- Chinese tech firm Huawei has been blacklisted in the US.
- Before the ban, I got some hands-on time with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone.
- It’s a great mobile device, and the US market is worse off without it.
- The Mate 20 Pro has a beautiful design, an excellent display, and great performance.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Huawei’s presence in the US has always been tenuous. But now, it’s facing a ban that has already had ripple effects for the Chinese tech firm.
Following an executive order from President Donald Trump that effectively banned the sale of Huawei telecoms equipment in the US, Google has severed ties with the company, Reuters reported on Sunday.
That means that Huawei devices will no longer receive Android updates, and new Huawei devices will not have access to key Google services like the Play Store and Gmail.
It’s a blow to Huawei, a company that sells more phones than Apple but has never truly made headway in the US market, largely due to fears that Huawei devices contain backdoors that allow the Chinese government to snoop on customers.
I had some quality time with a Huawei phone back in February — the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. It’s the latest in the company’s lineup, and it’s pretty clear why so many people around the world like Huawei smartphones — at least at the high end of the scale.
It’s a beautiful device that pleases in many areas, and the US smartphone market is worse off without it. As is the case with every smartphone that’s ever been released, however, the Mate 20 Pro is not perfect.
Check out the Huawei Mate 20 Pro:
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Anyone looking for a premium Android smartphone won’t be disappointed with the Mate 20 Pro.
The Mate 20 Pro handily delivers in the design department, and I’d especially like to point out the red power button that contrasts against my review unit’s blue color. That tiny little red accent helps set the Mate 20 Pro apart from single-color phones with similar designs, like the Galaxy S9. Then again, that red button will probably be covered up by a case, should you elect to use one.
And use a case you should: The Mate 20 Pro is one slippery device, and a case would make it easier to handle, not to mention protected from falls.
My blue review unit has the slightest texture on the back that breaks up the smooth glass look and feel, which helps a little bit with hiding finger smudges.
There’s no sign of a fingerprint scanner (more on that later), but the unusual triple-lens camera in a square enclosure looks great.
The Mate 20 Pro uses similar facial recognition technology as Apple’s Face ID, which means it needs a notch that’s too big for my taste.
After using the OnePlus 6T and getting used to its water-drop notch, I can safely say the notch on the Mate 20 Pro is too big. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s too big for my personal taste. It takes up so much room that barely any notifications can fit in the Android notification bar.
The Mate 20 Pro’s 3D facial recognition system is the reason behind the large notch. It’s similar to Apple’s Face ID system, but I’ve had much better speed and accuracy with Huawei’s system compared to Apple’s.
3D facial recognition systems are supposedly more secure than simpler facial recognition systems from phones like the OnePlus 6T, which use just the selfie camera to recognize your face. With that said, the OnePlus 6T’s system works amazingly well, and I’d gladly swap a large notch that includes 3D facial recognition for a potentially less secure system and a smaller notch.
The Mate 20 Pro’s in-display fingerprint sensor works very well, too.
After using the Mate 20 Pro, I’d say that in-display fingerprint sensor technology is about ready for the mainstream. It’s now as good as physical fingerprint sensors.
Still, I found that the 3D facial recognition was a little faster, so I used that more than the fingerprint sensor. That’s a testament to the speed of Huawei’s 3D facial recognition.
The phone’s party trick is its ability to charge other phones wirelessly, but I failed to find a time when I needed this feature.
The Mate 20 Pro has a massive 4,200mAh battery, which is among the biggest batteries you can find on a smartphone. As a result, the phone has one of the best battery lives I’ve seen. (Unfortunately for Huawei, though, I’ve become a little jaded with battery life after using the OnePlus 6T, which also has an incredibly long-lasting battery life.)
To its credit, Huawei is offering a little extra feature to go along with the Mate 20 Pro’s absurdly large battery: You can charge other phones that support wireless charging with the Mate 20 Pro by placing each phone back-to-back. It actually works, but the charging speed is pretty slow, and you need to go into the settings and enable the feature manually every time you want to use it, which isn’t as seamless as I would have hoped.
During my admittedly short testing time with the Mate 20 Pro, I never really found a time or a need for the phone’s reverse wireless charging. Perhaps if I spent more time with the phone, a friend in need would lament about their phone with low battery, and I could swoop in with the solution and impress everyone with my portable powerhouse Mate 20 Pro.
I wouldn’t necessarily say the Mate 20 Pro’s reverse wireless charging is a reason to buy the phone, but it’s a nice little feature to have.
The Mate 20 Pro runs on a different processor than most high-end Android phones, and it’s just as fast.
Most high-end Android devices run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, but the Mate 20 Pro runs on Huawei’s own Kirin 980 chip. Unless you’re a spec-watcher, you wouldn’t really know. I didn’t notice much difference in speed or performance between the Mate 20 Pro and phones that run Qualcomm chips.
You’ll get the option for 6 GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage, or 8 GB of RAM with 256 GB of storage. I’ve been using the 8 GB RAM model, and I have no complaints at all. Both the Kirin processor and the large amount of RAM seem to handle both my demanding daily usage and Huawei’s software layer, called EMUI.
Speaking of EMUI, it’s one of the few interface layers that I don’t mind. I typically prefer phones that run stock or near-stock Android, like the Pixel 3 or the OnePlus 6T, but Huawei’s EMUI isn’t bad.
But there’s a ton of bloatware, and you can’t get rid of some of it, which leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Bloatware — like a company’s own email, music, calendar, and any other duplicate apps — is bad, plain and simple.
When you first turn on the Mate 20 Pro, you’ll get Huawei’s own apps as well as Google’s, and I’ll always choose Google’s or my own over a phone maker’s own apps. What’s more offensive is the phone comes with Facebook, Ebay, and the Booking.com app pre-installed, which isn’t acceptable. Minus points there.
It wouldn’t be a problem if you had the option to delete or uninstall all these bloat apps, but you can’t. You can’t even hide most of them in the Android app drawer, either. I’ve had to create a junk folder on one of my home screens for all the bloat apps, which I haven’t had to do in years, as most phone makers seem to have understood that some people really don’t like bloatware.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does lower my perception of the phone a little bit.
I don’t see what all the fuss is about with Huawei’s smartphone cameras.
I’ve seen several headlines and tweets that rave about how good the cameras are on various Huawei smartphones, but I’m not seeing what the hubbub is about.
In fact, I’ve been avoiding the Mate 20 Pro to take photos, opting to use trusty smartphone cameras like the Pixel 3 or the OnePlus 6T. I’ve found that the Mate 20 Pro’s camera tends to auto-focus on the wrong thing, and I have to actively tap the screen to focus. Meanwhile, other phones seem to focus on what I want without intervention.
The camera on the Mate 20 Pro is good, but nothing out of the ordinary. The triple-lens camera system, however, is a great thing to have. You get the regular camera lens, a 3X zoomed lens, and a 0.6X ultra-wide-angle lens, which offers more versatility than most smartphone cameras that only give you a zoomed lens as an extra.
As a smartphone camera, I think the Mate 20 Pro’s could have been better was it not for its app. It’s full of features, settings, and options, which some might like, but I find it cluttered and over-complicated to use to get the right shot.
It’s unfortunate that Huawei didn’t give the Mate 20 Pro a second ultra-wide selfie lens, like you’d find on the Pixel 3 and LG V40, as that’s one of the most meaningful camera developments as of late.
Overall, the Mate 20 Pro is a great phone if you typically buy high-end Android devices.
It’s no wonder Huawei is No. 2 after Samsung in the global smartphone market. The Mate 20 Pro shows that the company makes gorgeous devices with great performance and features.
The Mate 20 Pro costs $789 on Amazon as of the time of writing. That price tag is in line with a bunch of high-end Android devices with similar specs and features, but the Mate 20 Pro’s triple-lens camera system does add some value that most other Android smartphones don’t offer.
The device wouldn’t be my personal first pick for various reasons, however. Things like bloatware knock it down a few spots on my list, for example, especially when I’ve been using and actively prefer phones that don’t come with bloatware. Plus, I’m not the biggest fan of the Huawei camera app. But if those things don’t bother you, the Mate 20 Pro should be high on your own list.
For US smartphone users, the Mate 20 Pro works best with AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone can supposedly work with Verizon, but it shouldn’t be your first choice if you’re a Verizon customer.