Huawei Mate 20 Pro shows Android is challenging iOS through AI

17 Oct 2018

The new Mate 20 Pro. Image: Huawei

AI is the name of the game as new Android-powered machines push the innovation envelope.

Last week’s launch by Google of its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones and last night’s (16 October) launch by Huawei of its new flagship Mate 20 Pro indicate a rising sophistication among Android phone manufacturers.

The style isn’t just in the materials used to make attractive-looking devices, but also under the hood in terms of powerful new electronics and new dimensions of artificial intelligence (AI).

‘Consumers are holding on to their handsets longer and longer, so making sure they’re able to run effectively for their entire lifespan should be a key concern for manufacturers’

For example, Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL came with such refinements as the Snapdragon 845 processor, an amazing camera, 4GB of RAM front-facing stereo speakers and a new Titan M security chip.

The Huawei smartphones feature a powerful new Kirin 980 processor – claimed to be Huawei’s first 7nm devices – which will considerably step up the game against Apple’s new A12 chip in the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR devices.

Both devices house dual neural processing units and use AI to split the processing tasks of the device between them. It feels like a natural progression from the AI-powered Mate 10 revealed last year.

The devices are made all the more distinctive by a new style of three-camera cluster including a telephoto lens, wireless charging and a fingerprint scanner built directly into the screen.

Not only that, but the Mate 20 has a 6.53in full HD display and the Mate 20 Pro has a 6.39in OLED HDR display.

The need for speed

Speed is also the name of the game, with the Chinese electronics giant claiming that the new Mate 20 Pro will be able to launch apps 51pc faster and respond to taps 47pc faster, and it also comes with 3D face scanning.

As well as the electronics, the battery is a talking point, with a formidable 4,000mAH battery that is capable of managing 11.21 hours of heavy use. A neat feature is the ability for people to use the Mate 20 Pro as a wireless charger for other wireless charging smartphones by simply holding their device against the back of the Mate 20 Pro to charge up.

Clever AI processing enables the camera to pick out human subjects in a frame and desaturate the colours around them to make them stand out.

Both devices come with a whopping 128GB of storage that can be expanded even further by a memory card.

Huawei also launched a new wearable device, the Huawei Watch GT, which boasts a battery that will last up to two weeks. It includes health and fitness tracking and a sleep quality monitor.

Could Huawei be number one next year?

The new Huawei Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro alongside Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL reveal last week indicate a prowess at electronics that should keep Apple on its toes, but also the world’s number-one smartphone vendor, Samsung.

In the past year, Huawei has seen itself propelled into the number-two place in the smartphone ranks after shipping 54m handsets in the second quarter, overtaking Apple’s 41m units, and not far behind Samsung’s 71m units.

At this pace, Huawei could be in a position to challenge if not overtake Samsung within a year.

People want to protect their investment in phones

Dominic Sunnebo, global director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said that the Mate 20 series is strong evidence of the huge investments Huawei makes in R&D. “It’s a well-timed launch, too – consumers think that innovation in smartphones is slowing, so any advancements in technology can help a handset stand out from the crowd.”

Sunnebo said that AI is the name of the game here. “The camera can identify the human form and the device can process and recognise 4,500 images a minute – coupled with another Leica lens, it should become a top choice for smartphone photographers. And, while not quite the first manufacturer to integrate a fingerprint sensor into the display, Huawei should be applauded for this engineering feat. It will also remove a minor irritation for those consumers who regularly mistake back-camera lenses for sensors.

“The homegrown Kirin 980 which powers the Mate 20 Pro is the world’s first AI 7nm chipset and figures suggest this will translate into a 20pc improvement in speed. Consumers are holding on to their handsets longer and longer, so making sure they’re able to run effectively for their entire lifespan should be a key concern for manufacturers.”

Pricing and availability

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is available in Ireland on pre-order with Harvey Norman SIM-free (dual SIM variant) for €1,049 with a free Huawei Watch GT and wireless charging dock worth €249.

The device will launch with Vodafone on 8 November at a pre-pay price of €899.99 and for €199 on bill pay with the free charging dock and Watch GT.

It will also launch at Carphone Warehouse on 8 November at €1,049 with the free Watch GT and wireless charging dock.

Pricing from Three has yet to be confirmed but it will also offer the watch and charging dock for free with the device.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years