Looking around the world, it’s not hard to see the impact of the phablet, because if you fancy a big phone, that option is now there for you. These larger screened smartphones are basically the equivalent to having a tablet you can keep in your pocket or handbag, and we see them everywhere now.
And once you’re with one, it’s hard to go back to a smaller screen. Sometimes bigger is just better.
Huawei knows this all too well, and has been producing big-screen smartphones since 2013 when it first unveiled the “Mate”, a large 6.1 inch smartphone that came with an Aussie name.
Back then, it felt like Huawei’s Mate was little more than a big experiment, arriving with mediocre performance and no 4G, but yet still offering that big screen with a huge battery, two of the main features people go for phablet-style devices.
Since that first release, Huawei has evolved the Mate, and in 2014, we saw a solid example of the Mate in the Mate 7.
We’re still not sure where the “7” came from (because it wasn’t the screen size), but it didn’t matter because in the Mate 7, Huawei had matched great mobile technology, a surprisingly powerful home-built processor, a lovely screen, metal body, and a pretty top notch fingerprint scanner for $699.
And it wasn’t just GadgetGuy’s writers that were enthused by the Mate 7, with Huawei selling over seven million handsets for this phone worldwide, helping to push the company into the number three spot for worldwide phone sales, just behind Apple and Samsung.
Now, however, the Mate is back, as Huawei taps a greater understanding for hardware and matches it with some of what it has learned from the partnership with Google to result in a new Mate.
This time we’re talking about the Mate 8, and again, we’re not sure where the number is from. Technically, this is the fourth-generation of the Huawei Mate handsets, not the eighth, so we’re a little confused.
There’s also no eight inch screen here, with Huawei sticking with another 6 inch Full HD (1920×1080) display, a little lower than the Quad HD screens we’ve come to expect, but still offering a Retina-busting 368 pixels per inch.
Huawei isn’t just making it the same screen, though, improving the technology with a newer style of In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen (NEO-IPS) with a higher level of contrast and better viewing angles.
Inside the phone, there’s more homebuilt goodness, making this phone a little different from the ordinary template you see on smartphones.
As such, you’ll find an eight-core Huawei-made Kirin 950 processor which the company says is twice as fast as what was in the Kirin 925 from the Mate 7 a couple of years ago. Despite this speed increase, the processing power stays under control, with some thermal control also setup on the Mate 8 to keep the handset cooler.
That’s good news because metal can heat up, and you do get a metal body with this phone, as the Mate 8 offers pretty much just metal and glass, with a gentle curve for the metal casing and a glass screen that takes up 85 percent of the body design.
Huawei has paired 3GB RAM with this processor and 32GB storage, and you can easily upgrade the latter with the microSD slot sitting on the same tray as the nanoSIM.
Expect 4G speeds when you’re out and about, while WiFi offers up 802.11a/b/g/n/ac across 2.4 and 5GHz, with Bluetooth 4.2 and Bluetooth LE for wireless accessories, as well as the usual assortment of GPS and Near-Field Communication (NFC).
Even Android’s “Marshmallow” 6.0 makes an appearance, as does a circular fingerprint scanner on the back, likely from Huawei’s learnings when it worked with Google for the Nexus 6P.
And then there’s the camera, and that’s one area where Huawei wants people to know it has made progress, leveraging a Sony 16 megapixel sensor for big images and Full HD videos, with the sensor 23 percent larger than previously used Huawei sensors to let in more light.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the same camera technology as what we can expect to see on the Leica-collaborated P9 phone from Huawei, but from the sound of things, it feels like it’s a positive step forward.
As for how the Huawei Mate 8 feels, “good” is the word we’d start with, moving on with a smile on our collective faces.
Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 was already a solid starting point, but in the Mate 8, it almost feels like those Nexus learnings are paying off, with a large yet comfortable size and a fingerprint sensor that is in the right location. Sorry Apple and Samsung, but the back and side of the phone are just more logical.
In the pricing department, Huawei does feel that it has reached a level where it can reach a higher price, with the Mate 8 selling from $899 from May 24 at Harvey Norman, JB HiFi, All Phones, and Vodafone listing the Mate 8 from $15 per month on a $40 Red plan.