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Huawei Mate 30 Pro: Incredible quad-camera flagship with some compromises

Less than two weeks ago, Huawei had announced the latest Mate 30 series and as you would expect, it is their best flagship smartphone yet. But this time, the situation is very different. With the recent restrictions from the US, Huawei is currently in a very tough spot. Here are my first impressions of the Mate 30 Pro.

Before I talk about the whole software issue, let’s focus on the device itself, the Mate 30 Pro. Upfront it comes with a 6.53” Horizon Display which is basically a dual-curved screen that’s really stretched to its extreme limits. It uses a Flex OLED panel that’s curved at 88-degrees which some might call it a waterfall screen.

The screen looks pretty epic but it still comes with a notch. However, if you’re coming from the Mate 20 Pro, you probably won’t be happy to know that the resolution has dropped from Quad HD to Full HD. Nevertheless, the screen is still pretty awesome and you can’t really see the side bezels from the front. Also included is an in-display fingerprint sensor which unlocks pretty quickly.

Personally, I don’t mind the notch but I know some of you may think that it looks very 2017. And there’s a reason why the notch is there and it is to house additional sensors for better face unlock and there’s also a gesture sensor. Similar to the LG G8 ThinQ, you can do hand gestures but from my experience. It is pretty gimmicky. You need to place your hand around 20-40cm away from the notch and you can use it to take a screenshot or to scroll up and down. When I tried it, screenshot works pretty well but the scrolling thing, it just doesn’t work for me. You might as well just use your fingers to scroll through the pages.

Another new feature is its touch-sensitive side panel. So the Mate 30 Pro doesn’t come with a traditional volume rocker and if you want to adjust the volume, you can double-tap on the edge and start scrolling up or down. The good thing is that you can use this on either side, but it can be a hit and miss. Imagine launching a game by accident with the speakers blasting at full volume and you want to mute the device as quickly as possible.

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But I think the biggest issue here is that you can’t get a screenshot the old fashion way anymore. You can no longer use the volume down and power button combo. The only way to take a screenshot is by doing the hand gesture, or use the shortcut from the notification toggle bar.

Overall, I think the removal of the volume rocker was unnecessary because there’s still a power button. I mean, they could just keep it and place it right above the power button but they didn’t. But I must say that the touch feature is definitely more effortless than the HTC U12+ that requires more pressure. Apart from adjusting the volume, the touch-enabled edge can also work as air triggers for selected games and it also works as a remote camera shutter button. However, when we try it, it only works for selfies but not when you’re using the rear camera. Hopefully, Huawei can add the remote shutter feature for the main camera via an OTA update.

Another thing that I feel is pointless is the embedded earpiece speaker. Like the P30 Pro, there’s no longer an earpiece at the top and that also means there are no stereo speakers which I think is unacceptable for a flagship in 2019. I mean, there’s a huge notch up there, so why not just put an earpiece that can enable stereo sound? Even the Galaxy Note 10 with a punch-hole display still has a stereo sound thanks to an extra speaker at the top.

Of course, the biggest highlight is its new quad-camera setup. This time it has two 40MP shooters with rather large sensors for the main and ultra-wide-angle shooter. This is the first time we’re getting an ultra-wide-camera on a smartphone that uses a 40MP sensor. The device can shoot 4K videos at 60fps and the stabilisation looks significantly improved compared to other Huawei flagship devices. It can also take 7680fps slow-mo which is very impressive. You can check out the sample below:

In our short time of the device, the camera was excellent and that’s what you expect from a Huawei flagship smartphone. It was snappy and it works great. However, I’m not a fan of the camera interface. Usually, if you want to zoom in or out, you can just tap on the middle, to move to the next stop. But on the Mate 30, you’ll need to tap at the exact spot on the scroll bar which isn’t that convenient. And worse of all, the scroller for zoom and ultra-wide-angle is still placed on the side of the UI, which is quite hard to reach if you’re using the device with a single hand.

When it comes to zoom, it settles for an 8MP telephoto camera with 3X optical zoom. It’s basically similar to the Mate 20 Pro and you don’t get the epic periscope 5X optical zoom hardware from the P30 Pro. Lastly, there’s also a 3D ToF camera which provides more depth information for portrait photos and video. The device still retains the epic Moon Mode and you can find the sample in our gallery below.

I like how Huawei has upgraded the battery to a 4,500mAh unit and you could probably use this up to 2 days without needing to charge in between. Wired charging is still the same at 40W but wireless charging has been upgraded to 27W which is faster. Huawei says they have improved its reverse wireless charging speed up to 3X but I have yet to try it out.

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Up to this point, I can summarise that the Mate 30 Pro is an impressive device but there’s a couple of sacrifices that I don’t like. The screen resolution is lower, there are no more stereo speakers and I think the removal of the volume rocker isn’t a great idea. However, I do like how the horizon display looks and how the rear design stands out with its unique camera ring. In one glance and you’ll definitely know for sure that this is a Mate 30 series. As expected, you’re getting the latest Kirin 990 processor with better AI performance and it also retains an IP68 dust and water resistance.

But is this a phone that you should consider? Well, it all depends on the individual. The reason why I say this is because the Mate 30 will be Huawei’s first global smartphone to ship without Google services. During the global event in Munich, all devices on display were China sets which are running on EMUI 10 that’s based on Android 10. Yes, it is still Android but without your Gmail, YouTube, and even Play Store.

If you want to use apps, you have to go through Huawei’s AppGallery. For the past year, Huawei has worked very hard to get more developers onboard and most popular apps are already listed for the Malaysian AppGallery. There’s Grab, Boost, TouchnGO, Facebook, WhatsApp, and even Instagram. However, there’s no YouTube, Microsoft Word, Excel, or even our local online banking apps like Maybank and CIMB clicks are still not available.

I’m pretty sure there’s a way to work around this but this will require some technical know-how. And I believe Huawei dealers will be able to assist you with that. But do note these are 3rd party workarounds and they are not endorsed by Huawei. It will probably work but it isn’t an elegant solution.

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If you’re a die-hard Huawei fan that’s feeling adventurous, well go ahead. But I can’t recommend this to a normal guy on the streets. I believe most of you would want a phone, that you can unbox, log in with your Google account and start using all of your favourite apps with no issues. This is something I can’t really 100% guarantee for the Mate 30 Pro.

The device will be going on sale in Malaysia very soon and until then, anything can happen. Who knows the US might ease its restriction on China or perhaps, Google will find a different way to provide official support for the Mate 30 series. It’s unfortunate, that Huawei which is on its way of becoming the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer to be caught in the middle of a trade war between the US and China.

If you’re looking for the best Huawei device with full Google support, your best option right now is probably the Huawei P30 Pro and that definitely will run on Android 10 with all Google apps and services included.

Are you still planning to get the Mate 30 Pro? Let us know in the comments below.

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Alexander Wong