Regular readers of iTWire have probably figured out by now that I prefer the crunchy side of the force to the Android side, but that I’m still a fan of all the major smartphone operating systems, especially as it creates enormous competition in the industry that continually results in better devices for end-users at cheaper prices.
So, despite the excellent new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Sony’s great Xperia Z3 with its PS4 remote capabilities, Samsung’s super sharp Note 4 with stylus and Note Edge with stylus and second ‘edge’ screen, we have Huawei coming out with some sweet features of its own to take on the premium end of the market.
Of course, if you want something a lot cheaper, Huawei also released its 64-bit capable 4.5-inch Huawei Ascend Y550 with 1GB RAM today on Vodafone for $99, which you can read about here, but the Mate7 is in a completely different class of quality and price at $699 for the model with 3GB RAM, 32GB storage and microSD slot, along with a 2GB RAM and 16GB storage model (with microSD slot) that is yet to be priced but will clearly be cheaper than $699.
You can see the video of Huawei’s Ascend Mate7 launch at Sydney’s ‘The Star’ Casino on the night of Tuesday 11 November below - it is the full launch event. One of the tripod legs wasn’t fully extended by accident, so some of the video is at a slight angle - sorry about that, I did level it up for certain bits and I’ll be more careful next time, but at least you can watch the full launch video below if you want.
With its high-end features, Huawei says it has ‘showcased its big ambitions to be one of the top smartphone vendors in the world.’
One of the big new features is a fingerprint reader on the back of the phone underneath the camera lens. It doesn’t require you to swipe your finger downwards as with Samsung’s smartphones - instead it works like Apple’s in that you just touch the reader with your index or other finger tip, but here it seeks to do one better than Apple’s Touch ID.
Huawei goes one better to unlock your phone even if the screen is off with a single touch, which Huawei says ‘enables users to unlock the phone at least 80% faster than devices that use a slower sweeping recognition option’. It also has a guest mode so your kids or other people can use the phone without getting to your email, Facebook or other apps.
The fingerprint reader measures 9.16mm x 9.16mm, and ‘supports up to five sets of different fingerprint records which can be allocated to normal and guest modes, so a user can switch modes to enhance protection when securing private applications or photo albums’.
The reader also has a ‘higher 508PPI ratio for enhanced reader accuracy so there’s no need to swipe repeatedly before being able to unlock the device’, and as with Apple’s Secure Enclave, Huawei encrypts the data of the fingerprint and stores it within the chipset ‘for better protection and prevents direct access by third-parties.’
Rather than a Qualcomm or other processor, Huawei uses its own Kirin 925 eight-core or ‘octa-core’ processor, ‘made up of four large A15 1.8 GHz and four small A7 1.3 GHz chipsets’ for better and smarter battery performance.
We are told this processor is ‘activated in different configurations depending on the power needs of a specific app or function so the smartphone can be smarter with power management’, with the Mate7 saving ‘up to 50% of the battery by automatically using smaller A7 cores to power standard apps that consumers use at least 80% of the time and kicking in the larger A15 during high-performance use such as gaming. The processor will also automatically activate additional cores when it detects that 85% to 95% of a single core’s processing capability is being used.’
To make sure there’s more than enough power for the 6-inch screen and power-sipping oct-core processor, Huawei put a 4100mAH Li-Polymer battery into a 7.9mm slim body ‘for more than two days of non-stop normal use’. Like Samsung, Huawei has its own ‘proprietary power-saving technology’, providing ‘three power saving modes – normal, smart, and ultra power saving.’
Unlike the Note 4 and Note Edge from Samsung with have Quad HD screens, Huawei has only gone for a 1080P Full HD display, but even on the 6-inch screen this still looks fantastic and sharp.
The 6-inch display uses an ‘in-cell LTPS display that consumes less power and JDI IPS-NEO technology for an amazing 1500:1 high contrast ratio’, too.
On the back is a 13MP rear-facing camera to capture better party photos in low lighting with Sony’s 4th generation BSI sensor and f/2.0 aperture, with a promise that you can fire up the camera and take a picture in 1.2 seconds ’so you never miss the moment’.
The case is ‘made up of more than 95% metal and features an interior structure made of a strong aluminium alloy for superior heat reduction’.
At only 7.9mm slim and weighing 185g, there is also an ‘ergonomically curved back for easier operation with just one hand and an ultra-narrow 2.9mm bezel that delivers a compelling screen-to-body ratio of 83%.’
That ultra narrow bezel helps the Mate7 to be just a smidgeon wider than the iPhone 6 Plus but a millimetre shorter, while looking ultra modern.
It’s also an ultrafast Cat 6 LTE-A capable 4G smartphone that should work on Telstra’s 4GX network to deliver the fastest possible speeds on 4G networks that support LTE-A.
The Mate7 runs Android Kitkat 4.4.2 and is expected to get the upgrade to Android Lollipop 5.0 sometime next year.
You also get the Emotion UI skin which does away with the 'app tray' that you see on other smartphones, making for a more iPhone-UI like experience - something that is actually an improvement to the way Android works, although it will at first probably slightly confuse users of other Androids who are moving up to any of Huawei's models expecting to find the app drawer/tray there.
It also has TWO SIM slots - a Micro SIM slot and a Nano SIM slot. The Nano SIM slot can also take a microSD card slot, so with that slot it is one or the other.
However, you cannot use the phone as a dual-SIM phone, but seeing as both SIM slots exist and both work individually, it is a relatively simple matter of a firmware update for Huawei to enable this, even though this is not a big feature in Australia.
I urged Huawei's technical people to make it happen, especially as a lot of Australians travel, and a lot of migrants from countries were dual SIM slot phones are popular are in Australia, or visit Australia - plus it would be the only flagship phone from any vendor to support dual SIM capability, so hopefully Huawei makes this happen, even if many would not use this feature in Australia.
It just seems a shame that two working SIM slots are there but only one can be used at a time in the current configuration.
UPDATE 13 November 2014: The 32GB model of the Huawei Ascend Mate7 DOES actually work as a dual-SIM phone - it seems several of Huawei's technical people who spoke to me at the event were unaware of this, telling me that both SIM slots do not work at the same time. In fact they do - both are 4G LTE-A capable, but you can only have one working in 2G/3G/4G mode, the other goes back to 2G only mode. You can switch either to 2G/3G/4G but when you do, the other goes to 2G.
This is fine for voice calls, and you can switch which SIM has 3G/4G access on the fly very easily, but by the same token, it's a shame that the SIM that reverts to 2G only couldn't have been at least a 3G SIM only slot, if not both slots as 2G/3G/4G slots at the same time. Presuambly keeping one at 2G keeps battery use in check.
Available from 17 November 2014 (Monday) in an unlocked model in Amber Gold with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage for $699 from JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman.
There is also going to be a Mate7 model with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage from Vodafone via Dick Smith stores, but pricing and an exact launch date are still to be announced, but it is promised to be ‘announced shortly’ - and we expect it to naturally be a bit cheaper. Maybe $599 outright if I had to guess - I guess we will soon see!
Howard Chen, MD of Huawei Australia’s Consumer Business Group said: “We are proud to offer one of the fastest and most enjoyable big-screen smartphone experiences for Australian consumers. It’s a symbol of our relentless commitment for innovation and making it possible for people everywhere to enjoy our premium quality products. Huawei Mate7 leads the big-screen pack with smarter and faster 4G Cat6 performance, impressive battery power efficiency, and outstanding convenience with its superior single-touch fingerprint technology.”
Ben McIntosh, Sales Director at Vodafone, said, “It’s become apparent that Australians love big and fast 4G smartphones and the Huawei Mate7 certainly delivers. As we carry our lives around in these smartphones nowadays, Huawei’s new fingerprint technology is right on the button, offering consumers’ greater piece of mind and protection.”
Huawei hasn’t listed the Mate7 on its website yet, but it will likely appear within 24 hours or sooner and will likely do so here at its latest phones page.
Until then you can see the full specs listed at GSMArena.
A full review of the Mate7 will come soon, but for now, upon first impressions, it is a very nice, fast, feature-filled and nicely capable flagship Android phablet indeed, and will definitely put a lot of price pressure on competing phablets from the more well known brand names - long live competition!
Related: Huawei P20 Pro Full, in-depth review