Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro straight out of the box - First Impressions *updated*
Note: This article was first published on 11 October 2019.
Note: Incorporated new developments to Huawei AppGallery for ride-hailing services on 15 October 2019.
Much has been made about the Mate 30 Pro and its lack of Google Mobile Services out of the box, but what’s the phone like to use on a day-to-day basis?
All about the Display
Pretty nice actually. At 158.1 x 73.1 x 8.8mm, the Mate 30 Pro is about the same size as the Mate 20 Pro before it, just a little taller (158.1 vs. 157.8mm), wider (73.1 vs. 72.3mm) and thicker (8.8 vs. 8.6mm). It’s also slightly heavier at 198g (compared to 188g). The slight increase in size and weight also affords the new Mate 30 Pro a slightly larger AMOLED screen at 6.53 inches across (against the 6.39-inch screen of the Mate 20 Pro).
Like the Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10+ and the Vivo NEX3, the Mate 30 Pro’s Horizon Display has a symmetrical design that probably adds a couple of percentage points to their screen-to-body ratio. This has 88-degree curves so it almost feels like there’s an added display on each side. The symmetrical design definitely looks different, and we feel it makes the phone easier to grasp, as it’s easier for you to wrap your fingers around.
The Mate 30 Pro also adds double-duty to the side displays by letting them function as a volume control slider and also a moveable shutter button
when in selfie mode. As a result, the only physical button you’ll find on the Mate 30 Pro is the power/hold button, and that’s in a nice metallic red that lets it stand out.
Compared to the 3,040 x 1,440 display of the Note 10+, the Mate 30 Pro’s FHD+ 2,400 x 1,176 OLED display has perhaps slightly more contrast, even under the natural colour setting. No official refresh rates were given, but in looks and feels fluid enough in both games and videos.
Updated 15/10/19: The virtual shutter button now works in all the camera modes.
Audio is decent
The Mate 30 Pro uses Huawei’s Acoustic Display, which uses vibrations in the screen to transfer music to your ear. That takes away the obvious speaker grill on top, but does create an imbalance in stereo sound as the lower speaker is much stronger.
As you might imagine, that affects the imaging capabilities, so you’re not likely to get a great stereo listening experience right out of the box. Vocals are decently clear, but the performance is primarily in the mids, with weak bass and a lack of clarity in the highs. The bundled USB-C earbuds fare better for sure, with punchier bass and better resolution in the highs.
These are fixed buds that don’t have replaceable tip options, so your mileage on these will vary based on how well they fit your ears. One thing we do have to mention though, is that the Mate 30 Pro supports Sony’s LDAC wireless codec, so if you have a compatible set of wireless headphones, you’ll be able to take full advantage.
Camera system does more
Turn the phone over to its rear, and you basically have a flash and the main camera; what Huawei calls a SuperSensing Cine Camera. This has four cameras in a square orientation placed in a rounded module (camera bump) that’s surrounded by a reflective ring. It’s a slight departure from the square with rounded corners from the Mate 20 Pro, but looks better than we think it would. We’ve covered the camera performance in a separate article here, but the short summary is that this camera gives you great images in low light and incredible ultra slow-motion video capture.
Here's a quick recap of the Mate 30 Pro's four cameras:
- 40MP (18mm, f/1.8) Cine camera
- 40MP (27mm, f/1.6) SuperSensing camera
- 8MP Telephoto camera (80mm, f/2.4, OIS)
- 3D Depth Sensing camera
Just like with the Mate 20 Pro, the front-facing camera is in a long notch. This time round though, the 32MP front camera is joined by a 3D Depth Sensing Camera and a Gesture sensor. These work with a Tiny-Core NPU so you can also use gesture controls with the phone to take a screen shot or scroll the page. Screen shots work well, but we found the scroll gesture to be a little awkward to say the least.
The phone responds to the flick of your wrist to scroll. However, it doesn’t quite seem to register a neutral position so we found ourselves mostly only able to scroll down or take a screenshot. For some reason, the camera doesn’t register the back of the hand well when placed on a table, thus making it hard to scroll up.
Hold it vertically, and it works most of the time, but that sort of defeats the purpose of not having to touch the phone. It also has to be noted that you can only air scroll but not click (or double click), so the functionality is only really good if you want to stay on a single page.
The gestures also don’t seem to work well with games, which is a pain when you’d like to take a screenshot. On that note, even trying to get the three-key navigation bar out to skip games can be annoying, because you need to swipe up three times just to reveal the bar, and the “up” is irrespective of the phone’s orientation. Basically, you have to swipe from the charging port towards the front camera.
All about the Apps
As described in this article, we restored the Mate 30 Pro as a copy of our previous test unit (the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+), so a good number of our usual apps were brought over when we started testing. No need to search for equivalents on the Huawei AppGallery then.
Of course, not having Google apps and the usual Google Play Store for apps was a bit of a pain to start. But if we’re being honest, it’s really not that difficult to use Google Maps via Chrome on your phone.
The only real issue was with ride-hailing services, as those seem to be built on the Google Mobile Services (GMS) platform and so completely fail to work. Point to ComfortDelgro then, because they still offer SMS and telephone booking services you can use even if you don’t have their app.
Huawei has said that they’re continuously working with local developers of each region they’re in to bring their apps to Huawei Mobile Services (HMS), and hence the Huawei AppGallery. So there’s a good chance your usual apps will make it over in the near future. Some of the usual suspects are already there. Carousell, Chope, Fave, FastJobs SG, iGV, LinkedIn, The Straits Times, My Starhub, Perx, WeChat, Viu and Zalora were just some we found, and that number’s only set to grow.
Even your usual ride-hailing apps like GRAB and GoJek have joined the fray, so you can get them direct from the Huawei AppGallery. M1 and Circles Life have also just added their apps, as have the likes of Shopback, Qoo10, Lazada, RedMart and Shopee, so it really seems like Huawei is doing all they can to ensure your usual apps will be there when you need them.
Foodpanda is also listed, but the current version is incompatible with Android 10.0, so we couldn’t test it out. We also found some alternatives for our regular services. Moovit is one such example, and that gives you transport directions and estimated timings, much like Google Maps. Unsurprisingly, there seems to be a large amount of Chinese apps that we don’t normally see. So if anything, moving to the Huawei AppGallery gave us the opportunity to discover new apps instead of sticking to our usual ones.
We have to say the Mate 30 Pro Kirin 990 processor handled everything we threw at it well. Battery life has been good too, and the phone has three different battery profiles to help you manage it further. The Mate 30 Pro has Huawei’s 40W Wired SuperCharge too, and that got us back up to about 70% charge in just under 30 minutes. It also supports reverse wireless charging, so you can use it to quickly top-up your other devices if needed.
All in, we’d say your experience using the Mate 30 Pro will vary greatly depending on the apps you use. As we said, food delivery services work via the web browser, and a good number of the social media apps work once you get them on the phone.
Games will work fine too. If you can find the APK (Android Package) to download, AppGallery will install it. Apps aside, the phone is a great piece of hardware that’s truly flagship-level, with a camera system that’s really able to challenge your typical interchangeable lens camera.
It’s unfortunate that Google services have become so synonymous with Android that a (Android) phone without Google doesn’t seem complete, but the fact is that there are many other parts to this open source system that work well regardless.
Huawei also seems to be holding true to it's promise to be actively working with local developers of each region to get their apps on their AppGallery. We noticed more recognisable titles like iGV and My StarHub appear towards the end of our testing that weren't there when we started.
So the question is, are you ready to challenge the status quo?