7 December 2018
Previous devices: 1. Moto Z Play - had been using for 2 years, but the phone app was giving some problems. Had wanted to try iOS to understand differences with Android, so ended up buying 2. iPhone SE some 3 month back, which I was quite satisfied with except it being single SIM, and small screen (which has its advantages also especially for handling and navigating) and poor resolution (not a good experience for viewing pictures or editing them using the Lightroom app). Hence, was in no hurry to buy a phone, but was sort of missing a good quality 'proper' phone.
I was following all the new releases, and my main prerequisites were: 1. Good quality camera, 2. Good battery life, 3. OLED screen, 4. Responsive phone and UI. Some of the considerations in no particular order were: 1. iPhone XS / XS Max: quite expensive, found the stock keyboard without glide / swipe feature very limiting. 2. Google Pixel 3 XL: uncertain about battery life, and some of the YouTube reviewers had demonstrated that 4 GB RAM proved somewhat insufficient. Also, Mate 20 Pro's camera's image quality seemed at par or better / marginally worse than Pixel's in most reviews I came across. 3. Note 9 / Galaxy S9+: Samsung UI is a big no-no; phone seems to get very slow after few months (wife has S8+), 4. OnePlus 6T: Absence of 2K resolution screen, camera wasn't very confidence inspiring.
Coming to Huawei Mate 20 Pro: Initial apprehension was about EMUI, which I hadn't liked much, and was having preference for stock Android, but compared to all other contenders mentioned above it seemed to be the best compromise. My expectations were: good camera, good battery endurance (because of large battery and 7 nm process chip.
My experience so far...
1. Look and feel: The finish, feel in the hand, the gloss and gradient of Twilight color back are all great! The accompanying case gives a bit of rhomboid pattern to the back, and it's the first time I've put a case on my phone in many years. Phone feels optimally heavy and balanced, isn't very slippery (with case on), and not too bad to use with single hand because of its relatively narrow width.
2. Screen: Very sharp, and vivid. I found it a bit cool for my taste, but it's easy to change its temperature, which I did.
3. Responsiveness and user interface: It's been just 2 days, but every app is very responsive. I've not installed any game, but am perfectly satisfied with this aspect. I've enabled full gesture UI, and am very, very happy happy with it. Especially, the 'back' feature used by swiping from either sides of the screens is very useful and intuitive. I wouldn't want to go back to using a back button again!
4. Unlock methods: (a) Fingerprint scanner is reliable, but a bit less quick and consistent compared to capacitive sensor I had on Moto Z Play, but I hardly need to use it, because the (b) Face ID system works perfectly, very quickly and unobtrusively. I've enabled looking at the phone as a requisite to unlock, which supposedly makes it more secure. And, its responsiveness seems to improve with more number of uses.
5. Battery life: Difficult to comment as it's just 2 days, but it's very impressive. Yesterday with over 3.5 h screen on time and total time since charge of 16 hours, I was left with ~65% battery. I haven't used the provided stock fast charger yet, so can't comment on the charging speed.
6. Camera: Have hardly clicked any pictures, and a few I'd tried in a mundane setting under blue light of fluorescent 'tube light' were grainy, and not as sharp as I'd have liked. But when I compared with Samsung Galaxy S8+ my feeling was that Samsung's processing (especially over sharpening and noise removal with resultant loss of details upon zooming) made the pictures look better than Mate 20 Pro's, but the gradient of skin tone was captured more faithfully by the latter. There's also a 'vivid' color mode while capturing, but it makes the pictures look very artificial, but some might still indeed like it.
7. Sound from external speakers. There's no exact standard to compare against, but I'm satisfied with the ringtone loudness and quality. I'd tried listening to few old Bollywood songs, and they sounded nice, but I felt iPhone SE's output had felt fuller. Quality through earphones (1MORE Triple Driver Earphone: http://amzn.in/d/57nQ1sR ) seemed good, but haven't heard much yet.
1. User interface: I find the icons a bit childish. I can use other launchers like Nova, but will lose some features. Only one major complaint I have is that to bring down the notification shade one has to swipe up all the way from the top towards the bottom. If I end up swiping from somewhat below the topmost level, 'HiVision' (a kind of quick search for apps, web pages, etc.) gets initiated, which is annoying. I also wish double tapping on the home screen could've been assigned some feature (e.g., turning off the screen). I've enabled complete gesture navigation. Initially I was having trouble invoking the task view, but I figured out that best way to do it is to swipe up till around bottom fourth of the screen, and then drag the thumb down a bit instead of just holding it still there.
[Update dated March 16, 2019: I've started using Nova launcher. Using it I can access the notification shade just by swiping down anywhere from the home screen, so I'm happy about that. Only minor grudge with the UI I now have is that the app switcher view functions in a bit unintuitive way, i.e., the most recent app automatically shifts to the right of the screen instead of remaining at the centre. Another inbuilt limitation of EUMI is that horizontal scrolling between apps in the app switcher view is very slow compared to the competing UIs like that of OnePlus, Samsung, Pixel, etc.]
2. Automatic screen brightness: For some situations, the screen brightness goes too low, and I've to manually turn it up.
3. New contacts are by default saved in Huawei's account instead of Google account, so I've to manually change that to latter from a drop down menu each time. Annoying! Will see if this setting can be changed.
All in all, I'm very happy to have this phone, and some times I use it only because it feels so good to use it! :D Of course, the novelty will wear off in some time.
I'll try to update this review with any new opinions I form, and possibly a few pictures.
If you've reached till here, thanks for your attention! :)
*Update with night shots*
I'll say the camera is better than any other phone camera I've seen up till now. The pictures I've uploaded are from a very dark scene, and yet the details are good with very little noise. One of the pictures is from telephoto lens (3x zoom), which is the only optically stabilized lens, but with narrower aperture, and yet the font on the display board in top left of the picture is seen with very crisp boundaries. I've to agree with many YouTube reviewers that the night mode should be used only in extreme darkness if you're alright with loss of details. The dynamic range of this camera especially in dark is far better than that of Galaxy S8+ (if that helps).