2018 is the year of the notch. That much we have to accept. After the awkward spectacle that was the Mobile World Congress 2018 where every Android device maker bar Samsung, Nokia and Vivo (which later betrayed the course, anyway) jostled to showcase their latest devices featuring the oft-berated notch, it is within our range of expectations to anticipate the notch showing up in every other device that is in the horizon. Even Google is embracing it in the upcoming version of Android. That much was true yesterday as Huawei consumer division chief Richard Yu took to the stage at the glass-domed Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées in Paris, France, to announce the company’s flagship devices for the year.
What makes Huawei’s move more significant is that it is the third largest smartphone maker in the world after juggernauts Samsung and Apple and, in Androidland, the second biggest maker of devices running our favourite mobile operating system. As such, the company will expect to ship millions of units of the two devices it unveiled in Europe yesterday to all the ends of the Earth over the next one year, essentially making the notch a familiar sight to millions; reach and sway that other players who have embraced the notch may not have.
It is not like we are supposed to be surprised, though. Other than the two-tone colour (Huawei calls it Twilight) of the two devices announced yesterday, the Huawei P20 and the Huawei P20 Pro, every other thing has pretty much been in the public domain and it’s stuff we expected, anyway.
So, if you’ll be parting with your hard earned shillings in coming days when Huawei brings the devices to the country, here’s what you need to know about them:
- They (the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro) all feature a glass-on-glass design which gives all of them, even the ones that don’t have the Twilight colour, a shiny look.
- Bezels are almost non-existent on both the upper part of the device (hence the notch) and the sides but the chin, which also houses the fingerprint sensor, leaves so much to be desired.
- While the notch is very prominent and Huawei is not making any efforts to hide it, boasting, even, of it being smaller than the iPhone X’s, it can be hidden from view by users by way of an option in the user interface. While that’s a nice touch, it just goes to show that the device makers know so well that some of us are jarred by the notch’s existence.
- The Huawei P20 features something familiar: Huawei’s now renowned dual-camera arrangement featuring a coloured lens and a black and white one thanks to its ongoing partnership with Leica. The former has 12 megapixels while the latter has 20 megapixels. Just like last year.
- The Huawei P20 Pro features what Huawei is calling “the world’s first triple lens camera”. This piece of magic, which is also one of its biggest differentiators from its sibling, the P20, can be found at the back of the device. With reportedly better image quality than the popular Nokia duo, the PureView 808 and the Lumia 1020, ever had, it’s not flattering when Huawei claims that what can be found at the back of its latest and greatest device is the best camera on a smartphone, ever. For those who obsess over numbers, the pros in that field have you covered (link). See how it compares to the competition (hint: it beats them all).
- The P20 Plus’ camera arrangement, featuring the three lenses, sees the colour and monochrome lenses we’re used to seeing on Huawei devices welcome another companion, a telephoto lens. In this case, the black and white camera stays solo while the colour and telephoto cameras are grouped together. The coloured camera’s 40-megapixel sensor is the biggest on any smartphone out there at the moment and equals the 808 PureView’s. The other lenses i.e. the monochrome and the telephoto, have 20 megapixels and 8 megapixels respectively.
- The P20 Pro also has two different zoom modes: 3 times optical zoom and 5 times hybrid zoom.
- The front of both devices features a 24-megapixel selfie shooter.
- 4D Predictive Focus and a 4-in-1 hybrid auto-focus system: Yeah, this still has something to do with the cameras. It’s Huawei’s fancy way of calling the four different systems of autofocus found in the P20 and P20 Pro cameras – laser, phase detection, depth, and contrast.
- There are some other noticeable differences between the P20 and the P20 Pro other than the camera and the display size. The P20 Pro has both more memory and a bigger battery unit to power up that massive display. As noted in the spec sheets linked above, the P20 Pro has 6GB RAM, more than the standard model’s 4GB, and a 4,000mAh battery, more than the P20’s 3,400mAh sealed unit. The differences don’t end there. The Pro model also has water and dust resistance thanks to its IP67 rating while the standard model has to make do with the basic IP53, like the Google Pixel phone from over a year ago. The Pro also has one of my favourite features in a smartphone: an infrared blaster. You know what that means, right? No haggling with my siblings for the remote control.
- There’s still the same old talk of performance prowess thanks to the devices’ Kirin 970 processor (from last year, it’s the same one that powers the Mate 10) and Artificial Intelligence smarts (thanks to the same NPU that can be found in the Mate 10) which have also been improved to make using the trio of cameras on the P20 Pro and the dual cameras on the P20 a breeze as they are (at least on paper since I have not used the devices) able to identify things (like food, waterfalls, snow etc) and animals (people, dogs, cats etc) and automatically switch to the appropriate settings. It is this same AI that Huawei is turning to for stabilization since, in the case of the P20 Pro, for instance, all but the telephoto camera lack image and video stabilization. Huawei says they’re unnecessary in the presence of its AI-assisted stabilizer. The jury is still out there on what works best: hardware or software stabilization.
- There’s a P20 Lite, as well. It’s not just about the P20 and its Pro sibling. Interestingly, the P20 Lite went on sale in some markets, like Italy, days before the launch of the two larger members of the P20 family. We can definitely expect to see this device in the Kenyan market. It features the same processor as the one found on the budget Huawei Mate 10 Lite even though its price in Europe of €369 which translates to about Kshs 46,000 means that it will enter the market as the most expensive “Lite” device from Huawei in the local market ever. That will most likely work against it. Its specifications are as captured here.
- There are no headphone jacks on both devices which is quite a bummer for anyone who’s not ready for the Bluetooth life. In the press release announcing the two devices, Huawei does not waste time reminding future buyers of the devices that they can part with some more money to get music to their ears by buying either the Huawe FreeBuds or the Huawei Active Noise Canceling earphones. Strategy.
- Finally, it has happened: there’s no option to expand storage on both devices. Sigh. There’s just 128GB onboard storage. 256GB if you have the money to grab the P20 and P20 Pro’s distant relative, the new Porsche Design Mate RS, which, if the past is anything to go, may never make it to Kenya. At least not in an official capacity.
- The pricing of the Huawei P20 and the Huawei P20 Pro is €649 and €899 respectively, in Europe. That’s more than Kshs 80,000 for the P20 and about Kshs 112,000 for the Pro model. Oh dear, I am never winning this “don’t buy smartphones that cost over Kshs 100,000” argument. Sad day.
Is this enough to steal the shine from Samsung this year?