Just months after Huawei released the P20 series and we have a new top of the line smartphone from the Chinese manufacturer. And it's not only a top of the line in terms of design, features and materials but it again incorporates Leica technology into its camera, now with a three lens set, extending its functionality and quality.
Out of the box the Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes with Android 9 pre-installed and ready to go. And to my surprise, in one week using the smartphone full time I had two patch updates delivered - including updates to the camera app incorporating AI helpers and Google security updates.
It's hard to start - there are so many cool things on the new Huawei Mate 20 Pro...
Let's start with the design. The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has a curved 6.39 inches OLED screen (2K + 3120 x 1440 pixels, 538 PPI) - it ends nicely and smooth onto a metallic frame, and the back (also glass and also curved) starts from there. The back has a special textured-glass that makes it non-slip and anti-fingerprint (but not 100% as you may still see some oily marks on the back). It is actually a shame to use a case when you have such a cool backing (you can hear a noise similar to when you scratch a nail on an old vinyl recording). The Huawei Mate 20 Pro comes in black or emerald green - the review unit I have here is the green version and it is a seriously good looking phone.
Another very noticeable feature is the camera cluster on the back of the phone - Huawei put a square cluster there with the three lenses and flash module. This cluster includes a 40 megapixel RGB sensor, an 8 megapixel telephoto lens and a 20 megapixel ultrawide angle lens.
Combining this with the camera app smarts and you get incredibly bright and colourful pictures and videos. in addition to Photo, Video and Pro modes, the camera app has special modes including Aperture, Night, Portrait, HDR, Light Painting, Slow-Motion, Food, Time-Lapse and Monochrome.
If you are into special-effects, I can highly recommend the Light-Painting mode. It will help you create traffic trails, silky water and star trails photos without having to be a pro. I would recommend a tripod though as you probably want a steady hand for this to work well.
The camera app is also good at recognising day-to-day objects and people, recommending the best settings. I saw it recognising food, cars, dogs, clouds and more instantly and automatically.
In addition to this you have a feature that makes the camera really smart - HiVision. HiVision allows you to recognise objects (and link to shopping options, although the ones I've found were all Australian-based), food (and even tells you how many calories based on size) or scan text to automatic translate it - the translation is not much different than other platforms such as Google Translate as it shows an overlay with the translated text of the image with the original text.
In terms of battery life, you are covered. With a 4200 mAh battery and some power management (more on this later), you can go on for a long time - I know because I only had to charge my review unit very few times this week. And when you charge it, do not worry - it's fast. As an option you can charge it wirelessly using the Huawei charger (and I suspect other Qi-compatible chargers).
I have called Huawei's power management "aggressive" before - and while it still is, it seems to be more well behaved now. My apps are working as intended and it seems the system recognises the settings to leave some apps alone.
Another thing I had a problem with previous versions was Bluetooth. While it seems to be better now (my headphones seem to connect correctly every time and sound is routed seamlessly), I still can't get the Bose app to recognise the Bose QC35 and check for firmware updates.
If you are an avid Google Pay user (and your bank supports it) then you are covered. The NFC works really well and fast. I had no problems using the Huawei Mate 20 Pro with the Snapper app - Snapper being the Wellington transport ticketing option and the app allows you to check the card balance and load funds to it via credit card.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has an in-screen fingerprint reader. It takes a bit of time (a few uses) to get used to it but once you have it mastered it works well and fast. There is a specific area on the bottom half of the screen (in portrait mode) where the fingerprint reader is located. If you configure your phone to unlock with fingerprint you will see a fingerprint picture on the screen when you pick it up. You have to press that area with your finger - not only touch it. You will notice a glow ring around your finger as feedback in the split second needed for it to work.
Another way of unlocking the device is using the face recognition, which works in a similar way - if you pick the smartphone up and doesn't touch the screen it will automatically look for your face and if recognised unlock the device. Either way unlocking is really fast and beats entering a PIN. You can also use your unlock method to create a personal space
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro model available in New Zealand is dual-SIM (more on the second slot later) and either SIM card can be designated as primary and both support 2G/3G/4G networks. And of course the other wireless flavours are available too (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (wave2) 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, Bluetooth 5.0 supporting BLE, SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC and HWA formats).
In terms of performance, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the fastest smartphone I have tested so far. It gets an AnTuTu score of 271347, with a CPU score of 101629 and GPU 97327. Overall the experience is fluid and moving between apps is pretty seamless. At its core, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is powered by a Huawei Kirin 980, with eight cores (2 x Cortex-A76 2.6 GHz + 2 x Cortex-A76 1.92 GHz + 4 x Cortex-A55 1.8 GHz). And while its 6GB RAM and 128 GB storage seem like a lot you will be able to expand this to 256 GB storage using the new format NM card (which I don't where to source from). The NM card is similar to a microSD card but comes in a nano SIM size and you can use it on the second SIM slot.
Huawei's continue to invest on its EMUI operating system, which is now based on Android 9. While the launcher is nice I prefer the Microsoft launcher - and had no problem using it on this device. An app I rather not have preinstalled is the Huawei AppGallery - I am sure some people might use it but I have a set of apps I always install and can get those from the Google Play store.
You won't find a headphone jack (although you can use a USB-C headphone) - nothing unusual these days but you will find an infrared port, so you can remote control your TV, stereo, set-top box and other devices - including the so common in New Zealand, the heat pump. The remote control app comes with a database of known devices but you can easily program it by learning codes from an existing remote control.
Last, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is certified IP68. This means it is splash, water and dust resistant and while the IP68 standard says it could be immersed in water (and the camera has an underwater mode), as usual I wouldn't want to drop my phone in the water. your mileage may vary...