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Huawei Mate 30 Pro Review: Hands-on

Huawei Mate 30 Pro Review: Hands-on

Chinese tech giant, Huawei, has just unveiled its latest powerhouse; complete with top-tier internals, a quad camera and an intriguing design with a new ‘Horizon’ display, but without Google Play Services onboard is there a place for the Huawei Mate 30 Pro among its competitors outside of China? Price & Availability Arguably the biggest question mark hanging

Chinese tech giant, Huawei, has just unveiled its latest powerhouse; complete with top-tier internals, a quad camera and an intriguing design with a new ‘Horizon’ display, but without Google Play Services onboard is there a place for the Huawei Mate 30 Pro among its competitors outside of China?

Price & Availability

Arguably the biggest question mark hanging over the launch of the Mate 30 Series was whether or not the phones would see release outside of China, at least until the company finds a way to circumvent the US court injunction currently hanging over it.

With the imposition still in place and Google Play Services decidedly absent from the phones’ Android 10-based user experiences, company CEO – Richard Yu kept schtum on stage about when exactly we could expect to see a Mate 30 Series phone om store shelves, despite the Huawei Watch GT 2 and Freebuds 3, which launched alongside them being slated for an October 2019 release.

The company has stated that a rollout is in place, starting in Asia-Pacific markets next month and appearing in select European markets afterwards.

Despite all this ambiguity, Yu did still produce European pricing for the new devices during the launch, with the standard Mate 30 Pro (featuring 8GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage) coming in at a substantial €1099 (approximately £793), the 5G variant of the phone, with the same storage and memory, asking a further €100 of your wallet at €1199 (approximately £1062) and the special Porsche Design edition Huawei Mate 30 RS, with its 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage costing an eye-watering €2095 (approximately £1855).

What’s that on the horizon?

The phone itself is the characteristically premium blend of glass and metal but things are a little different compared to previous Huawei flagships.

The phone’s new 6.53-inch ‘Horizon’ OLED display consumes the front and sides of the Mate 30 Pro’s form with ‘side touch’ replacing its predecessors’ physical volume keys, letting you press or tap the angled edges of the display instead to manipulate various controls. You can also customise the position of whichever buttons you’re interacting with, like volume controls or a camera shutter key.

Based on initial experiences with the feature it can be a little hit-and-miss with where on the phone’s sides a double-tap is registered but when it does, the phone vibrates briefly before the desired controls appear.

The panel itself looks to be a pleasing entrant in Huawei’s ever-improving screens, although when viewed face-on there’s a strange fading effect that appears along the heavily curved edges of the display which is especially visible when on-screen content makes use of a white background – the rest of the time, however, it’ll likely go unnoticed

Despite those hard curves, gesture navigation through the new EMUI 10 user experience feels natural and comfortable, helped by the fact that Huawei has still managed to add a slight curve to the phone’s glass back too.

 

Despite packing one of the largest batteries ever in a Huawei phone (the Mate 20 X notwithstanding), the Mate 30 Pro doesn’t feel all that heavy for its size – a counter-intuitive effect that’s even more pronounced on the larger, lighter Mate 30.

Four eyes

While the ‘Halo Ring’ –  the circular etched glass surrounding the phone’s main camera module – is meant to evoke the stylings of a vintage Leica camera, the quad-sensor array on the back of the Mate 30 Pro looks like more like a Lomography Action Sampler in practice. It’s still an appealing phone in this regard but more down to the implied power of the imaging chops at play, rather than the design of the camera.

The sensor setup itself moves away from the P30 Pro’s ludicrous zoom capabilities and instead places the focus on improving the video experience it offers – one of the long-standing shortcomings of the camera experience on Huawei phones.

First impressions are good and once we’ve been able to properly test the enhanced AI-assisted video stabilisation, we’ll undoubtedly have more to say on whether the Mate 30 Pro’s camera setup truly addresses the challenge that it’s supposedly been purpose-built to overcome.

Still shooting holds a lot of promise too, with the phone’s dual 40MP sensors on-hand for most shots, juggling a primary 27mm lens with an f/1.6 aperture and OIS (optical image stabilisation) alongside an 18mm ultrawide-angle lens with an f/1.8 aperture.

To add even greater versatility to the arrangement, there’s an 8-megapixel 80mm telephoto sensor, again with OIS and a 3D depth-sensing module to help with edge detection and bokeh across both still and video – something Huawei was keen to shout about.

Hey Google, where are you?

The elephant in the room (or Messe, if you want to get technical) was discussion of the software running on the Mate 30 Series. Not until almost the very end of the phones’ unveiling did Yu showcase Emotion UI 10 (aka EMUI 10) atop Android 10.

Despite Android still being the underlying operating system powering these new smartphones, Google Play Services were wholly absent, meaning no YouYube, no Gmail, no Maps and no Play Store out the box. Huawei is hoping users will find most of the experiences that they’re after by way of the company’s own App Gallery app store but the experience is heavily influenced by China-specific trends at present and Google’s apps, understandably, don’t feature.

Attempts from the press to install the various Google-related APK files at the launch event were met with errors and an inability to open any of the side-loaded experiences, suggesting that, without a deeper technical understanding of these new devices and Android 10, eager Huawei fans might be out of luck if they’re looking to nestle Google’s apps alongside Huawei’s ahead of the US lifting its ban.

For what it is, EMUI 10 looks to offer some promising enhancements over previous iterations of the user experience, with a system-wide dark mode, a richer always-on display functionality and plenty more tweaks and additions under the hood.

Early verdict

Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro is unsurprisingly potent on paper and the new focus on video from the camera experience seems like a smart move, rather than simply building on the P30 Pro’s zoom capabilities. In almost every regard the phone has the potential to take on every other flagship smartphone of the moment, but with the company’s current predicament, it might not even get the chance.

Despite the company’s plans to bring the phone to markets across the globe, the absence of Google Play Services is more than just a few missing apps. Even with Richard Yu’s plans to incentivise developers to build for Huawei’s App Gallery, the Mate 30 Series remains a cursed product line and, as it stands, only Trump’s government has the power to break that curse.

Two great Huawei phones that are still worth considering are the Huawei P30 Pro and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, both of which retain those all-important Google Play Services for the time being. Check out our reviews of both to find out more.

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