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Hands-on review: IFA 2015: Huawei Mate S
3:00 am | September 3, 2015

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones | Comments: None

Hands-on review: IFA 2015: Huawei Mate S

Introduction, design, display and Force Touch

Say hello to the Huawei Mate S, the world’s first smartphone with Force Touch Technology. Kind of.

‘Force Touch’ I hear you quizzically ponder, ‘isn’t that Apple’s thing?’ Well yes, it’s the fancy screen technology you find in the Apple Watch and the trackpad of the new MacBook – and yes, Huawei has stuck it in a smartphone.

I say ‘kind of’, because you may have some difficultly getting hold of it. The Huawei Mate S, the successor to the Huawei Ascend Mate 7, comes in three models; 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. It’s only in that last model, the 128GB one, where you’ll find Force Touch.

The other two models don’t boast the fancy screen tech, and while Huawei has given us release dates for those two, it’s yet to announce pricing and availability for the 128GB model.

Huawei Mate S review

SIM-free the 32GB and 64GB models cost €649 (around £475, $730, AU$1040) and €699 (around £510, $785, AU$1110) respectively. Both go on sale in a number of countries, including the UK and Australia, this month with pre-orders opening soon on Huawei’s online store.

Luckily I’ve got myself the 128GB model, so I’ve bee able to play around with Force Touch and all the other features on the new Huawei Mate S.

Design

The Huawei Mate S builds on its predecessor when it comes to design, with a slender 7.2mm all-metal frame looking and feeling suitably premium. The slightly curved rear means it sits nicely in the hand, and while it has the same screen size as the iPhone 6 Plus, Huawei has kept bezels to a minimum meaning it’s shorter and narrower.

At 156g it’s surprisingly light considering its size, and I found it comfortable to hold and hardly noticable when slipped into the back pocket of my jeans.

Huawei Mate S review

The volume and power/lock keys are located on the right of the handset towards the top, and for me they were reasonably easy to hit. I can see their placement potentially causing problems for those with smaller palms though.

A way round the potentially awkward placement of these buttons, and the general size of the Mate S, can be found on the back. Below the 13MP camera sensor there’s a fingerprint scanner.

Huawei has updated the software used here for the Mate S, with Fingerprint Sense 2.0 bringing greater sensitivity and increased recognition. It’s certainly responsive, and the Mate S unlocked in a blink of an eye when I touched my finger to the sensor.

It’s definitely up there with Apple’s Touch ID and the sensor Samsung has put into its Galaxy S6 range.

Huawei Mate S review

That’s not all the fingerprint scanner can do though. You can also use it to take a photo, scroll through images in the gallery, answer calls, pull down the notification panel and silence an alarm.

I did find swiping down on the scanner to display the notification panel required a certain level of finesse and accuracy, but once you get your eye in it’s handy not having to stretch a finger all the way up to the top of the display.

Display and Force Touch

There were rumours that the Huawei Mate S would pack a QHD display, but alas Huawei has seen fit to stick with a full HD resolution. The screen however is smaller than the Mate 7 at 5.5 inches, giving you a pleasing 401ppi.

That matches the iPhone 6 Plus and OnePlus 2 in both size and resolution, and as Huawei CEO Richard Yu pointed out during the launch, it’s greater than the human eye can distinguish.

The screen also boasts AMOLED technology making it clear and bright, and I found that even in sunlight it was still useable.

Huawei Mate S review

The big talking point here though is Force Touch. I’ve already explained it’s missing from the two models you’ll actually be able to buy this from this month – but for those of you willing to wait (and cough up more cash) there are a few fancy tricks to show your friends.

The 3D Force Touch Technology allows the display on the Huawei Mate S to gauge the amount of pressure you’re applying, and then provide different functions depending on the level of force.

When looking at a photo you can hold down on an area to see it magnified in a bubble. The harder you press, the more zoomed in your magnification will be. Come out to the gallery overview and hard pressing on the images provides you with a larger thumbnail preview.

Huawei Mate S review

You can even remove the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen to give you more real estate, and then just press down on where the buttons would be to perform the same commands.

It’s certainly a fun feature to play around with, and Huawei has integrated it into the interface in a number of ways – but it’s still early days for the technology.

When app and game developers get hold of it we could see some truly awesome use cases. Trouble is, with the Mate S the only phone supporting it for now those applications may be a long way off.

Huawei Mate S review

Battery life

Huawei made a song and dance about the stepped battery design it’s implemented for the Mate S, allowing it to fit in more capacity. I was a little disappointed then when it revealed the Mate S packs a non-removable 3000mAh power pack.

That’s smaller than the 3300mAh offering in the similarly sized OnePlus 2, although it does match the LG G4. With a full HD display there will be less strain on the Mate S battery, and Huawei is promising more than a day of usage from a single charge.

You’ll have to wait for the full review to see if it lives up to that claim, but it’s worth noting the Mate S is fast charging enabled. A 10 minute blast with the charger is, I’m told, long enough to give you two hours of call time. Nice.

Huawei Mate S review

Early verdict

I rather like the Huawei Mate S. I’m glad Huawei has reduced screen size here, as it makes it easier to hold and the all metal body really does look and feel like a premium handset.

The fingerprint scanner on the rear is impressive, the camera is stuffed full of features and it’s coming in cheaper than the core flagships on the market.

It’s not all perfect though, with the headlining Force Touch technology available on a model which is yet to get a release date or price, and Huawei’s Emotion UI is still very much a Marmite interface.

That said, the early signs of positive for the Huawei Mate S and it’s definitely a handset you should keep an eye on.

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