Huawei’s posh up and comer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Above: The decisively upscale Mate S. Photo courtesy Huawei.

BitDepth#1024 for January 19, 2016

This is the second of Huawei’s premium smartphones that I’ve been able to try, and there’s no doubt that the company is committed to raising its game with its mobile communications offerings.

The Ascend was a very modern smartphone that wasn’t released on the local market.

The new Mate S improves on that model with an even sleeker profile and a minimalist design that places it squarely in alignment with modern preferences in upscale smartphone use.

The packaging it ships in one-ups the cooly brutal plastic container the Ascend arrived in with a lush black paper and cardboard covering that’s on both the bookcase style outer case as well as an inner case, which thumbs its nose at compact package designs by placing the device in a box that’s at least twice the size it needs to be.

It makes for a lush presentation case, but it all feels like a bit of overkill in the rapidly evolving smartphone market of 2016.

Huawei's Knuckle Input
Huawei’s Knuckle Input

The device I tested has a beautiful brushed metal case that sits snugly around the Gorilla Glass screen. It’s a sealed design and the battery is not removeable, though the fast charge feature works as advertised. The gently curved device is 7.2mm at the centre, tapering off to 2.65mm at its edges. The metal casing is available in four colours, gold, grey, silver and rose, and the device ships with its own folding case.

Earlier Huawei phones introduced on the local market were somewhat behind the curve in their deployment of Android versions, but the Mate S runs Android 5 (Lollipop) with an upgrade path to the next generation Marshmallow release.

The device I tested was the 32GB model with 3GB of RAM and proved as brisk and responsive as any top of the line smartphone I’m familiar with.

The Mate S offers a range of features, including fingerprint identification (which also offers secondary input in regular use), and a knuckle based input option that’s a bit odd until you give it a try.

The Android installation is straightforward, with only a few Huawei specific touches.

Most installations of the software separate the application installation space from the home screen, but there seems to be no way to remove an app from one of the screens without uninstalling or removing it from the device.

Which kind of makes sense, except that Huawei adds a host of add-on software that you may not be interested in, including several damnable Gameloft game demos that all call for money to be useful.

These seem to be removable; other preinstalled apps are not.

The addition of all this crapware might be a good idea for most of the markets that Huawei targets with its devices, but it’s terribly out of place in a phone that’s so decisively aimed upmarket.

The camera lags a bit behind in the smartphone megapixel race at 13MP, but it offers all the features of comparable Android smartphones, including a professional mode that allows control over all the camera’s exposure parameters except for aperture, which is fixed at f2.

The 5.5 inch screen packs in 1080 x 1920 pixels with a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch, a bit behind its competitors in the market who tend toward densities of 500 and above, but the difference won’t be visible to most users.

The phone does include one particularly appealing feature that it’s peers don’t offer anymore. Alongside the nano SIM slot on its removable tray is a space for a Micro SD card, making the Mate S one of the few storage upgradeable smartphones aimed at the top of the market.

The Mate S was released in T&T in December 2015 following its introduction in Berlin in September of that year.

The phone is available from bMobile at a price of $4199 for prepaid customers.