Can Huawei make great phones without the full power of Google’s Android operating system behind it? We’re about to find out. The Chinese giant on Thursday unveiled the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro, its latest flagship phones, at an event in Munich. The phones will ship with state-of-the-art hardware, including four rear cameras, but without full Android support. The Mate 30 phones are based on Android open source, meaning they will still function like Androids. What they won’t have, though, is Google services or apps. No Google Maps, no Google Chrome and, most importantly, no Google Play Store.
Instead, you’ll surf the web through the Huawei Browser and download apps through the Huawei AppGallery. The AppGallery has around 45,000 apps, according to Huawei, compared to the Google Play Store’s estimated 2.7 million. Google typically licenses the latest version of Android, currently Android 10, for phone manufacturers to use. The Mate 30 phones will instead be powered by open-source Android and run EMUI 10, Huawei’s user interface that approximates Google’s Android 10.
This means Huawei will only be able to bring security updates to the Mate 30 phones when those updates hit open-source Android.
The Mate 30 launch comes at an uncertain time for Huawei: The US Commerce Department blacklisted the Chinese company in May, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order effectively banning Huawei from US communication networks due to national security concerns over Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government, which Huawei denies. Google parent company Alphabet followed by revoking Huawei’s Android license, thus Huawei’s need to resort to using open-source Android.
The new phones — particularly the Mate 30 Pro — will compete with Apple’s new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 phones and the upcoming Google Pixel 4, which launches on Oct. 15.
I had a brief opportunity to handle the phone. At first the user interface seemed identical to the P30 Pro. After a moment, though, I noticed the conspicuous absence of Google apps. This isn’t quite a death sentence, but we’ll have to see if Huawei’s alternatives can capably plug the gap that Google’s apps and services leave open.
Anything that you can do…
Apple has made a big hubbub about its iPhone 11 Pro phones, which have three cameras on the back. Huawei tops this with an extra shooter, as the Mate 30 Pro comes with four rear cameras. This is wild, but not a world-first. Huawei did the same with 2018’s Mate 20 Pro, as well as this year’s P30 Pro.
The Mate 30 Pro’s quad-camera setup consists of a 40-megapixel camera, a 40-megapixel ultrawide-angle camera, an 8-megapixel telephoto lens and a time-of-flight sensor, which helps add depth to photos.
This setup features one upgrade from the P30 Pro and one downgrade. On the plus side, the ultrawide-angle lens is now 40 megapixels against the P30 Pro’s 20 megapixels. But the Mate 30 Pro uses a telephoto camera for zoom rather than a periscope one. As a result, you’ll get 3x optical zoom, 5x hybrid and 30x digital. The P30 Pro had a superior 5x optical, 10x hybrid and 50x digital.
The cameras are aided by the Kirin 990 processor. Huawei says its BM3D algorithm can reduce noise by 30%. On the video front, Huawei is putting extra emphasis on slow motion. You’ll be able to slow things aaaaaaaaaaall the way down to 7,680 frames per second. The Mate 30 cameras are not as advanced, but still solid, with a 16-megapixel camera and a 40-megapixel ultrawide lens.
On top of a promising photography setup, the Mate 30 Pro is brimming with luxurious hardware. It’s powered by the company’s new Kirin 990 CPU, and a 16-core Mali G76 GPU. We’ll of course need to put these processors through their paces, but Huawei’s top-of-the-line Kirin chips are usually impressive.
Then there’s the display. It’s a 6.53-inch OLED screen that curves over the side of the bezel. This curve, which Huawei calls an 88 degree ultra curve form, isn’t just for show. There are in-screen controls for things like volume control that go there. It’s especially good news for gamers: The “side touch” forms virtual L and R buttons, similar to Asus’ ROG Phone’s in-screen virtual buttons.
The Mate 30 Pro runs a huge 4,500-mAh battery, which Huawei claims will get you two days of heavy usage. The phone comes with a fast charger that the company says will get it from 0 to 70% battery in 30 minutes. It’s also compatible with a 27-watt wireless charger Huawei is bringing to market, which will apparently charge the phone twice as fast as a standard charger. And finally, reverse charging, which lets you use the Mate 30 Pro as a wireless charger to juice up another device, is back.
The Mate 30 Pro 5G model has the longest-lasting 5G battery and better 5G cooling system when compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Huawei said during the event. A Porsche Design Mate 30 Pro RS edition, which features a leather covering on the back of the phone and 512 GB of storage, is also available.
If Huawei can bring together an ecosystem that neutralizes the loss of full-Android support, this will be a fantastic phone. That’s not a small “if,” though.
The Mate 30 will start at 799 euro (about $885, £700 or AU$1,300), the Mate 30 Pro will start at 1,099 euro and the Mate 30 Pro 5G will start at 1,199 euro. The Porche Design Huawei Mate 30 RS will start at 2,095 euro.