volume buttons are on the on the right side, while the power button is differentiated in that it’s a dark-red, directly beneath. The rear side of the camera has the thumbprint unlock which has become a trademark of its design which makes for easy pickup-and-unlock and sits directly under the three-rear-Leica-cameras and flashlight which are set in a square formation.
But it’s how it operates once you have the phone in your hand that really sets the Mate20 apart from both its Android competitors and the Apple alternative. From the moment you unlock the device in a flash you’re treated to a phone that’s vibrant and instant. Its Kirin 980 processor is easily the fastest chip across the Android range, although any normal person would probably be hard pressed to notice that in action. But you can rest assured, it’s fast.
What makes that so impressive though is that it doesn’t come at the sacrifice on battery life. With the Mate 20 you won’t need to worry about finding your nearest charge point come 4 pm, with pretty heavy usage I was able to easily get a day and a half out of a single charge, and I’m certain that could be stretched to two if I spent more time paying attention to the people and world around me.
You’ll find its ability to do this is in the phone’s determination to shut down apps it doesn’t think you are using which is a take it or leave it feature. But like most features on Android, you can toggle this to your liking.
Another cool charge feature that Huawei offers is the ability to then go and charge other people’s devices with your own battery power. It is a slow charge, but offer it to a passer-by who’s low on charge and watch them fall to their knees with gratitude.
Then there’s the camera. Let’s be honest, in 2018 the camera is one of the few areas of major advancement each phone maker can offer, and with its Leica camera integration, I believe the Huawei to be front of the pack. Portrait mode, in particular, is world class, with imagery that is bright, warm, rich and sharp all at the same time. The Mate 20 easily matches the P20 Pro for lenses and quality and the pictures will have girls all over the city requesting you be the person to take the group selfie.
Similarly, with low light and night time shots, the Mate 20 need to be seen to be believed and start to match the vibrancy of what you are seeing with your own eye. Ultimately this phone takes the kind of photos we used to only be able to dream of and should be of consideration for even those looking for a device purely for photography. And that’s saying something.
But as with all devices, there are some drawbacks. For one there is only minimal water resistance, which is becoming industry standard. For those who are truly seeking that camera-replacement device, they’ll be disappointed to know that there is no monochrome feature, and some of the photo effects can feel a bit gimmicky.
But overall the good vastly outweighs the bad. This is a sleek and stylish phone that has incredible battery life, an amazing camera and massive bang for its dollar. If you’re looking to switch from iOS to Android this is a great place to start, and for those already on it, trust that this continues a very strong form line from Huawei phones. All they need to do now is convince people they aren’t Chinese spies, and how to say the name of their brand, and they are sorted.