Hey, iPhone XS — we’ll take your two cameras and raise you with three shooters and more AI features. 7-nanometer processor? We have that, too. Face ID? We have facial recognition and an in-screen fingerprint sensor. And your puny 3,174 mAh battery, iPhone XS Max? We have a much larger one, and when you run low on juice, you can use the back of our phone as a wireless charger.
From that description, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro isn’t just built to beat Apple’s flagships. It seems explicitly designed to troll them.
I had a chance to go hands on with Huawei Mate 20 Pro in New York City. Here’s the pros and cons so far based on my initial impressions. And be sure to check out our hands-on previews of the Huawei Mate 20 and 7.2-inch Huawei Mate 20 X.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Cheat Sheet
- A huge 4,200 mAh battery should last all day, and it’s rated to charge to 70 percent in just 30 minutes.
- The innovative reverse charge feature turns the back of the Mate 20 Pro into a wireless charger for other phones, including the iPhone.
- You can unlock the phone with an embedded fingerprint sensor on the 6.39-inch OLED display or via 3D facial recognition with the front camera.
- There’s three rear cameras: 40-MP wide angle, 20-MP ultra wide-angle and 8-MP telephoto.
- AI camera features include 4D predict autofocus and a Cinema Mode that applies video filters in real time.
- The Kirin 980 processor is the first 7-nanometer chip in an Android phone.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Pricing and Availability
We are waiting on where the Mate 20 Pro will be available for sale but Huawei has released pricing. The Mate 20 Pro (6GB + 128GB configuration) will have a MSRP of €1049. That translates to a very high $1,216, but we’re assuming U.S. pricing would be less.
Design: Choose from stunning or scratchy
I’ve been reviewing phones for 20 years, and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro is one of the most stunning handsets I’ve laid my eyes on. There’s curved edges on all eight sides, and the neat square that houses the three Leica camera lenses and flash makes this phone stand out among a sea of lookalike slabs.The Mate 20 Pro comes in 5 colors, but the finishes vary. My favorite hue is the smooth glass Twilight, with a blue-purple gradient that shifts depending on how the light hits the handset. Too bad the finish smudged up fast as I handled it.
If you prefer something with a grippier feel that resists fingerprints, the Midnight Blue and Emerald Green versions boast what’s called a hyper optical pattern on glass. It makes a cool scratching sound when you run your fingernails over the back of the phone. Yes, it’s addictive.
All of the Mate 20 Pro models are IP68 water resistant, which means it can be submerged in 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes. Unfortunately, the Mate 20 Pro doesn’t include a headphone jack.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro Specs
|OS/Software||Android Pie with EMUI 9.0|
|RAM||6 GB, 8GB|
|Display||6.39 inches AMOLED (3120 x 1440 pixels)|
|Rear cameras||40-MP main (f/1.8), 8-MP telephoto (f/2.4), 20-MP ultra-wide (f/2.2)|
|Front camera||24-MP (f/2.0)|
|Colors||Pink Gold, Midnight Blue. Emerald Green. Twilight, Black|
|Size||6.2 x 2.8 x 0.33 inches (157.8 x 72.3 x 8.6 mm)|
|Weight||6.7 ounces (189 grams)|
Battery: Phone and wireless charger in one
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro packs a beefy 4,200 mAh battery that should last you all day. For example, the Galaxy Note 9’s 4,000 mAh battery endured for more than 11 hours on our web surfing battery test. So we’re hoping that the Mate 20 Pro lasts even longer.
Even better, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a 40-watt Super Charger that promises to get this phone to 70 percent charge in just 30 minutes. Most Android flagships get to 50 percent in 30 minutes with their quick chargers.
But the coolest battery feature by far is Reverse Charging. While the Mate 10 let you chare other phones via USB, the glass back of the Mate 20 Pro essentially doubles as a Qi charger. So you place another handset on top of this phone’s rear, as I did with the iPhone X, and it will start to juice up. That’s clever.
Cameras: A thinking triple threat
The triple-lens Huawei P20 Pro proved to be one of the best camera phones of the year based on our shootout with the iPhone X and Pixel 2. And the Mate 20 Pro ups the ante with another three cameras and smarter AI features.The Mate 20 Pro retains the 40-megapxiel wide-angle camera and 8-MP telephoto lens of the P20 Pro that offers a 3x optical zoom, but it trades the 20-MP monochrome sensor on the older model for an ultra-wide angle 20.2-MP lens. Based on my hands-on time, this was a smart choice, as I could easily zoom out by sliding my finger on the screen to squeeze more of the scene into the frame. In fact, in some cases the Mate 20 Pro will decide on its own to switch to the ultra wide-angle lens.
Like other camera phones, the Mate 20 Pro’s AI can recognize scenes automatically and adjust camera settings to get the best shot, but Huawei has increased the number of scenes to 1,500. Other welcome AI feature is 4D predict focus for automatically keeping a lock on moving subjects as you’re shooting, which I have not been able to test.
The video recorder also gets in on the artificial intelligence action with AI Cinema modes. So, for example, you can put your subject in color while the rest of the background is in black and white.
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The feature worked fairly well in my early testing, which I tried while shooting my colleague Caitlin. However, you’ll want to make sure there’s a fair amount of ambient light, as the effects aren’t as compelling when there’s any grain or noise in the image.
Facial recognition and in-screen fingerprint sensing
It won’t be long until most Android flagships let you unlock your phone by simply pressing your finger on a marked area on the lower half of the screen. Huawei’s implementation worked well in my brief testing; the dynamic pressure sensing system instantly recognized my digit after I registered it in settings.
Up front there’s also a 3D depth sensing camera, complete with a 24-MP RGB camera, flood illuminator and IR camera that Huawei says unlocks the phone 30 percent faster than its previous models with this feature. The Mate 20 Pro supports mobile payment solutions using facial recognition, with full support for Alipay, WeChat Pay, and Huawei Pay. However, the payment functionality is only available in China.
Whichever unlocking method you choose, you’ll be able to tie your fingerprint or face to a password vault for auto-filling passwords. We’ll have to see how well both unlock methods stack up in our testing.
Kirin 980 power: 7-nanometer hits Android
Apple was first to deliver a 7-nanometer processor in a phone with the A12 Bionic chip in the iPhone XS and XS Max, but Huawei looks to even the score with its own Kirin 980 CPU. The company says this chip offers a 20 percent speed improvement over the Kirin 970 in the Huawei P20 Pro, along with 40 percent better power efficiency.
The Kirin 980 packs 4 little cores, 2 medium cores and 2 large cores for a total of 8, and the GPU performance is supposedly 45 percent faster.
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Huawei is also playing up its dual neural processing units (NPUs), the first of which can handle tasks like recognizing objects and the second of which can do things like render video in real time and handle natural language processing.
The company is throwing a lot of numbers at us, so we’ll have to see how well the Mate 20 Pro performs in synthetic benchmarks and our real-world tests.
EMUI 9.0: Simplified (somewhat)
Huawei says it has been listening to customer and reviewer feedback, and the new EMUI 9.0 interface is definitely streamlined on the Mate 20 Pro. For example, the number of settings items has been reduced by 10 percent, although the total number is still quite large at 843. Still, Huawei deserves some credit for trying to hide some of the complexity in its software and consolidate similar items.
The company also claims that it has sped up performance in terms of gesturing navigation and tasks like opening apps,. A new GPU Turbo 2.0 feature promises to deliver better stability and higher power efficiency when playing games.
For those looking to use their phones as a PC, Huawei wants to one-up the Galaxy Note 9 with a feature called Wireless PC Projection. You’ll be able to get a desktop-like experience on a larger monitor without cables, so long as the monitor or TV itself supports wireless via Miracast. (Huawei will also be selling a dongle.)
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Last but not least, Huawei is jumping on the digital wellbeing bandwagon that Google and Apple are already driving with a Digital Balance dashboard that tracks device usage metrics and allows you to set usage quotas for apps. And there’s Wind Down for helping you relax before you nod off.
My issue with EMUI is really one of aesthetics. The icons and overall presentation just doesn’t feel as streamlined or as clean as Google’s take on Android Pie in the latest Pixels, despite the reduced clutter in Huawei’s interface.
Huawei recently surpassed Apple in smartphone sales worldwide for a reason. The Chinese company is simply innovating faster than most of its competition. And Mate 20 Pro is chock-full of meaningful innovations, from a third ultra-wide angle camera to the ability to juice other phones wirelessly via Reverse Charge.
There’s also some gimmicks here, too, such as AI Cinema effects for video, and it very much feels like Huawei is in an arms race with Apple when it comes to its 7-nanometer chip (we have more cores!) without a clear endgame. The EMUI 9.0 software looks improved, even though it’s anything but pure Android.
Based on my early impressions, the Mate 20 Pro looks like one of the best premium phones of the year, with a sleek design that outshines the Note 9 and Pixel 3 and a camera that should go toe to toe if not surpass Apple’s and Google’s. The big question is where Huawei will decide to sell this phone, as the P20 Pro one of the best phones you couldn’t buy in the U.S. We look forward to seeing how well the Mate 20’s performance lives up to its exciting promise.