If you live in the US, you may have never heard of a company called Huawei. They’re a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that’s trying its best to break into the American market. However, things keep holding them back like fallen-through deals with major retailers and the US government literally telling people not to trust the company. But this hasn’t stopped one of the world’s largest phone OEMs from entering the United States with a phone which they hoped would help them gain a presence amongst consumers.
One of Huawei’s latest phones, the Mate 10 Pro, was that phone. It boasts flagship specs for a flagship price and is being sold directly from Huawei unlocked. And if you hadn’t previously considered a Huawei phone as your next device, this handset could change that.
Right out of the gate, it’s immediately noticeable just how good-looking the Mate 10 Pro is. It’s different when compared to what companies like Samsung and LG are doing in which it features two separate housings for both cameras on the back and uses an accent stripe that, to me, adds a bit of character. Of course, you will find the usual stuff in a flagship Android phone like a glass back, a metal rail along the sides, slim bezels surrounding the display, and IP67 certification, but something about its overall aesthetic makes me want to use the phone every day just because of its build quality.
The phone doesn’t weigh all that much, but it does feel solid in your hand. Nowhere will you find any sort of flexing or other design flaws, while the flat edges bestow confidence in the end user that you likely won’t be dropping this device any time soon. Admittedly, though, it is still slippery since the sides are glossy, but at least they aren’t rounded.
As a side note, if you are scared of dropping the Mate 10 Pro, Huawei includes a clear case in the box for free. It’s nothing special, but it does help protect the glass on the back and add some additional grip to the phone. I prefer the phone as it is without the case, but it’s there if you’re paranoid.
Picking up the Mate 10 Pro, you’ll be greeted by a 6-inch 18:9 Full HD+ OLED display. Colors are nice and saturated, viewing angles are passable, and it gets bright enough just so you can see it in every situation besides direct sunlight. And sure, 2160×1080 is definitely not the highest resolution ever put on a phone, but you can barely ever make out individual pixels on the screen anyway so I had no problem using it over something like a Quad HD panel.
Notably, Huawei opted not to round the corners on the Mate 10 Pro’s display, the opposite of what a lot of other OEMs are doing nowadays. Again, this isn’t an issue whatsoever as it adds a different aesthetic to the overall package, but if you’re a fan of curved corners you may have at least one gripe with the screen.
Side note: there’s also a rear-mounted fingerprint reader that, I kid you not, is one of the fastest I’ve ever used on a smartphone. If the Pixel 2’s weren’t as good, I’d say it was the fastest.
There’s also no notch on the Mate 10 Pro. Instead, Huawei packed all the necessary sensors that sit at the top of the phone into a slim bezel right above the display. You’ll find the ambient light sensor, front-facing camera, and earpiece here, while the bottom bezel simply houses a Huawei logo. On the left side of the phone, there’s a SIM/microSD card tray, while the right side includes volume and power buttons. The bottom is also home to a couple of things: a USB-C port and a loudspeaker. No headphone jack on this guy. Sorry!
Luckily, Huawei includes stereo speakers on the Mate 10 Pro that work similarly to the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9. The device uses the earpiece and bottom-firing grille to project an amplified sound with actual stereo separation. When in portrait, the phone plays audio in mono, but when rotated horizontally, the speakers play in stereo. It’s actually a really weird sensation hearing the audio switch channels that you’ll have to experience in real to understand what I mean.
As for the quality of the speakers, they’re okay. I have an iPhone 7 that definitely emits more bass and clarity, but I also have an LG V30 that includes a single bottom-firing unit which gets blown away when compared to what the Mate 10 Pro offers. In the end, though, the speakers are good because they’re stereo and are way above average in terms of overall quality. Just know that there are better options when considering the phone for its sound.
Speaking of sound, the Mate 10 Pro also includes its own set of USB-C headphones that look like EarPods and sound like EarPods. Seriously, it’s like Huawei took Apple’s in-box headphones, tweaked their design a bit, and put a USB-C connector in the Lightning connector’s place. If you’re not a fan of the buds, there’s a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle in the box so you can connect your own headphones, while Bluetooth is also a thing. You’ve got plenty of options, for sure, but things would be a lot simpler if there were just a headphone jack.
As for specs, this is where things get interesting. Rather opting for something made by Qualcomm, Huawei builds its own custom processors under the Kirin brand. For the Mate 10 Pro, the company included the new octa-core Kirin 970 clocked at 1.8 GHz. They pair it with the first neural processing unit (NPU) ever in a smartphone to allow for artificial intelligence technology to run smoother. It also packs 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a Mali-G72 MP12 GPU.
Regarding the device’s performance, everything runs super smooth on the Mate 10 Pro. Launching and switching apps, playing heavy games, using split-screen mode – it’s all fast and responsive, much like any other recent Android flagship. This is all thanks to Huawei using its own custom silicon which gives it the opportunity to fine-tune exactly how they want their device to run. And unsurprisingly, they opted for the best performance possible.
Of course, that’s just half the story when it comes to power. The NPU inside the Mate 10 Pro is designed to deliver “up to 25 percent improved power management for AI-related tasks.” Basically, it makes using AI on a smartphone more efficient while still retaining enough power so everything runs smoothly. For what it’s worth, things did go well when using services like the Google Assistant and Huawei’s AI-powered camera tricks (I’ll get to those a bit later). I wouldn’t say I noticed a significant difference in power draw and consumption, however, over something like the Google Pixel 2 XL or Galaxy S8 when it comes to AI. But for the most part, yeah, it does what Huawei said it would.
AI on the Mate 10 Pro doesn’t end there, though. Its software – EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0 Oreo – is practically designed to deliver sufficient power while drawing as little energy as possible using artificial intelligence. By learning your usage habits, the phone can keep itself running as fast as possible without slowing down as your battery drains. I’ve noticed things do remain smooth even when getting below a 40% charge, but again, nothing significant.
Touching more on the software, I’m not the biggest fan of what Huawei does with Android. While things generally keep their paces, EMUI is still a heavy skin and causes more hangups when using the phone than I’d like. It also mimics iOS a bit too much in an attempt to make it seem as appealing to consumers as possible. On top of that, it’s riddled with issues I can’t look past such as the inabilities to preview notifications on the lock screen and set a custom launcher headache-free.
To me, Huawei’s software can do one of two things: make you fall in love with their phones or hate them with a passion. Before buying the Mate 10 Pro (or any Huawei phone, for that matter), its software is worth looking into before you pull the trigger since you could regret your buying decision down the road.
That being said, the software is really the only thing seriously wrong with the Mate 10 Pro. Things immediately improve when you look at the camera department. For this generation, Huawei included a pair of Leica-branded sensors on the back with a main 12MP RGB shooter and a secondary 20MP monochrome sensor. Together, both offer OIS, f/1.6 apertures, portrait mode, lossless zoom, and scene/object recognition thanks to AI.
When shooting photos with the Mate 10 Pro, the camera will use Huawei’s AI technology to determine what type of scene you’re looking at whether it be a sunset, a dog in a park, a human being, a plate of food, etc. By combining the AI with what tools are available for touching up photos on the Mate 10 Pro, the camera will automatically adjust its settings for the best picture taken. For example, if you take a picture of a flower, you’ll notice the colors get boosted a bit more. And if you take a picture of a sunset, contrast and dynamic range come into play to a higher degree.
The front-facing 8MP sensor is also great for taking selfies. It offers enough sharpness and clarity that you could even use it to vlog, if that’s your thing.
Overall, I’ve been extremely impressed with what the Mate 10 Pro can do with its cameras. I’ve gotten some of my favorite pictures from this camera that I’ve taken in the past year, and that’s really saying something considering I review a lot of phones. The handset definitely gives Samsung a run for its money in clarity, color saturation, dynamic range, and low-light performance. Personally, I’d place the Mate 10 Pro somewhere between a Galaxy Note 8 and Pixel 2, with the device being better than the Samsung but not quite up to par with the Google.
As for the AI feature, it definitely works well and isn’t something I’ve been tempted to turn off just because of how good it really is. It helps to get a better shot no matter your situation so I’ve always kept it on.
The camera app on the Mate 10 Pro is also really good. It comes with a pro mode for getting the perfect shot, a night mode for low-light situations, slow-motion video capture at 240 frames per second in 720p, and more. Overall, this is a camera I’ve found myself gravitating toward if I knew I was gonna have a day filled with photo-ops.
Battery life is also an area of the Mate 10 Pro that, I’d say, shines as well. Sealed inside the slim 7.9mm body of the device sits a whopping 4,000mAh battery. With a number like that, I shouldn’t have to tell you the device lasts for a really long time on a single charge. I can usually get through a full day’s worth of use without any issues and even get into the next day before having to recharge at some time in the afternoon. I will say, though, you can’t expect to get Moto Z Play-level endurance, but the device at least offers a lot better endurance than most flagships on the market.
The phone is also quick to top off. Thanks to Huawei’s fast charging, I can get from 0 to 60% in as little as 30 minutes. Mind you, I usually have to either have the phone off or with airplane mode on to achieve this, but it’s at least possible if you’re in a hurry.
I’d also like to mention that the Mate 10 Pro is a GSM-only phone. This means that it’ll only work on AT&T or T-Mobile, not Verizon or Sprint. I was told that there isn’t any sort of CDMA option available, so keep that in mind when considering the device.
In the end, there’s a ton to love about the Mate 10 Pro. With its excellent set of cameras, great battery life, stupendous design, stereo speaker setup, and excellent build quality, it’s really a shame so many US customers are missing out. Of course, the software situation needs to be resolved what with its ton of bloatware on top of a poor design, but looking past that issue, the rest of the phone is pretty fantastic.
Is it worth its $800 price tag? I think it could be. To not buy this device on sale, though, you’ll really need to excuse the bad software and seriously want the dual cameras and 4,000mAh battery. Therefore, if you can find the Mate 10 Pro anywhere below $700, it will be worth the investment.
Buying the phone right from Huawei at full price, however, is a questionable decision. You have phones like the Galaxy S9, LG V30, and Google Pixel 2 that offer at least some of the features of the Mate 10 Pro wrapped up in a more refined package, all with better software experiences. So unless you’re a die-heart Huawei fanboy, you may wanna look elsewhere before pulling the trigger.
That being said, the phone is still great. I seriously hope more US smartphone users start considering Huawei-made devices because of the Mate 10 Pro. The handset gives a good representation of what the company is capable of, and I have to say I’m a fan so far. So long as they can improve their software in the near future. I’ll have no problem recommending them.