Well, you’re certainly not short of choices when it comes to smartphones already this year. At the beginning of the week, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S bested the iPhone X and Galaxy S9 in the camera charts. Now, the P20 Pro comfortably surpasses them all.
So, why P20 and not P11? Is it such a leap ahead? Is the new Huawei the new king of the phones?
Well, there’s one way to find out.
Huawei P20 and P20 Pro
By any other name
Firstly, let’s get this naming out of the way. We all know that the previous phone was the P10. This lead us all to believe that the P11 would be next. However, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, said the reason for the use of P20 brand rather than P11 was because of the “big jump and new technologies”. There are some improvements, but most would be classed as fairly standard upgrades over 2017’s P10.
The larger device has also become Pro insteead of Plus. Yu also commented that “this time we are introducing professional camera technologies”. Yu pointed out the Huawei brand on the rear of the device is now vertical rather than horizontal. This way it will read correctly when the phone is used in landscape mode – the orientation for traditional cameras.
Design and performance
The P20 sees the screen size creeping up, continuing the trend. While the P10 had a 5.1-inch display, the P20 offers a 5.8-inch full HD+ display. Likewise, the P10 Plus was equipped with a 5.5-inch screen, whereas the P20 Pro features a 6.1-incher.
Another trend being follwed is that Huawei also adopted a ‘notch’ similar to the Essential Phone and, also adopted by Apple’s iPhone X. Yu did point out that, in comparison to the iPhone, the Huawei notch is smaller, so more space is available for on-screen notifications.
The AI features have also been extended to the audio. In partnership with Dolby, the device detects the type of audio being listened to in order to optimise performance, and the AI can also distinguish between voice and background sound to cancel out unnecessary noise.
The smartphone also features AI-driven power management.
The device has ultra-thin bezels and impressive screen-to-body ratios. The new phone comes in black, midnight blue, and “two all-new gradient colours”, twilight and pink gold.
A front-mounted fingerprint scanner acts as the three on-screen buttons on Android devices, and are designed to simplify unlock and navigation while freeing-up space on the display. It also launches Google Assistant. So that’s actually four convenient features for the price of a tiny strip of screen real estate.
Camera and AI
Dual camera smartphones have fallen into one of two camps: RGB paired with monochrome sensor, as Huawei has used, or standard and telephoto lenses, as seen on Apple’s iPhone X.
P20 Pro mixes this up, with a 40MP RGB sensor, 20MP monochrome sensor, and 8MP sensor with telephoto lens. This seems bonkers but makes sense, as long as it is executed well.
Huawei has once more buddied up with Leica. The smartphone features an “exclusive Leica colour temperature sensor for better colour reproduction” and a new Leica 3x telephoto lens for long-range photography.
The standard P20 continues the model used with Huawei’s earlier dual-camera smartphones, with 12MP colour and 20MP monochrome sensors.
The best camera
Huawei said the devices achieve DxOMark scores of 109 (P20 Pro) and 102 (P20). This puts both of them ahead of Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S which was announced earlier on the same day.
The devices are powered by Huawei’s Kirin 970 chip, which includes an AI-focused neural processing unit. This enables automatic scene selection, with the addition of AI image stabilisation, to steady night shots without a tripod. Having seen some results from those who were fortunate enough to be invited to Paris, this really works.
New to the camera is 4D predictive focus. This calculates moving objects and focusing on them to capture detail. Additionally, the P20 also features AI-assisted composition, providing intelligent suggestions to frame group shots and landscapes.
Both P20 and P20 Pro feature a 24MP selfie camera, with AI beautification and 3D portrait lighting.
Bigger battery but with losses
The P20’s 3,400mAh battery is 13% larger than Sammy’s and the P20 Pro’s 4,000mAh capacity cell is 14% larger than the S9+. These should get you through any day without the mild panic of being away from a plug.
Sadly, we say goodby to the headphone jack in order to make room for these larger batteries. So, for those of us wedded to a wired set, we’ll need an adapter for the USB-C port.
They had to ditch that port to squeeze in the larger batteries but keep the P20s skinny.
The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro compared
The triple camera is exclusive to the P20 Pro, but that’s not the end of the differences. Naturally the Pro’s a little larger but it also has an inky black OLED screen, 6GB of memory and, unlike the P20, it’s water resistant.
Huawei makes much of P20 Pro’s superior zoom ability which it claims produces sharper, more detailed photos than the competition thanks to some algorithm trickery.
The camera tricks don’t end with the third camera. Both phones benefit from a 960fps slow-mo video mode.
The hero feature is a long-exposure night mode, which you can use without a tripod. For the uninitiated, long-exposure photos are where you expose the camera’s sensor for a prolonged period, letting in more light. They’re great for night shots, but they’re traditionally impossible without the aid of a tripod. This is simply because a long exposure requires total stillness to avoid incomprehensible, blurry photos. All of which makes this mode impressive.
Huawei was extremely cagey about how it works, but it is most likely that the snapper takes multiple exposures and stitches them together.
Also announced was the Porsche Design Huawei Mate RS, with pricing starting at €1,695.
This device shares many of the technologies of P20 Pro, including the triple camera, but features an in-display fingerprint sensor on the front (in addition to rear-mounted scanner) and 6-inch curved 2K display.
Pricing for P20 starts at €649 in 4GB RAM, 128GB storage configuration, with P20 Pro at €899 with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
Huawei P20 vs P20 Pro Specs
Huawei Kirin 970 Octa-core CPU (4 x Cortex A73 2.36GHz + 4 x Cortex A53 1.8GHz) + i7 co-processor
P20: 5.8-inch, 1,080 x 2,244 LCD
P20 Pro: 6.1-inch, 1,080 x 2,240 OLED
P20: Front: 24MP, f/2.0, Rear camera: 12MP RGB (f/1.8) + 20MP monochrome (f/1.6)
P20 Pro: Front: 24MP, f/2.0, Rear camera: 40MP RGB (f/1.8) + 20MP monochrome (f/1.6) + 8MP telephoto (f/2.4)
P20: 4GB RAM and 128GB storage
P20 Pro: 6GB RAM and 128GB storage
P20: 149.1 mm x 70.8 mm x 7.65 mm (H x W x D)
P20 Pro:155.0 mm x 73.9 mm x 7.8 mm (H x W x D)
P20 Pro: 180g
P20 Pro: 4000mAh