THE HUAWEI MATE 30 PRO has finally arrived. It lands after a string of well-reviewed phones from the Chinese manufacturer, with the P20 Pro, Mate 20 Pro and P30 Pro all besting many top-enders when they respectively launched.
In the midst of the US-China trade war though, what should have been one of the most exciting phones of the year looks set to be the first smartphone casualty of the spat. After some time with the phone, we can confirm, this big mess is a crying shame; the Mate 30 Pro is a stunningly designed flagship with incredible specs, but with no Google Play services or release date, its fate could well be sealed.
Design and screen
Play Store or not, nothing can detract from the fact that the Mate 30 Pro is a fantastic looking phone. Its Flex OLED curved Gorilla Glass 6 display spills over the sides into the metal frame, with virtually no edge bezel at all.
Getting into specifics, the Mate 30 Pro has a 94.1% screen-to-body ratio, compared to 91 per cent on the Note 10 Plus, and 83.7 per cent on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. In other words, it's an all-screen device that'll suck you in when watching movies, especially given its HDR10 credentials.
In the hand, the curves and cold metal give us the impression we're holding something that's both expensive and cutting edge. While the quality of the screen pops out at you though, it's a shame it's interrupted by a notch at the top, even if it's loaded up with clever sensors - more on that later.
There's a power button on the phone's right side, but no volume button or volume rocker. To change the Mate 30 Pro's volume, you have to double-tap the frame of the phone, after which, a volume slider appears onscreen. Next, slide up or down on the frame of the phone to higher or lower it. We tried it, and surprisingly, it worked well. Having said that, it's also pretty weird, and we can imagine the lack of buttons could result in a mad dash fumble if you want to lower your phone's volume in the cinema in your pocket, for example, without being able to see it.
Around the back, you'll find a circular camera surround that reminds us of a Lumia 1020, though with a lot less yellow and more polish. Within are four cameras, and it's framed by something of a halo effect. All this just adds to the Mate 30 Pro's rich finish and makes us more bitter we may not be getting our hands on it in the UK.
As for other flourishes dotted around it, there's a USB-C port at the base, and while there's no headphone jack, there is an IR blaster at the top.
Because the screen is so edge-to-edge, Huawei can afford to make it a bit wider than the current slew of 19.5:9 screens out now, so it's 18.4:9, better for 16:9 (Full HD) playback. And being OLED, it's got plenty of punch to it, and with over 400 pixels-per-inch, while it isn't OnePlus 7 Pro sharp, it's still very, very good looking, with a resolution of 1176 x 2400.
It's Android Jim, but not as we know it
If you think this whole trade war mess means the Huawei Mate 30 Pro doesn't get Android, you're wrong. Like Amazon's Fire tablet, there's Android inside this here phone, but it's just a bit different to what we're used to.
There's no Google Play Store, Gmail, YouTube or Google Maps; in short, the missing Google services are a big deal. After a few swipes in, you might not notice a difference between the UI of the Mate 30 Pro and the P30 Pro, it means you can't download things like banking apps, unless they're in Huawei's own App Market (and they aren't). Other handy Android benefits like cross-device game saves and Google Docs are also linked to your Google account, so the fact Google's services are missing really is a far-reaching handicap for the flagship.
On the plus, the phone is silky smooth when swiping through the interface, which is hardly surprising, given the fact it's powered along by a Kirin 990 processor, which combined with 8GB RAM, makes it one of the most powerful phones around.
Four cameras; all the pixels
With over 100 cumulative megapixels across its cameras, the Mate 30 Pro carries on the theme of being a bit ridiculously good. Its main 40MP camera is used for photos and up to 4K resolution videos at 60fps.
It can also shoot slow-motion video at a silly-fast 7680fps and has an ISO of up to 409,600, which blows all the competition out of the water. We tried the slow-mo and in great light, it stopped time nicely.
The Mate 30 Pro's camera system also includes a 40MP ultra-wide camera, a 3x zoom telephoto camera, and a depth-sensing time of flight camera too.
Thin phone, beefy battery
Huawei's managed to squeeze a massive 4500 mAh battery in the Mate 30 Pro, which is mightily impressive, given the fact it's just 8.8mm thin, and it supports fast wireless charging at up to 30W - faster than wired charging on the iPhone 11 Pro. The phone also brings back reverse wireless charging and the 40W fast charging of the P30 Pro.
The sensors nuzzled in its notch enable smart gestures and more secure face recognition than traditional Android phones with face unlock, and unlike Apple, Huawei has retained the fingerprint scanner, with an under-display module also making a return.
If you want the best phone around and live in China, there's a very good chance it's the Mate 30 Pro - depending on whether or not that whole ditching the volume button gamble pays off. Mainland Chinese Android devices never had Google Play Services loaded up, so, nothing 'missing' here.
If, however, you're in the rest of the world, then the Mate 30 Pro is incomplete, and at £970 (converted from RRP in euros - €1,099), it's expensive too. No Play Store means you will unlikely have access to your favourite banking apps - a quick search shows no Barclays, Lloyds, Metro Bank, Natwest or even HSBC - a Chinese bank, albeit one whose origins can be traced back to Hong Kong.
So even with amongst the best design around, the most innovative camera and a fancy-pants processor, the odds are stacked firmly against Huawei's latest, likely greatest smartphone to date. µ