Huawei pulls out all the stops

Huawei launched the much-hyped Mate 20 Pro in South Africa this week, a week after the global launch in London.

The new handset builds on the success of the camera found on the P20 Pro, hailed as the best smartphone of 2018, and introduces wireless charging, a first for the company.

The Chinese smartphone manufacturer announced three handsets: the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro and the Mate 20 X devices, however, only the Pro model will go on sale locally.

The new 6.4-inch flagship features a curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display with a notch; a new triple lens Leica camera with super-wide angle; a massive battery that supports wireless charging; and an updated on-screen fingerprint sensor.

The company is betting on the 24-megapixel revamped camera with a trio of lenses: a 40MP wide angle; a 20MP ultra-wide angle, and an 8MP telephoto. Super HDR, similar to what we’ve seen on the iPhone Xs, is meant to deliver the perfect shot that is not under- or over-exposed by taking 10 photos instantaneously and fusing the best ones together.

READ MORE: Apple acolytes and fans of excess will access its Xs soon

Using the AI features on its new 7-nanometer Kirin 980 chip, the camera is able to actively track a subject in real-time through object recognition and can separate it from the background. The result is the ability to shoot videos in black and white, but only keep the person in the shot in colour.

The new 20MP ultra-wide angle lens allows for close-up shots, like shooting on macro mode at least 2.5cm from the subject; other smartphones typically do this from at least 8cm away, like the Galaxy Note 9 and iPhone Xs Max.

The front-facing 24MP camera setup is similar to what we’ve seen on the iPhone X, with an infrared dot projector that scans 30 000 zones on your face – even in dimly lit conditions for facial unlocking and 3D Live Emoji, its answer to Apple’s Animoji. However, it goes a step further and uses Google’s AR Core technology to scan real-world objects in 3D, like a stuffed animal to bring it to life in a mixed reality environment, with supported actions such as walking, jumping, running, Kung Fu, etc. Photos and videos can be created with the AR models next to humans and shared on social networks.

The Mate 20 Pro has a whopping 4200mAh battery that is capable of delivering 70% power from a thirty-minute charge, as standard, on its fast ‘supercharger’. Huawei has also finally introduced wireless charging, alongside a world first – wireless reverse charging. This allows another device on the Qi wireless standard, such as an iPhone or Samsung device to be charged directly on the Mate 20 Pro, when placed over it.

On the software front, Huawei’s own user interface overlay, EMUI 9, along with Android 9 brings gestures to the Mate 20 Pro as the home button has been eliminated. It also offers privacy features such as app lock, app twin, private space, and file safe.

App Lock lets a user lock all apps, which can only be accessed with a password or biometrics; App Twin can clone apps like Whatsapp or Facebook for more than one account; and private space allows for quick switching between different user profiles. 

Sensitive files are protected and encrypted with file safe. Most of these features are supported with biometrics like facial unlocking or the on-screen fingerprint sensor, first introduced on the exclusive Porsche Design Mate RS.

While the AI on the Kirin 980 chipset is capable of scanning 4500 images a minute, sharing speeds have been improved to copy up to 1000 photos in two minutes when connected to a PC. Facial unlocking takes a mere 0.6 seconds.

Alongside the Mate 20 Pro, Huawei also announced a new wearable, the Watch GT. It runs on Huawei’s own Lite OS and not Android Wear OS, thus there’s no app store or games for it.

It supports smartphone notifications, fitness and sleep tracking, a heart-rate monitor, GPS, and an extended battery life. The company claims it can last up to two weeks when paired to a smartphone with up to 90 minutes of fitness tracking, but once GPS is used, it varies according to the individual habits. Average use could yield up to a full week, a huge improvement over existing smartwatches today. For those running marathons, it is capable of GPS tracking the entire race, up to 22 hours on a single charge.

The Mate 20 Pro is priced at R18 999 on prepaid, and from R699/pm on contract. It is currently available on pre-order and will come bundled with the Watch GT, valued at R5 499. It goes on sale on November 1, with both single-SIM and dual-SIM variants available locally – network dependent – in either black or twilight.

The Chinese smartphone giant overtook Apple to become the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world in the second quarter of 2018, which is quite a feat considering it has no official presence in the US market.

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Nafisa Akabor
Nafisa Akabor

Nafisa Akabor is a freelance technology journalist.

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