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Huawei ups the smartphone ante

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Last week Huawei released its P20 series of smartphones in South Africa, setting high expectations in the local market. SEAN BACHER was there.

When Huawei announced the availability of its latest smartphones, the P20 and the P20 Pro, in South Africa this week, it also set high expectations for increased market share.

“Even though we don’t quite have the market share we would like, we are slowly increasing it due to our superior quality and service at a more reasonable price,” says Akhram Mohamed, product director at Huawei South Africa.

He said that innovation in the smartphone market is starting to stagnate, and Huawei needed to push the boundaries.

“All modern phones have front and rear cameras and use the same operating system with the manufacturer’s skin plastered on it, with a few widgets and proprietary apps to set them apart.

“It’s for this reason that so much research and development went into the P20 series. The P20 uses a Leica dual camera with a 12MP sensor and a 20MP monochrome one. The P20 Pro uses a triple camera — with the highest total pixel count on a smartphone to date. It uses a 40MP RGB sensor, a 20MP monochrome sensor and an 8MP sensor with telephoto lens offering the best picture quality during the day and night.”

Due to the P20 series having great cameras and being more powerful because of  the Kirin 970 CPU, and running Google’s 8.1 operating system, the latest Huawei devices have been among the few selected by Google to use Google ARCore.

ARCore enables developers to build apps that can understand a user’s environment and place objects and information in it using augmented reality. This needs a lot more processing power than most current phones can offer.

Mohamed says the ARCore combined with the Kirin 970 CPU the P20 series will be able to help in the education sector. For example, many kids in South Africa have never seen a European city but, with the P20 series using Google ARCore and virtual reality, the phone is able to bring the city to them, allowing them to roam the virtual streets.

In addition, the cameras and high speed offered by the CPU will allow the visually impaired to take photos of an object and get an audio description of what that object is.

Users can also take pictures of stars and planets and get information like name and orbit. While this is currently available with numerous apps on the Google Play Store, most of these deliver the information slowly due to the lack of processing power.

In addition to the P20’s superior cameras and speed, Mohamed also believes the phone’s ability to multitask will be a big attraction to many.

“So many users carry two phones around with them – one for business and one for leisure. Our latest devices can be both a professional device, thanks to speed and security, and a leisure one, offered by the advanced camera features and 128GB of on-board storage.”

Both phones are currently available at all major cellular retail outlets. The Huawei P20 series comes in Black, Midnight Blue and two new gradient colours, Twilight and Pink Gold.

The P20 sells for R13 000 and the P20 Pro for R16 000.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Huawei Mate 20 Pro matches camera benchmark record

A benchmark by DxOMark sees the triple-cam handset tie with the P20 Pro for best smartphone camera on the market.

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The Huawei Mate 20 Pro has come out top in a camera benchmark test that assesses all aspects of smartphone camera performance.

DxOMark, which conducts rigorous hardware testing and is trusted as an industry standard for image quality measurements, has just released the results of its in-depth analysis of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone camera. 

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro is the Chinese manufacturer’s latest top-end device. Building on the P20 Pro’s camera technology, the Mate 20 Pro comes with a Leica-branded triple-camera setup, but swaps its stable-mate’s monochrome camera for a super-wide-angle module, offering a 35mm-equivalent focal length range from 16 to 80mm—the widest of all current smartphone cameras.

The handset is in direct competition with the Apple iPhone XS Max, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, among other. How does it fare?

“With a total photo score of 114, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro ties the record-setting score of its cousin, the P20 Pro,” says DxOMark. “The overall Photo score is calculated from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.”

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro achieves a photo score of 114 points. In stills mode, the Mate 20 Pro’s triple camera captures images with good target exposure and a wide dynamic range, recording both good highlight and shadow detail even in difficult high-contrast situations. Noise levels are well under control down to low light levels, and the camera’s white balance system and colour rendering settings produce a pleasant colour response in almost all circumstances.

At 97 points, the Mate 20 Pro is very close to the best for video as well, thanks to a fast and smooth autofocus system with good tracking performance, accurate white balance as well as pleasant colour rendering, and low levels of noise, especially in bright shooting conditions. Our testers also liked the exposure system’s ability to adapt quickly and smoothly to changes in illumination.

It was not all good news. DxOMark also had some criticism for the device.

Click here to read about the drawbacks of the Mate 20 Pro camera, and other positives.

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SA car wins
Dakar Rally

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The final stage of Dakar 2019 drew to a close at the bivouac in Pisco, Peru, and saw Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel bring home their South African-built Toyota Hilux for an historic victory. Not only was it a first win for Toyota, but it was also the first petrol-powered car to win the Dakar in the South-American era.

The Qatari driver ensured his French navigator, who turned 43 years old on Thursday, 17 January, received a great birthday present, when the pair arrived at the final time control of Dakar 2019 with teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz in close formation. The two Toyota Hilux crews completed the entire stage together, as De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz waited nearly 55 minutes for the leaders to start the stage, in order to shadow them to the finish.

The emotions bubbled over for Team Principal Glyn Hall, who found himself without words as his two crews drove into the media area after the time control. “This victory was long overdue,” he finally managed, before being swamped in a sea of well-wishers.

The winning driver, however, was much more vocal: “We are so happy to win the Dakar – not only for ourselves, but also for Toyota and the entire Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team. Everyone has worked so hard for so long, and really deserve this. Thank you for letting us drive this car.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing SA led Dakar 2019 from the first to the last stage, with Al Attiyah/Baumel drawing first blood, before handing the mantle to De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz during stage 2. But then a disastrous Stage 3 saw the Qatari retake the lead – a lead he didn’t relinquish despite some of the toughest stages yet seen on any South-American Dakar.

“When we first heard that the rally was going to take place only in one country, we were skeptical,” said Hall after regaining composure. “But the organisers made sure that this year’s race will long be remembered as one of the toughest tests in the last decade.”

Al Attiyah / Baumel’s victory at Dakar 2019 means that Toyota Gazoo Racing has now won both of the world’s toughest automotive races – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the DakarRally.

Click here to read Glyn Hall’s comment on winning the Dakar Rally, as well as the rankings.

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