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Huawei Mate50 Pro unboxed

The new Mate50 Pro was launched in South Africa last night. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK gets to grips with an “aesthetic delight”.

The Huawei Mate 50 Pro is the phone that Huawei hopes will finally convince people that Huawei mobile services competes with any mobile ecosystem in the world. It has produced both a regular glass back version in silver or black, and a “vegan leather” edition with a distinctive orange back. We had a first look at this version after its South African launch.

From the front, it’s a regular smartphone but, at the back, you have this incredible look and feel. They call this vegan leather and it feels almost like leather; and like no other a phone on the market.

And it looks like no other smartphone on the market. Even the camera array looks different. The selection of four main lenses and several sensors is positioned in a “Space Ring”, which creates a feeling of symmetry. As a result, the aesthetic values of this phone already set it apart.

The box includes a 66 Watt charging brick, which allows for superfast charging of the phone. It’s very rare these days for a brick to come with the phone. Most manufacturers speak the language of sustainability: they want to limit the amount of ewaste that goes with their device. But of course, when you are introducing fast charging and a high wattage charger, you have to include it in the box, because it’s going to be so expensive for people to buy it separately. A compatible cable and a protective back cover makes what you get in the box already compelling.

Let’s first look at the 66 Watt wired, multi-channel, Huawei SuperCharge device. It allows you to charge this particular phone from zero to 100% in 41 minutes. If you don’t have quite that amount of time, you can still get it up to 80% in half an hour. If you need to give it a quick boost if your phone is died, and you need to rush out, then in five minutes, this charger will take it from zero to 20%.

It also supports 50 Watt wireless charging. Wireless has traditionally been the slowest way to charge a phone, but now it’s catching up to the wired version. The battery is rated at 4700 mAh, which is fairly standard in a high end smartphone, but that is high capacity and it should last the day and into the next day. If it doesn’t, the brick will help you out.

On the camera array, if you only look at the numbers, it doesn’t sound wildly impressive. The main lens is a 64 megapixel periscope telephoto lens, supported by a 50 megapixel wide angle lens and a 15 megapixel ultra wide lens,  with LED flash. It supports 4k video shooting and ,depending on the resolution of the video, up to 960 frames per second at 720p, which means you can shoot and then playback in ultra slow-mo and still get decent resolution.

If doesn’t sound very impressive, there is a deeply impressive technological advancement lurking in that camera array, and that is Ultra Aperture, or physically adjustable aperture. The 50MP lens can be shifted manually from f1.4 to f4.0, depending on the effect you want. That means the depth of field, and hence the bokeh or background blurring effect, becomes significantly enhanced as a feature.

We’ve seen adjustable aperture phones before. Other manufacturers have tried it and then dropped it because it wasn’t effective enough. Huawei has taking that technology from software-based adjustment to physical aperture being adjustable, and that really sets this phone apart.

For those who are looking for something that truly stands out, that physical adjustable aperture is something they’re not going to get on another device.

On the front you have a 13MP, f2.4 18mm ultra wide lens. That means you can fit so much more into selfies. The selfie camera also supports 4K video. The P50 Pro also reveals the extent to which the selfie camera is evolving into an array in its own right: it includes a 3D depth sensor for facial recognition, and an aperture of f2.4, helped along by Vivid HDR, a new video format.

The front sports a 6.74-inch display with a massive screen-to-body ratio of 91.3%. If you look closely, you can see that the display curves around the phone in order to take maximum advantage of available space.

It offers high definition at 1212 by 2616 pixels and that adds up to a 428 pixel per inch (ppi) density. The protection of that display also stands out: it uses something called Kunlun Glass from Huawei, which is their own standard, just as they’ve introduced their own standards into other aspects of the device.

All in all, the phone is an aesthetic delight.

  • We will run more in-depth reviews of the device and interviews about it once it is launched in South Africa, on 1 February.

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