02 Nov Huawei Throws Down The Gauntlet With New Mate 20 Devices

Huawei announced its new Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro at an eagerly-awaited event in London this past week. A lot of the excitement around the Mate 20 line of devices can be attributed to Huawei’s new Kirin 980 processor—the first Android SoC with 7nm and ARM’s new powerful A76 CPU cores. After the release of the P20 Pro earlier this year, people were also eager to see what Huawei would do with the next generation of its partnership with Leica.

The new Mate 20 Pro. HUAWEI

Also announced at the event were the new Ultra-luxury Porsche Design Mate 20 RS, the gaming-focused, enormous-screened Mate 20 X, and the Huawei Smartwatch GT. However, the real focus of the London event was the Mate 20 Pro, which boasts the best features of all the devices (and is likely the company’s best offering, in my opinion). Let’s take a closer look at the device.

The world-famous camera

One of the features that is available across all the Mate 20 devices is the new Leica Triple Camera module. Dubbed the Matrix Camera, it combines three camera sensors and a flash into a nice neat square module. This module promises to deliver the next generation of high-quality photography from Huawei, but it is not the same on all devices. The Mate 20’s Matrix Camera has a 16MP 17mm f/2.2 sensor and lens, 12MP wide angle lens with 27mm focal length, and an 8MP f/2.4 2X telephoto lens with a focal length of 52mm. The Mate 20 Pro’s lenses are differently configured. The 27mm focal length lens features an f/1.8 aperture and a 40MP sensor, the ultra-wide-angle 16mm lens with the f/2.2 aperture sports a 20MP sensor, and the telephoto lens is an increased 3X lens with an 80mm focal length and f/2.4 aperture. These two camera systems are similar, but one is considerably more powerful and capable than the other. I believe this difference alone justifies the 200 Euro price difference between the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro, but there are additional differences to consider.

Display and battery capacity

The Mate 20 Pro has a curved high-resolution OLED display, which results in a smaller screen size and 5mm-narrower body than the Mate 20. This OLED display has a resolution of 3120×1440, while the IPS display in the Mate 20 is only 2244×1080. This OLED display is also what allows the Mate 20 Pro to have an under-screen fingerprint sensor, a feature that many of the other leading smartphone vendors ( Samsung Electronics and Apple AAPL -0.2%) have not been able to implement in their phones. It’s of note that the Mate 20 and Mate 20 X do not have this feature, and also lack the Mate 20 Pro’s front-facing 3D camera for facial identification and login. The Mate 20 Pro also packs a huge 4200 mAh battery while the Mate 20 packs ‘only’ 4000 mAh.  This seems odd considering that the Mate 20 is a larger device than the Mate 20 Pro. The Mate 20 X, however, sports a massive 5000 mAh battery. It is a 7+” device which solidly puts it in tablet territory and I question whether or not that device is even a phone anymore.

Huawei seems to be positioning the much larger Mate 20 X as a gaming phone or gaming device. During the launch, Huawei compared the battery size and screen resolution against the Switch and claimed superiority. However, Huawei did not explicitly call the Mate 20 X a gaming phone. The Mate 20 X appears to be a blown up version of the Mate 20 with a larger display and battery capacity.

Wireless charging

The Mate 20 Pro features 15W wireless charging and 40W wired rapid charging, which the previous devices lacked. That being said, the real crowd pleaser at the launch was the announcement that the wireless charging on the Mate 20 Pro is bi-directional and allows you to charge other devices wirelessly (like a friend’s iPhone). The Mate 20 does not have any of these features, further justifying the price difference between it and the 20 Pro.

Huawei also upgraded the Mate 20 Pro to IP68 water resistance, which puts it on par with the rest of the industry and helps users feel comfortable that their $1,000+ investment is safe in the water. The other interesting thing that Huawei did was introduce its own SD card standard, which will allow for expandable memory in its Mate 20 devices as well as dual SIM capability. Dual SIM is still a popular feature in certain parts of the world, but Huawei gives users a choice of going for Dual SIM or having a single SIM and a memory card slot for expandable memory.

Performance

When it comes to performance, there is no doubt that Huawei was kind to all the Mate 20 devices. It gave them all the same new 7nm Kirin 980 SoC with the new ARM A76 CPU cores. However, the Mate 20 Pro ships with higher standard RAM configurations of 6GB and 8GB while the Mate 20 ships with 4GB and 6GB depending on the region. The modem is also the same across all devices—an impressive Cat. 21 LTE modem capable of a maximum throughput of 1.4 Gbps. The modem also appears to support most North American bands, including Band 2, 4, 5 and 12, but lacks support for the 600 MHz Band 71. While these modem numbers sound impressive and could result in some very fast real-world performance numbers, how it will perform on the networks remains to be seen. The uncertainty over actual performance will, unfortunately, hang over Huawei for some time considering its history with benchmarks (though  OPPO just got caught doing the same thing). Huawei did make some performance improvement claims, but I will shelve those until I get a chance to test the device myself.

Design

In addition to the Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro’s four available colors, Huawei once again tapped the design geniuses at Porsche Design to create their own Mate 20 design—the Mate 20 RS. This device which has the same specs as the Mate 20 Pro, but uses premium materials like real leather and glass, and comes in red and black color options. It goes for a premium price (the base model will sell for over 1695 Euros), but some may find it worth the money. I personally am thankful that Huawei brought back its Twilight color scheme, which fades from black to blue to purple across the back of the device.

Conclusion

The Mate 20, and more specifically the Mate 20 Pro is every smartphone enthusiast’s dream device. On paper, Huawei has built a monster. With an OLED display, 3D scanning, ARCore, in-screen fingerprint, amazing camera, huge battery, bi-directional wireless charging, and the latest Android 9 and IP68, this phone ticks off all the boxes that specs-obsessed enthusiasts could hope for. The real question is whether the changes to Huawei’s EMUI 9 will make the user interface more user friendly and allow the user to make the most of the hardware’s capabilities. In all the years I’ve been covering smartphones, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many technologies compiled into a single device. The Mate 20 Pro looks to be the flagship phone Huawei has been working towards for years. While the price of the Mate 20 Pro is over 1000 Euros, so are the flagships of many of its competitors—and they don’t have all the features that the Mate 20 Pro has. I will need to spend a considerable amount of time with the Mate 20 Pro before I make any assessments, but this device looks very promising. After this, Huawei may finally command the respect that the #2 smartphone manufacturer in the world deserves.