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It takes a lot for me to sit up and take notice of a smartphone. And no, I’m not talking about flashy events with dubstep and Channing Tatum backup dancers.
I’m talking hard, innovative and actually bold features. I’m also talking about features that Apple would call “bold”. You know, features that don’t quite make sense but they’re pushed on you anyway?
Here are three of each from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Weird: Nano SD card
Companies that launch dual SIM phones in a market dominated by carriers that sneer at their consumers almost as much as their competitors are always welcome. But making the consumer choose between using the second SIM for data storage or for data connection seems daft.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s Nano SD card is positive in theory.
It fools networks from selling dual SIM devices, even if they hate the idea.
It decreases the number of openings on the smartphone, and it’s pretty fool proof to insert, but it’s not much smaller than the microSD card format it aims to replace.
However, with microSD cards sitting at the cheapest prices they’ve ever been, does launching an entirely new card storage format on a phone with 128GB on board make sense? Nope.
Wonderful: Reverse Wireless Charging
There’s something wonderfully smug and humane about charging a friend’s Note 9 or iPhone XS with a Huawei smartphone.
Simply enable the feature in settings, hold a Qi-compatible charging device up against the back of the Mate 20 Pro, and charge the other device.
It makes sense that Huawei held off until it launched this feature too. The Pro has a 4200mAh battery, enough to revive your friends smartphone if anything.
Weird: no headphone jack
Bluetooth is getting better and better, but when Huawei gives everyone who attends its event a pair of headphones with a 3.5mm jack, you’ve got to sit back and chuckle just a little bit.
Granted, I’m writing this piece with a pair of Bluetooth headphones on my head, but it’s still plugged into a headphone jack. Why? I’m not really interested in pairing a phone to headphones 33 000 feet above sea level.
Cut the fuss, plug in a jack, and instant audio gratification.
Wonderful: the embedded speaker inside the USB-C port
Okay, this is pretty damn clever.
The company removed the lower smartphone speaker grille by somehow slotting a speaker into the USB-C housing.
I did not have a chance to test it at the launch, but the concept, again, is pretty admirable. Reduce the number of holes in the device, ultimately reducing the number of slots water could seep into the device (it’s rated IP68 too, btw).
We’ll leave audio quality judgements for the review itself, but I’m happy to applaud the novel idea alone.
Weird: it feels like a Samsung Galaxy S9 with a notch
I suppose all smartphones look incredibly similar if you’re not studying them closely, but in the hand, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro feels a lot like the Galaxy S9.
The sharp edges, the tapered screen, the weight, the excellent OLED screen.
This comparison isn’t a negative though, but simply an observation I made while handling the Mate 20 Pro.
Wonderful: the 2.5cm macro camera
Macro photography doesn’t get much love from smartphone makers who are all about wideangles and telephotos. But the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s killer camera feature is its macro mode.
Holding its own product sheet up to its backplate, I was able to capture text with the phone almost touching it. Sure, capturing text isn’t as demanding as a bee-adorned flower, but initial impressions leave a promising taste in my mouth.
The best camera phone, for me at least, is one that’s constantly in my hand and at the ready in case the perfect shot suddenly appears. And the Huawei Mate 20 Pro could be that device.
Feature image: Andy Walker/Gearburn