I have to say, I’ve never felt the urge to take as many photos as I have before my time with the Huawei Mate 30 Pro – so much so that I may have subconsciously sought out more Instagrammable cafes than I normally would, just to whip out the camera.
There’s no denying that the Mate 30 Pro is a stunning piece of hardware.
The Horizon Display, which is 6.53in, is nearly bezelless and shows colours in crisp, vivid detail, and at merely 8.8mm thickness, the phone weighs next to nothing (198g) while still managing to pack a massive 4,500mAh battery.
Cameras to the fore
Huawei has also packed the device with high-end cameras that take gorgeous shots, as the Mate 30 Pro is meant to be a top-of-the-line flagship model and it shows.
We took a boatload of photos and to my (admittedly untrained) eyes the photos look almost as good as those from DSLRs.
The SuperSensing and Cine cameras on the back – each boasting 40 megapixels – capture beautiful ultra wide-angle shots, feature OIS (optical image stabilisation), and can handle both bright and low-light conditions, compensating for the overabundance or lack of light with aplomb.
The other two cameras in the quad- camera setup – an 8-megapixel telephoto camera that also has OIS, and a 3D depth-sensing camera – round up the phone’s camera firepower.
On the front there is a 32-megapixel camera that also has a 3D depth sensing camera for Bokeh effects in selfies.
In fact, you can have awesome Bokeh effects in not just photos but videos as well, and to top it off the phone also allows you to manually tweak all the camera settings, from apertures to ISO and shutter speed.
Those not satisfied with the normal settings can avail themselves of the camera’s Pro mode where they can drill down to even more specific settings.
If that’s not enough, the telephoto camera also comes with what Huawei claims is up to 45x zoom – that’s a combo of 3x optical and 30x digital – so you won’t miss a single detail.
The camera takes really beautiful shots, but videography is where it really stands out. It uses OIS to stabilise your videos so you’ll never end up with shaky clips.
Sports fans especially should find the Mate 30 Pro great for a live game – not only can you zoom in on the action in slow-mo mode, you’ll also be able to record and replay the action in ultra-slow motion.
It’s the closest thing to having your own VAR (video assistant referee) in your pocket.
Thanks to the front facing sensors in the screen’s notch, you can also perform neat AI-enabled party tricks like (slowly) waving your hand up or down at the screen to remotely scroll, and make a grabbing motion to take screenshots.
The phone can also track your eye movement to auto rotate the screen depending on your position, useful for watching videos while lying in bed.
The physical volume rocker has gone the way of the Dodo, as Huawei has replaced it with a virtual volume slider that appears when you double tap the top left or right side of the phone, ostensibly to accommodate both left- and right-handed users.
On paper it was a brilliantly inclusive idea, but in reality it takes a fair bit of practice to reliably make it appear, adding an unnecessary learning curve to what is really a basic function.
The 3.5mm jack is also gone, leaving users to rely on either Bluetooth headphones or the included Type-C earphones for their music listening needs.
Security-wise, the phone comes with both facial recognition and in-screen fingerprint sensor.
The interesting thing about the facial recognition feature is that when your phone is locked, the notifications will not be displayed in full to anyone other than you. Perhaps the most eye-catching feature is the Magazine layout, which displays a different (and dazzling) photo each time you wake up the phone.
Some might call it a gimmick but to me it lends the phone a fun element of surprise – plus it’s the one thing people seeing the phone for the first time never fail to comment on.
The Mate 30 Pro will be shipping with the open-source version of Android 10 and as such will not include Google Mobile Services (GMS).
Simply put, this means Google apps won’t come preloaded on the phone and users won’t have access to the Google Play Store.
Huawei is working to address this with its own store, the AppGallery, deploying a US$1bil (RM4.19bil) fund to attract more developers over to its own ecosystem.
It’s worth noting that at the time of writing the AppGallery has more than 45,000 apps, including The Star, dimsum, iflix, GSC, MyMaxis and MyDigi, to name but a few.
For apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp, you can download the installation files from sites that host a copy of the app, usually known as APK websites, a process that’s called sideloading.
We tried it successfully with WhatsApp and Spotify and can confirm that both the apps functioned normally, but Pokemon Go inexplicably refused to load.
The main risk, however, is that if you are not careful, you could install an app with malware so always visit a trusted APK website.
Or you can just get used to accessing the services on the Web instead of dedicated apps, and currently this is the only solution for some Google apps which won’t work even if you sideload them.
We can confirm that most of the Google services – Google Maps, YouTube and Waze – can be run from Huawei’s own pre-installed browser.
The Mate 30 Pro costs RM3,899, and if that’s beyond your budget, you could consider its sibling, the Mate 30, which packs fewer features but only costs RM2,799.
However, the Mate 30 Pro has the oomph to justify the higher price.
The high-end model should also appeal to those who dabble in high speed photography as the Mate 30 Pro can record videos in super slow-motion at up to 7,680fps (frames per second).
That’s enough to be able to see, for example, a hummingbird’s furiously flapping wings delineated in crystal clear clarity in slow motion.
The Mate 30 Pro comes in six colours but only Space Silver and Black are currently available for pre-order, which ends tomorrow.
MATE 30 PRO
Android 10 smartphone
OPERATING SYSTEM: Android 10
PROCESSOR: Kirin 990 (2x Cortex-A76 2.86GHz + 2x Cortex-A76 2.09GHz + 4x Cortex-A55 1.86GHz) CPU
MEMORY: 256GB storage, 8GB RAM, nano memory card (up to 256GB)
CAMERA: Quad rear cameras – 40-megapixel Cine camera, 40-megapixel SuperSensing camera, 8-megapixel telephoto camera, 3D depth sensing camera ; front – 32-megapixel camera, 3D depth sensing camera
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth, USB Type-C slot
OTHER FEATURES: Water and dust resistant (IP68); biometric security (facial recognition, in-screen fingerprint sensor), NFC
DISPLAY: 6.53in FHD+ (2,400 x 1,176 pixels)
DIMENSIONS (H x W x D): 158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8mm
Review unit courtesy of Huawei Technologies Malaysia, 1800-22-3366
PROS: Solid build quality; excellent cameras; brilliant screen.
CONS: No Play Store.