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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Mate50 Pro stands out

The new flagship from Huawei has both a premium look and feel, and features to math, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It is not often once sees strategy in action when using a new device. Especially in a smartphone, the manufacturer’s underlying strategy is usually teased out in specifications and software adaptations.

The Huawei Mate50 Pro, however, is a dramatic example of strategy laid bare. In particular, an orange-backed edition using a material the company calls “vegan leather” stands out dramatically from the industry’s endless procession of large-display, curved candy bars. A “Space Ring” camera array design on the back provides a satisfying sense of symmetry.

But the aesthetics of the device represent a strategic starting point rather than a destination. From a hardware point of view, the phone also represents a major leap in thinking.

Here, there are two standouts that make the Mate50 Pro an early candidate for our phone of the year:

Charging functionality of the handset. The battery is fairly standard for a device with a 6.74-inch display – pretty much the display standard nowadays –, at 4700 mAh, but it is in the charging that it sets itself apart. The “not-onlys” abound: not only does it support 66W fast-charging, but the fast-charger comes with the phone, unlike other major manufacturers that leave the charging brick out altogether; not only does it support fast-charging, but it also supports fast wireless charging – at no less than 50W wireless, comparable to most brands wired fast chargers. And then finally, it supports slow reverse wireless charging, meaning one can charge another device that uses wireless charging by placing it on the back of this one,

Physically adjustable camera aperture. For some years we have seen smartphones that allow the aperture of lenses – which controls how much light they let in – via software adjustments. Now, for the first time, Huawei has built mechanically adjustable aperture control into a phone. Ultra Aperture allows for no less than ten aperture settings, from f2.4 to an excellent f1.4. This brings phone camera control yet closer to professional camera functionality.

The one issue that still keeps enthusiastic former Huawei users from returning to the brand, the absence of Google Mobile Services, is also largely resolved. Not because the USA has had a change of heart about banning Google from supplying Android to Huawei, but because Huawei has finally found a workaround that enders the ban meaningless.

The Huawei App Gallery now includes Gbox and Gplay, apps which allow one to download Google apps as if they are coming from the Google Play Store. The install process requires a couple of extra permissions but, once activated, the apps feel as if they are native to the device. In particular, Google Maps functioned as seamlessly as it does on an Android device.

The Mate50 Pro is also differentiated by the use of a new kind of glass created for Huawei: “Kunlun Glass”, which claims drop resistance 10 times better than the current high-end Gorilla Glass used by rivals. Huawei says it “consists of 10 quadrillion-level nanocrystals, the result of composite ion strengthening”. While we may not know what that means, we do know it was verified by the first “five-star glass drop resistance certification” from Switzerland’s SGS. This makes the HUAWEI Mate50 Pro models the first smartphone to ever achieve this certification.

Finally, the handset is certified as IP68-rated water resistance, but foes a step further than the usual 1 or 3 metres for half an hour: it should withstand 30 minutes at up to 6 metres underwater.

The FullView Display has a screen resolution of 2616 x 1212 pixels and a refresh rate of 120Hz and 1440Hz PWM dimming, both reducing flickering to relieve eye fatigue, and supporting fast mobile gaming. That makes a handy combination for the active gamer.

 What does it cost?

Model with 256GB internal storage in black or silver: R24,999.

Orange version with 512GB: R26,999.

Why does it matter?

Huawei is the second biggest smartphone brand in South Africa, but its position was under threat due to being on the backfoot following the US ban on its use of Google services. It has come back so strong. It is once again in a powerful position to challenge for local market leadership.

What are the biggest negatives?

·      The 512 GB storage option is only available in the orange “vegan leather” option, which may be too bright for some users.

·      It is expensive for a brand that is still regaining its foothold in the market.

·      Gbox and Gplay are still workarounds, that don’t allow seamless download of Google apps.

What are the biggest positives?

·      10-scale physical aperture control.

·      Wired fast-charger in box, and extremely high-speed wireless charging.

·      The toughest glass display on the market.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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